It's pretty safe to say that epic fantasy is my favorite genre reading preference and the more epic the better. I like to change it up, but I always come back to it. I love series that push the boundaries of what is epic, take The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but I will always love the traditional epics.
The Bronze Knight or Lukien trilogy is just that kind of fantasy. Traditional fantasy done right. And even while it is great traditional fantasy, the Lukien trilogy plays with plenty of tropes of the genre.
In this series, we have the typical warring kingdoms vying for power when a peace-loving king, Akeela, decides peace is more valuable than rights to a disputed river. The only problem is that his best friend and highest-ranking officer, Lukien, betrays him by falling in love with the king's wife.
This is the last straw in Akeela's increasingly stressful and frustrating world and he snaps. He goes mad and even though this is high treason, Lukien isn't beheaded, but banished.
I love how Marco plays with madness in his works. Usually in traditional fantasy, it's the big bad guy has his bad reasons for being so bad and it's not so in this trilogy. Marco makes you second-guess your gut feelings because these are still good people who may not be responsible for their actions. Akeela is still someone who Lukien considers his friend even through all the terrible events.
These events all occurred in the first book, The Eyes of God, and Marco goes even further with this idea of madness in this final book of the trilogy, The Sword of Angels [US] [UK]. Here, another of Lukien's (and Gilwyn's and many others') best friends makes a decision that leads him on the path of madness. They've all been warned of the dangers of the Devil's Armor, but Baron Glass ignored the warnings, thinking he could overcome any problem. However, the Devil's Armor begins to change him nonetheless.
In this final volume, the Devil's Armor, and really the Akari inside the armor, has really had an effect on Glass. It makes him kill when he never would and even though everyone else sees the signs of his growing madness, he remains willfully blind.
Lukien learned at the end of the prior book that he was no match for the Devil's Armor even with his Eye of God which makes him immortal. In The Sword of Angels, Lukien must go on a quest to find this elusive sword, which is the only way to defeat the Devil's Armor.
It all seems so straight-forward, but you'll never guess how this ends. It was both a comfortable read with a great quest story, but also surprising in ways I never imagined to be lead. The Lukien trilogy is at the height of the game, it's traditional fantasy with just enough to challenge you while excelling in all the ways that make this genre great. I'm looking forward to reading the stand-alone book, The Forever Knight, that just came out earlier this year.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)
The Bronze Knight/Lukien/Inhuman trilogy [Read in red]:1) The Eyes of God (review)
2) The Devil's Armor (review)
3) The Sword of Angels
The Forever Knight (up next)