Monday, October 8, 2018

John Wiltshire - Aleksey's Kingdom

Doctor Nikolai Hartmann escaped the Hesse-Davian dungeons. He fled civilized Europe to come to the vast wilderness of the New World, where he carved out a home in which he could love openly and without censure—Aleksey’s Kingdom. However, there is an irritating green-eyed, dark-haired flaw in his new paradise. A king and a general, Aleksey has no intention of wasting his life away in a remote forest. When he agrees to accompany a group of soldiers to a distant outpost to discover why it has been mysteriously abandoned, Nikolai has no choice but to tag along.
While traveling through the wilderness with their new companions, it does not take Nikolai and Aleksey long to realise that far from mounting a rescue operation, they are merely unwitting pawns in a far more sinister conspiracy. But their enemies have badly miscalculated by threatening anything Nikolai loves. In this merciless place of towering trees, where water plummets beyond the human ability to comprehend, Nikolai must unleash the unfettered savagery of his true nature to save Aleksey.

Comment: After enjoying A Royal Affair by this author I decided to try this one as well, to see if it would be as engaging as the other was. I'm happy to say that it is, and also a page turner. However, I did expect a little more...

In this sequel, we learn that Nikolai and Aleksey, the couple that met and fell in love in the first book is now on American land and are living together in a place where no one is around to see how much they mean to one another. However, Aleksey is curious and he has made contact with a group in the military colony nearby. Apparently he told them he was living with his doctor and promised to go with a group to investigate the disappearance of another group, as well as helping a new family settling in there. What everyone didn't expect is for doctor Nikolai to be as young and able as he is... especially because there is something weird about the family traveling with them to the outpost.
From the narrative told by Nikolai we get to understand the plot around them is a lot creepier than we could imagine...

Once again, this is a story told in the first person, by Nikolai. We know from the start he and Aleksey have helped in a mission to discover the truth behind some people missing and Nikolai does mention many times things were dire and it's fortunate they survived. This means when the story is being told to the reader, the mission is already over and both our protagonists were in it and survived. But the tale Nikolai tells is quite creepy and filed with innuendo about weird situations which, of course, acts as a tool to captivate us to keep reading.

This is, indeed, a creepy tale. I was not expecting that because the other story has its darker moments but nothing scary. This one has some scenes which can be quite suggestive in that regard. I wouldn't call it "horror" but here and there... so basically the whole tone of the plot is like this, as if we are suppose to dread something because it will be a bad outcome. The end does reveal quite a crazy explanation - not that easy to accept but it makes sense, considering this is essentially an historical novel with all its scientific and society short comes and untruths - but for me the biggest issue was another. 
The thing is, Nikolai is certainly a reliable narrator but he has this style of saying very often things like "if only we knew what would happen" or "I should have listened to my senses" which I can understand act as a dramatic tool to grab out attention to future scenes. However, this "tool" is used too often and I started to be more annoyed than curious. The problem is that Nikolai would say that and added to the tone of mystery things would be almost achieved but... the scenes didn't happen immediately (to catch the reader unaware, I bet), so the expectation grows and it takes too long for something to be proven. I found this repetitive in tactic but not as well achieved as it could.

On the other hand, the creepy factor was well done. The plot behind all the issues is clever although I'd say that are some elements which I didn't think the author managed to explain as well, for instance what was the meaning of some clues and why couldn't someone just investigate better before but, oh well. The fact only our heroes survived the mission is too perfect but understandable, I suppose.

There is also the element of romance. It's very good to see our protagonists act in love, still have a strong bond at many levels and sometimes discuss their feelings and expectations. I would say, however, the emphasis on their physical relationship wasn't necessary, if one notes the type of plot in hand. Was it that necessary they would reaffirm their love and feelings by having sex with people nearby who wouldn't accept them and would turn on them so easily? Was it smart they were losing focus on while a situation they couldn't control was happening around them? Again, oh well.

All in all, this was quite and adventure. There are several details in this story which can be quite strong if one thinks about the narrative and in particular a certain kid... but I'm glad the plot was at least captivating even if some elements weren't as well illustrated as they could.
Nevertheless, a great read.
Grade: 7/10

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