The Sane King by Matt Knott

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#1
I enjoyed this book by forum member @MattKnott. It's a dark fantasy style where Gods walk amongst mortals and wars are raging. The characters are well portrayed, are believable and are generally quite sombre, reflecting the world they're part of. The story starts off at a fast pace and was interesting from the get go. A large part of the early to mid section of the book revolves around what is in effect a court case, and this was really well done, it really demonstrated the great imagination of the author.

My main criticism is that it could've done with being a bit longer. It would've been nice to see a bit more 'flesh on the bone' at times. For example, a long potentially dangerous trek across a desolate plain seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, which took away from the sense of danger to an extent.

This did remind me of the Malazan world at points, particularly the last third of the book, which is praise indeed in my mind. Matt should be proud of his fantasy debut.

I'll rate it 8.0/10
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#2
I should also add that I will most certainly be reading the sequel, when it's released. Chop chop Matt! :)
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#3
@btkong you mentioned in your recent newsletter you'd like to be informed of new indie book releases. Maybe you would like this one, and there's also When They Shine Brightest by @YordanZh which is another good debut novel by an active forum member!
 

MattKnott

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#4
I should also add that I will most certainly be reading the sequel, when it's released. Chop chop Matt! :)
Already a way into it, I'm also going to be trying to get a good few shorts out along the way!

Glad you enjoyed it because I had the time of my life writing it.
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#5
Hey, good stuff, if we have our very own forum author with some good feedback, I'll give it a shout on the next newsletter :)
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#6
Already a way into it, I'm also going to be trying to get a good few shorts out along the way!

Glad you enjoyed it because I had the time of my life writing it.
Hi Matt. Is your book available in printed form?
 

MattKnott

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#7
Hi Matt. Is your book available in printed form?
I'm actually looking into this for the new year. I also had a few Publishers hit me up recently so I'm moving with a little care.

At present it's Amazon only for the sheer ease of use. Everyone says to spread it around but as a project it's been easier to maintain one space to start with. I'd rather just creep gradually, keep writing, and learn over rushing face first into something that could swiftly become a full-time maintenance job!
 

Griffin

Journeyed there and back again
#8
Finished this today.

My review:
The Sane King

This first book by Matt Knot is my first acquaintance with indie authorship. It firmly proves there are gems sitting between the knock-offs.

At the beginning we meet our characters int two separate acts, both hooking us more than sufficiently. The first act features grim tidings and
the lucky run-in while the second act displays an unusual trial setup. Both plotlines come together naturally though not without some major
consequences. The story systematically spirals a grim, dark and lugubrious tale.

Before delving into the characters some thoughts on the setting and prose. First off, the author doesn't like info-dumps. On the contrary, he doesn't really like
to explain much at all really. We experience the events how they transpire and we have to connect the dots. A big plus, certainly as many (published)
authors make the mistake of info-dumping. The actual worldbuilding is rather flimsy, yet sufficient. We've got some geographical areas we spent some time in,
creatures (some come straight from a horror-themed book like Bone worms and some frightening arthopods and hexapods). Other ingredients to the
recipe are Gods - real ones, not the metaphorical ones - another humanoid species and something called the 'Limp' I'll not explain.

Knott's prose is succint. Every thing exhaled in this story adds up. Some of his descriptions are outstanding. I did feel he should describe or elaborate
more. The story misses some meat on the bones in that respect. I as a reader wanted to enjoy more of this, and was yet down in that regard. In the end
that's a good thing of course.

'The Sane King' reminded me of 'The Malazan Book of the Fallen' by Steven Erikson. Knott's prose (see later) and setting
are coming the closest it I have ever read and I really like it. If some themes ran more emphatically through the veins of this novel,
it might come really close (hint).

The characters themselves are well-established, distinctive and relatable. My favourite ones were Captain Birch, Rayle and Mortimer.
Birch and Rayle are prime examples how a past can haunt you. Birch is the obvious example. He figuratively and literally flees from his past.
He's an addict because of it. Rayle is not an obvious example. It's hinted at and will probably be revealed later on. Mortimer is another beast altogether.
An inn keeper, rather weak and petty exuviates under duress into an unlikely leader. Characters I didn't hate, but need more on are Arra, Sanny and Bray.
I missed some grief in the story arc of Bray for example.

Some random impressions, remakrs and comments are mentioned below:
- The Defeated: I like the name, I love the idea. Soldiers with a history claim the name as "only the defeated can (always) rise again".
- I would adore some POVs from the Gods. They are an unknown so far. I expect some complex motives reflecting how the plot progressed so far.
- Characters die and that's a good thing.
- Lots of POVs, some characters we meet a lot, some barely a few times.

Conclusion

The Good:
- Prose!
- Characters

The less good:
- Too succint, put some meat on it!

Score: 7,7/10 | **** (Goodreads)
 

MattKnott

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#9
Score: 7,7/10 | **** (Goodreads)
Said this over on Goodreads, but I really appreciate you giving this a shot and I'm really happy you enjoyed it!

The criticism is also fantastic, and very encouraging. I actually took away a lot of the meat by choice. My biggest issue in the past and what was slowing me down to the point of never completing a project was how deep I could go on some things. It was really clunky too, so I decided focus on getting breakneck to help me get past it. I have several chapters I cut that I may work on someday as they're pretty cool for that and characters.

I learned so much I'm way more confident about world building in the sequel without it becoming exposition central. There's a lot of really cool threads to follow, stoked to tug on them.

