ARC Review: The Words of Kings and Prophets by Shauna Lawless

THE WORDS OF KINGS AND PROPHETS is the second installment of the Gael Song series. Set shortly after the first book, the reader continues to follow Fódla and Gormflaith, both of whom are part of King Brian’s court. Infighting among immortals and Gormflaith’s self preservation threaten to upend the mortal world.

Author: Shauna Lawless
Series: Gael Song Book 2
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publish Date: October 03, 2023
Print Length: 416

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Official Synopsis

The sequel to the critically acclaimed The Children of Gods and Fighting Men, The Words of Kings and Prophets is the powerful new historical fantasy novel by Shauna Lawless.

Ireland, 1000 AD. Gormflaith is unhappily married to Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, and although a queen she struggles with her limited position. As an immortal Fomorian with the secret gift of magic, Gormflaith has a burning desire: to find and destroy the hidden fortress of her sworn enemies, the Descendants, who seek to kill her kind at all costs. She begins to use her magical powers, and discovers she is more skilled than she ever realised… but can she control what she will become?

Meanwhile Fódla, the Descendants’ healer, mourns her banished sister but clings to life as the guardian of her young nephew. She seeks a place of safety for them both, but he has secrets of his own that could threaten everything – and Fódla must do all in her power to keep him hidden away from those who would use him for evil.

When a mysterious man comes to King Brian’s court, his presence could spell disaster or deliverance for both Gormflaith and Fódla – and for Ireland herself. For he is Tomas, an ambitious immortal with few scruples – and he will do anything to see his plans become reality.

Soon, mortals and immortals alike are drawn towards a bitter conflict that could decide the future of Ireland and all her people.

My Review

I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.

THE WORDS OF KINGS AND PROPHETS occurs shortly after the events in THE CHILDREN OF GODS AND FIGHTING MEN. Fódla is a healer in King Brian’s court and guardian of her nephew Broccan. Gormflaith is King Brian’s wife, biding her time to slither her way to power. However, infighting among the Tuatha Dé Danann threatens the world of mortals as they have known it for centuries. And, unbeknownst to these immortals, this unrest plays right into the hands of the remaining Fomorians. The stakes continue to rise in this sequel to set the stage for an epic conclusion.

THE WORDS OF KINGS AND PROPHETS follows the same vein as its predecessor: quiet politicking and maneuvering of mortals and immortals alike to ensure their existence. Readers who fell in love with the early medieval, historical world of Gormflaith and Fódla will likely feel similar about this latest installment. Lawless does a wonderful job using real historical figures and weaving their known history into something fantastical yet tangible. Though steeped wholly in history and Irish and Viking folklore, the smaller tidbits of everyday, historical detail stuck out most to me. That attention to detail made me feel more immersed in the story.

I also love the quiet yet fierce strength of both Gormflaith and Fódla in a man’s world, even though Gormflaith is an unlikable character. I understood Gormflaith’s motivation despite not caring for her intentions. It was delightful, in a melancholic way, to see Fódla realize and internalize Tomas’s manipulation of their relationship. This conscious realization makes Fódla a more strong-willed woman and to fight for what’s right.

The themes present in the first book continue here. They include power and how, unchecked, it can corrupt; the ranking of a man above a woman even in societies that, comparatively, regard women better; and the importance of family. Another topic propped up by a secondary character is slavery. There is one particularly important scene that discusses how slavery may still permeate the economy despite one party outlawing it.

Finally, although I enjoyed this sequel, I personally felt it was slower than the first book. However, this is because Lawless sets future scenes in action by laying the groundwork throughout. Each perspective–Fódla, Gormflaith, and Colmon–is important and connects the reader with the characters. The action near the end of the book figuratively glued me to the page. I even audibly gasped at one point.

In summary, THE WORDS OF KINGS AND PROPHETS continues to impress with its historical details and interwoven Irish and Viking lore. It’s easy to root for one character and side eye another and I eagerly await the next book. This series is perfect for those who appreciate historical fiction that dabbles in magic and douses the reader with careful politics.

Rating: 4.25
Content warnings: blood, death, violence, domestic abuse (emotional)
Reading format: Kindle e-book

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Words of Kings and Prophets by Shauna Lawless

    1. Me too! I *think* the next book is the last one, but I’m not 100% positive. I’m looking forward to it.

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