The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft

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This is one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I’ve been blown away by the skill of this author in his previous books and could not wait to get my hands on this. THANK YOU SO MUCH ORBIT!!!

This is going to be a tough review for me because I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler free as possible – but how to do that with a third book in the series? I’ll give it a go.

Senlin is now a wanted man, his “likeness” is posted throughout the Tower portraying him as the feared pirate Thomas Mudd. Luckily for Senlin, his portrait isn’t all that accurate so he can continue to blend into the crowd. This is helped along by his new disguise as a member of the “Boskop” ringdom. They’re known for their muted and dull behavior, preferring lukewarm water over an alcoholic beverage, no spices on their food, and a monotone wardrobe of mostly grey. Boskop people are beneath most people’s notice, so it makes it easier to be a spy for the Sphinx. Senlin and the Sphinx have a shared interest in the fifth ringdom, Pelphia, which is sometimes known as “The Closet” They’re known for their clothes, fashion seasons that only last a month or so, and stiff competition between dressmakers. This makes him dressing as a Boskop the perfect way for people to ignore him because he’s not worth their time or interest.

Senlin knows where his wife is, and she’s actually become quite the star in the Pelphia ringdom. She’s known for her piano, playwrights, and singing skills – she puts on performances for the wealthiest people in Pelphia and is quickly becoming a household name. The newspapers have taken to writing about her often, and Senlin sifts through them endlessly hoping to learn more about her condition. She’s been married off to the very rich and powerful Duke, and Senlin doesn’t know if she was coerced or if she’ happy in her new life. The Sphinx has warned him not to go near her, try to contact her, or try and interfere with the Duke. Senlin doesn’t listen, he goes to meet Marya, and it leads him into a load of trouble.

This book is split into three parts, and each part follows one character, so the first part focuses on Senlin, the second part focuses on Voleta, and the third part centers around Edith. I was super upset when we first switched from Senlin to Voleta. I like Voleta but I was so enraptured with what was happening to Senlin that I was like “nnooooooo, what happens to him!?” Then I felt the exact same way about Voleta… and then again with Edith. That’s a sign of some amazing storytelling.

Voleta is the one who is supposed to be making contact with Marya instead of Senlin, she’s supposed to work her way up through the nobles of the city posing as the Sphinx’s niece. This was probably an unwise decision considering Voleta’s temperament being diametrically opposed to the temperament of a noble lady. She makes a scene at one of the parties (no surprise there) but actually manages to win over the hearts of the people because she’s something new to gossip about. Her strange behavior like leaping on rooftops in the middle of the night has made her into a sensation and caught the attention of a prince.

In this one we get answers to so many questions, only to have new questions raised. There’s a lot more to the world building in this one and we hear about many of the other ringdoms and their cultures. There are even more steampunk elements in this one as we get to hear about the backstory of The Red Hand, the Spinx, and how the tower itself works. There are mechanical moths that send messages, mechanical spiders you swallow to keep tabs on each other, there are chimney cats that like to chew on the hods as they make their way through the tunnels of the tower.

Despite this being 608 pages long, I made it through this in just 24 hours – although I did take a break to sleep. The writing in this was just so beautiful and flowing I didn’t notice the hours floating by me. I was relentlessly turning pages to find out what happened next and now I am gutted I have to wait for the conclusion because this left off with a doozy of a revelation.

I thoroughly recommend this, it was an emotional rollercoaster that actually raised my pulse as I was reading it – literally. I’ve got a heart monitor and my heart rate hit 100 more than once reading this book. Watching Senlin change and grow from the first book through this book has been one of the best character arcs I’ve read in a very, very long time. He’s someone I didn’t like in the beginning of the first book, and throughout his journey, I’ve become more and more attached. At this point, I’m 150% behind him and I’m so worried about him and the rest of his journey. The character he was and the character he is now are like day and night and it’s fascinating to watch him reflect on who he was at the start of all this – a naive man with a really bad guidebook. There were multiple times where I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t have someone to talk to about what I just read. Edge of my seat kind of shit.

Ratings:

  • Plot: 14/15
  • Characters: 14/15
  • World Building: 15/15
  • Writing: 15/15
  • Pacing: 14/15
  • Originality: 15/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 10/10

Final Score: 97/100 – the highest score of the year

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