Birch was actually hilarious because he was supposed to be this one shot antagonist for part 2 and ended up surprising me by coming alive by force. My biggest joy was discovering arcs for him and Mort that weren't there until they happened, it had an offset in that it slowed planned development. It feels weird to reflect because originally Birch chewing was his entire character and Mort was supposed to be generic snooty innkeep man 265.

Really made me smile to see they were your favourites.
 

Griffin

Journeyed there and back again
#10
Great to hear you are growing more confident especially the fact you'll involve some more worldbuilding into it.

Also very interesting to read how you planned out your characters and what they actually came to be. You should definetely keep up with that!

Just wondering, how is the sequel coming together so far?
 

MattKnott

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#11
Just wondering, how is the sequel coming together so far?
Pretty rapidly...is what I'd say if this wasn't a month of endless travel. I have quite a few chapters in the first draft phase and an interesting villain who is fun to write.

The toughest part so far has been sitting up at night visualizing some of the key moments and writing toward them, because it's wrecking my sleep pattern!
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#12
Nice. As long as you don't play a GRRM or Rothfuss on us Matt!

50% into your book now and I'm loving it. There are some great Conan/Logen/Karsa type of characters in there (Rayle, James, Bell) that I really missed whilst reading the Kingkiller Chronicles. There's nothing like a good skull bashing to get the blood pumping.
 

Griffin

Journeyed there and back again
#13
I'll root for you and your sleep patterns then! Be sure to keep us updated, I'm sure there will be quite a few people here waiting for it :bookworm:
 

MattKnott

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#14
There's nothing like a good skull bashing to get the blood pumping.
That's the reaction I love seeing above all else. I jokingly called it gym fantasy when I was working on it because I could only write fights when I was exhausted with ludicrous Scandinavian viking metal playing. It's also the kind of fantasy I've always been most fond of.

You've made my day, now I can go for a run and do some lifting!
 

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#15
I finished this book in 3 days. "Is it that short?" you may wonder. At 400 pages not particularly. The reason why I read this at @MorteTorment 's speed is that I just couldn't put this book down. The whole read felt like a big adrenaline rush. Never a dull moment as they say.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the quality of this book. I read some Indie released books some time ago and got exasparatedby them because of the fact that these books generally suck monkey-scrotum. This is definitely not the case with the Sane King. This book breathes quality; an amazing cover (that I now see fits the story really well), good character division and (almost) no errors (I'll mail you those I did find, Matt).

Alright, let's move to the actual content. Why am I this enthusiastic?

Characters:
First of all because of the characters. There are some very well fleshed out characters in this book of which Mortimer, Rayle and Birch were my favorites (shout out to you Griffin. You know what they say about great minds... ;)). Birch is a once formidable captain, serving in the army of the Younger Union. He's been brought low by a crippling addiction which is slowly driving him insane. Consigned to gather recruits from backwater villages an inconspicuous death from drug abuse seems to be his lot. Until he meets up with some unlikely company. Rayle is a taciturn warrior from foreign climes who ends up fighting evil in the mysterious area known as the Wrack. This guy is a behemoth in the style of Conan the Barbarian and Logen Ninefingers. He's a delight to read about. Innkeeper Mortimer is an unlikely hero, but as the going gets tough his inner beast awakens and he steps up as a valiant leader of men. Mortimer reminded me a bit of Glokta from First Law. Very well written.

I didn't care that much about Arra, Sanny, Bray and Karri. Bell, James and Stern were very cool though (Stern had some very snide lines which I loved, while James reminds me of a less violent version of my father -a drunk bad-ass-).

Magic:
One word: Subtle. Don't expect any fireballs and lighting bolts. The magic kind of resembles Deardric magic (from the Oblivion game by Bethesda) and the magic from Malazan Book of the Fallen. Also, just like in Malazan Book of the Fallen, Gods roam the earth in the flesh. This was a nice touch and very well done.

World-building:
This is the only area which I found a bit lacking in this book. Sure, the writer sometimes mentions distant lands and peoples, but they don't get as much attention as I would like. Also, descriptions of the locale are a bit terse. I don't expect LOTR style area descriptions, but a bit more exposure can't harm. Having said that, the world which is shown is interesting, mysterious and imaginative.

Story:
While it is clearly a first book in a series (the story is a set-up to a larger narrative), this book has a proper beginning, middle and an ending. The story is eventful and exciting. More on this below. Also, the trial in act 2 was very original and we'll thought out. It worked very well in this book.

Prose:
Together with the character building this is an area in which the author excels. The prose flows. Flows? No, it thunders down the rapids. This book is exciting. The action scenes are exhilarating and funny and I can't help but think that the author was giggling and fist-pumping while he wrote them. At one point is I was laughing like a maniac whilst pointing out a particular scene to my wife. "Look honey, this motherfucker just ripped this other motherfucker's jaw off". "You're an idiot Berry. And leave me alone, it's 2 am." Aah, happy days.

Conclusion:
I found this to be a fun (unexpectedly so for an indie book) read with great characters and an engaging story. While the book could use some more world-building and more attention to detail in regard to the setting (descriptions of the environment, clothing details, appearance of characters, personal idiosyncrasies and such), this book is nonetheless a thoroughly amazing read. I give this an overal rating of an 8.2 (to be posted on Goodreads - minus the references to other forum members- as soon as I get back from the gym. Matt has me burning off some exces adrenaline :p).

EDIT: polished it up a bit and removed the most glaring grammatical errors.
 
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