Richard Swan, "The Justice of Kings" (Orbit, 2022)


The Justice of Kings (Orbit, 2022) opens with our young narrator, Helena, traveling from town to town as clerk to the King’s Justice, a learned and idealistic man called Vonvalt. The first few chapters build towards a pivotal incident, the razing of the village of Rill and the immolation of its inhabitants. Vonvalt, who has leeway on how he applies common law, has discovered the village still worshipped the old gods, and imposed a fine as punishment, privately cautioning the local Lord to worship more discreetly. However, Patria Claver, the priest who traveled with Helena’s party, had his own ideas about how to handle pagans and returned with a party of crusading soldiers to mete out death to the inhabitants. This sets up the central conflict between Vonvalt, a rational man who prides himself on a measured and appropriate response, and the nobles who back Claver, amassing a private and punitive army of crusaders.

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