Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Seven Princes Seven Princes
by John R. Fultz

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten
Jan Butterworth

Seven Princes is author John R. Fultz’s first novel, and is also book one of the Books of the Shaper. He previously had published fiction at shorter lengths, principally fantasy both light and dark, has written several comics or graphic novels if you prefer – and it was this graphic novel mode of expression that most struck me as I read Seven Princes.

To me Seven Princes is a graphic novel composed solely of words rather than pictures and words. As the reader well knows, a comic tells a story using pictures first with dialogue balloons (and the occasional text line) to supplement the action. Character growth is achieved by modifying the image of the in-scene characters, and dramatic atmosphere is produced by the drawn backdrop. In Seven Princes Mr Fultz rendered his comic in words on the page.

Another technique of comics is the depiction of heroes and villains in stylised form. Well defined musculature with thews that can hew for the men, curves and attributes that would not be out of place in a showing by Vargas of his girls. Unfortunately, this style can lead to a certain caricature of thought if delivered as words.

For me Seven Princes was book well suited to live as a graphic novel, a medium for which it was probably imagined in, but as a straight novel it left me cold and asking for less or at least for the story to break out of the well worn path it was following. However, if you enjoy fantasy of the traditional style and mores – prince deprived of his rightful inheritance by a usurper, the evil bred in the blood of the villain, the battle of good and evil – then this is the book and the series for you.

-Simon Litten

There's a hell of a lot happening in this first volume of a new fantasy series, and apart from a couple of reasonably brief slow spots, it moves along at a very brisk pace. Seven Princes is a dark fantasy saga that's epic in scope, and at times reads like a big-budget action film unfolding. ...But don't let that analogy put you off, it's not nearly as overblown or daft as the average Michael Bay summer blockbuster.

All the classic/traditional elements are here: Heroic warriors & black-hearted villains; Legendary creatures; Magic & sorcery; Romance, war & betrayal; Triumph & tragedy. And blood-soaked carnage on a grand scale... Yep, there's a very high body count in this book, and not just among the supporting cast. No one's safe in this story as the author's not at all afraid to kill off important main characters in order to advance or thicken the plot. That was a refreshing change, and I found myself really surprised at a couple of characters' unexpected early exits.

John Fultz is apparently a writer of comics, and that probably explains the almost cinematic style of the narrative at times. That's not a criticism though - it suits the story he's telling and certainly keeps things moving forward.

Seven Princes is Fultz's first novel, and occasionally that shows, mainly in the pacing, and in not getting to know some of the characters or places as much as we should. There's enough happening in Seven Princes to comfortably fill a couple of novels, and it would have been nice to see the story given at least another couple of hundred pages or so, just to let the world and it's characters breathe a little more deeply.

But all that aside, Fultz is a storyteller who knows how to spin a good yarn. Sure, it mightn't be the most original fantasy story around (if such a thing even exists now) but it uses the familiar elements well, and it's an entertaining read.

Seven Princes won't be to everyone's tastes to be sure, but if you don't mind your heroic fantasy sprinkled with horror and seasoned with graphic & gory violence, then this is definitely worth a look.

-Jan Butterworth

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