Publication Date: July 4, 2014
In The High King’s Embalmer by S. Copperstone, someone is trying to kill the royal family. Jibade, the royal family’s half man and half jackal embalmer is intent on trying to discover the culprit. When he finds himself hunted by the royal family themselves can he stay alive long enough to save the royals that remain?
The author, S. Copperstone, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The High King’s Embalmer is a surreal novel that takes place on an Earth-like planet with an Egyptian flavor. In the preface, the author cites a visit to the Egyptian Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto as a source of inspiration. Having visited that same exhibit several times, the knowledge of the story’s birth helped shape the way that I read Jibade and his world. There is a primitive spirit mixed with a raw elegance that gives the world a familiar and yet foreign sense.
The author introduces the brutality of the world and Jibade’s place in it in the opening scene. The King is holding a dinner party and everyone knows that someone will die. A war is waging outside of the palace doors and inside the King plays an insidious game asking a riddle of a citrus farmer. Jibade is against the wall blending into the darkness by morphing into his jackal form. The author describes the nature of his ears when he’s hearing something and a heightened sense of smell through smelling the gunpowder outside of the castle walls. The description is very regal and yet the character is basically a slave and not a good guy at the mercy of a royal family that is sociopathic. How does one stay alive in a society where everyone is disposable?
Jibade’s goal is survival. He’s not an especially nice character and not one with whom readers will especially empathize, but he’s really interesting. The backstory as it relates to his people is interesting and his special abilities are fascinating. Jibade is not the most polished detective but he is resourceful and when hunted by the King’s men, he is motivated to further his demonstration of loyalty and to find the culprit responsible for the assassination attempts.
While the bulk of The High King’s Embalmer is engrossing and fast moving, there comes a point where the author seems to run off-course. The story is weighed down temporarily while the author seems to struggle to get back on track which isn’t so interesting for the reader at the moment but does manage to find its way back to an interesting place and ends on a high note leaving the story open for a sequel.
There’s a lot to recommend The High King’s Embalmer. The world is interesting, the plot (for the most part) is cohesive and the writing is consistent. The story and world could have been pulled straight from the pages of Doctor Who (and as a major Whovian, I really enjoyed the sameness of feel with the darker episodes). Jibade is a character well known to the author and therefore well related to the reader.
The High King’s Embalmer is not for everyone. I would never recommend this book to people who aren’t into reading other worlds. Despite the mystery aspects and historical feel, I believe this novel will strictly be the domain of fantasy fans. If you do like fantasy, pick up The High King’s Embalmer and let me know what you think and if you don’t and pick it up, let me know if I’m wrong.
Read an excerpt and buy The High King’s Embalmer by S. Copperstone on