I received this book from Bloomsbury via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English-instead of French-the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.
‣ POV: 3rd person
‣ Summary in Emojis: 🇫🇷🇬🇧🌊😭❤️⏳
‣ Trigger and Content Warnings: slavery, implied conversion therapy and rape, violence, war themes, gore
Pulley on twitter has called this her best work yet and I wholeheartedly agree. What as astounding piece of historical fantasy this was! The book itself takes place during a war and the violence in it is stark at times and the character’s themselves are also a lot more twisted. I actually really enjoyed this change but it’s definitely worth mentioning that this is a lot darker than Watchmaker.
It’s honestly hard to talk about this novel without wandering into spoiler territory so apologies in advance if I sound a bit vague about certain details in this review. There are so many twists and turns in this book that you really need to experience them for yourself.
Like previous Pulley books this one is very intricately and delicately plotted. There are several flashbacks that provide pieces to the overall story, and you get glimpses of the truth here and there. I will admit that there is one aspect of the novel that seems glaringly obvious right from the very beginning. It was a bit frustrating having to spend almost the entire novel waiting for the truth to finally come out but the journey there was an intriguing one and I actually enjoyed watching the characters work it out for themselves. It seems clear-cut to the reader, who has been privy to some of the backstory scenes, but for Joe, our main, oblivious character, it’s very easy to see why he can’t come up with the same conclusion.
At its heart The Kingdoms is another love story with some very deeply flawed characters. We have Joe, who spends most of the novel confused and desperate to return home. Then we have Kite who it would be so easy to hate because of all the despicable things he does. And some of it is definitely awful. His past is fully explored and so we see how it has shaped him into the man he is during the events of the novel, but some of his actions were really hard to read. It should make it hard to root for them but there are flashes of vulnerability beneath his harsh exterior and I found myself warming to him unexpectedly. He’s definitely an anti-hero type of character, but much like Pulley’s character Mori, his motives for the things he does always come back to same thing.
I absolutely adored their relationship, all the turns it took and the many shapes it changed into. It was beautiful and achingly wrong at the same time. It’s definitely one of the most turbulent relationships I’ve ever read. Pulley has a wonderful way of showing you just how strongly the characters feel for one another, even when it’s never explicitly stated. This one doesn’t have the beautiful love declaration that Pepperharrow featured at the end but my gosh the character’s actions more than make up for it.
The last few chapters are more fast-paced than the rest of the novel, and they feature some of the most emotionally wrenching and heartfelt scenes of the entire novel. I stayed up all night to finish it and was in tears by the ending. If a book can move you that much it definitely and rightly deserves a 5 star rating.
For me this was another win by Natasha Pulley and has definitely solidified my trust and faith in her as a writer. Up to this point I have loved everything she has ever written and I cannot wait to read whatever she releases next!