Do not be fooled by the generic cover, 'The Ruin of Kings' is the real deal. There has been a load of hype and comparisons to every best-selling fantasy author the PR folks at Tor could think of, but this book truly goes in interesting directions. This is a save the world fantasy that takes on some serious questions, but never takes itself too seriously. This was pure fun.
Jenn Lyons does a wonderful job of building up a world filled with deep history, magic, gods walking the earth, and all sorts of political and moral problems without ever resorting to info-dumping. The story grows organically. A lot of that is thanks to the unusual narrative structure.
The book is in two parts, the longer first part is a magically recorded conversation between a prisoner and an unusual jailer. The two take turns telling the story of the prisoner, Kihrin's, life from when he was sold into slavery and some years earlier when he was a thief in the Capital City and discovers he's the scion of a noble family with a sinister reputation. That means there is a switch between 1st and 3rd person perspectives and three timelines to keep straight (the two stories and the "present" of the stories being told. On top of that there are occasional interjections from the compiler in a fourth timeline (after the end of the book) who appears in the narrative as a character as well. The second part of the novel is pulled from eyewitness accounts and is a little more straight-forward. All of these events lead to the burning of the capital.
Written out, that looks complicated, but I didn't have a problem keeping events straight. The chapters are clearly labelled as coming from Talon or Kihrin's, the "present" is delivered in italics, and the future is all foot and end-notes. This divided timeline allowed for greater tension building and kept the fates of certain characters up in the air.
Though this is epic fantasy Lyons writes in a casual style and characters use idioms and language that is much more modern than the high-falutin' language of her forebears. It was done so well I didn't mind at all. It helps that even when characters are at their lowest the book doesn't give in to grimdar brooding and self-pity.
I hate the hype machine, so I totally get if people want to wait for the paperback, but this series should take off.