The Last of the Atalanteans by PL Stuart The war banner depicting a charging mammoth is displayed on a black background, held above flames.

The Last of the Atalanteans by PL Stuart

I continue my series of reviews looking at PL Stuart’s The Drowned Kingdom Saga, a tale inspired by the legend of Atlantis, which is timely as the fourth book in the series, A Lion’s Pride, has just been released. This month I feature the second book, The Last of the Atalanteans (TLOTA). Please note this review contains spoilers for the first novel, the eponymous A Drowned Kingdom (ADK), since TLOTA both continues and links back to various key events in that previous book.

ADK ended on a real cliffhanger and TLOTA opens with Othrun risking all on a dangerous mission, heading deep into enemy territory with just a few handpicked followers, intending to reinstate his ally Wely to his rightful place as King of Lynchun. In a race against time to open the gates of Lynchun before Othrun’s army arrives, the first third of the novel is a tense game of cat and mouse, with Othrun unsure who he can really trust.

The novel builds into some amazing battle scenes – some of the best and most realistic I’ve read. Those of you who have read that battle scene on the bridge will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s an absolutely amazing scene and some of Stuart’s best writing. Brilliantly horrible, those events linger long in the mind.

ADK was really all about the world building and establishing Othrun’s morally dubious character, who manifested himself as the antagonist in his own novel, a creative masterstroke. There’s definitely more action in TLOTA and those battle scenes certainly stand out. Readers can be reassured, though, that Othrun’s conflicted character is still there. I think the combination of the intense fight for survival and the visual power of those battle scenes makes those aspects of him less noticeable in this instalment. That said, this book is much more than just sword swinging action – there’s a lot of subtlety and writer craft demonstrated throughout.

Othrun faces his own inner conflict as he balances his lack of legitimacy to actually call himself king with his desire to secure power. He resolves this dilemma by eagerly listening to the seductive words of the Anchali (Othrun’s guardian angel, who I don’t trust an inch):

“It did not matter I was not the heir of Atalan Ninth by right. I was the right man to rule the world. The Anchali had told me so. That was why he had sired me. That was my purpose, and by the Single God, I would fulfil it. If I lived through my great theatre.”

The perplexing nature of the Anchali, whilst sparingly used in this novel, is a great narrative device and it helps invest you in the story.

In a theme that recurs from the first book, we also see Othrun seeking to rewrite history, disguising his origins as an Atalantean exile, ensuring the tale in the official history of his intended new Kingdom of Eastrealm is far more glamorous. Similarly, earlier in the book, the Acremian Queen Lysi accuses Othrun of seeking to sweep away her culture:

“It’s not enough we simply know of your Single God. We must all bind to your Single God, and even that is not enough. You insist on erasing our Goddesses from memory, because according to you, we were always in the wrong to worship our Elementals, or Sanaavian Gods, in the first place. We’re all just lost Acremian heathens, knowing no better. You want to erase our history, our very memory of what you call idolatry. Conversion isn’t enough for you. Repentance isn’t enough. Only eradication suffices. As if there never were pagan gods and goddesses.”

With Atalantyx’s history of colonial conquest and subjugation, the uncomfortable parallels being drawn with our own world history are impossible to ignore. Lysi might be a heathen in Othrun’s eyes but her perspective is far broader than his narrow, superior view of other races and religions.

More generally, the politics of Lynchun are well thought out. Whilst the sheer depth of world building might potentially turn some readers off, for me it’s what gives this story its vibrancy. Stuart has built a living world of kingdoms with believable histories, linked together in a complex dance of dynamic, shifting alliances. Othrun is not above disinheriting his allies if it means he achieves his own objectives. I really liked these elements – all of it felt real and you could draw numerous examples of all these events taking place in history.

Ultimately, TLOTA builds well on ADK, improving on the first book with stronger writing and a more dynamic plot. The many strengths of this book are perhaps also its weaknesses, with its unlikeable central character and dizzyingly complex world building and politics. PL Stuart has clearly made a stylistic choice to build his book on all these elements and readers will respond accordingly, depending on their personal preferences. We certainly spend a lot of time in Othrun’s head as the single point of view character (with the exception of one fascinating chapter). His proud, entitled, selfish voice can, at times, be a bit much – again, another deliberate stylistic choice. That said, this is balanced out well by other strongly drawn and diverse supporting characters, skilfully weaved into the story despite the limitations of Othrun’s viewpoint, and Stuart’s deft and brutal action scenes.

This leads me on to the element of the book I felt was the least convincing. Despite all her protestations of heartfelt affection, I found it very difficult to believe Lysi really loves Othrun. Perhaps this is because we know Othrun so intimately as a character, all of his flaws ruthlessly exposed. What I find perplexing is Lysi understands all of this too and still falls for Othrun. Maybe she likes ambitious bad boys or perhaps she has his number and is cruelly stringing him along? Only time will tell.

Overall, though, I enjoyed TLOTA, and I’m keen to know where this series goes next. ADK, whilst a strong novel in its own right, was in many ways the extensive prologue to a greater tale (when complete, this series will comprise seven planned novels). In TLOTA it felt like the main story had been established, giving Stuart a strong platform upon which to build his series. The final line of The Last of the Atalanteans left me with goosebumps.

If A Drowned Kingdom put the E into epic fantasy, then The Last of the Atalanteans puts the A into ambitious world building, with political intrigue that will absolutely appeal to Game of Thrones fans. PL Stuart has set up an amazing world of incredible depth. Acremia feels like a real place, populated by real, flawed, people. Some of the players are on the main stage but Stuart is clearly holding back a cast of other characters and kingdoms, who will no doubt play a part in future stories. This tale is far from done and the series has plenty of promise.

About Author

Author: Tim Hardie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *