Allow me to start this review at the end: Really, Edmond Manning, I mean really? You’re leaving me hanging on not one but two cliffhangers? I’ve killed for less—that’s all I say.
Okay, now I have gotten that off my chest I should probably warn you that the chances of this turning into a coherent review are slim at best. It’s far more likely to turn into a quote-riddled gush fest, and you want to bear in mind I will have deleted numerous quotes which touched me as much as the ones I’ll keep did because, well, because this is supposed to be a review, not a novella.
I don’t want to say a lot about the story beyond what you can find in the blurb, I’m not sure I could do the story justice. My words are too clumsy, my interpretations too personal. Besides, the stories in this series should be experienced by the reader. It is more than ‘just’ an amazing reading experience. The Lost and Founds books provide us not only with fascinating characters and settings, they also force us to look at ourselves, our lives and the people around us. They invite us to ask ourselves if we are limiting ourselves and if yes, why we are doing that.
“Alistair, quit pressuring yourself. Kingship means something different for every man. Quit trying to box it up and get it right.”
As true as this is for Alistair in the book, I believe it’s equally true for us readers. I think while we all get the general message from these pages, we all discover individual truths in its words as well.
This is the fourth King story but it felt different from the previous three. The men in earlier books, Perry, May and Terrance, didn’t know they wanted or needed to be kinged, didn’t even know there was such a thing. Vin’s struggle was to keep them on a course towards a destination they didn’t know they wanted or needed.
Alistair on the other hand wants to be kinged. He searches out Vin and then refuses to follow Vin’s rules. This time it is Vin who needs to be constantly reassured that his protégé indeed wants what he says he wants, and realizes there’s a price to pay; a price both Vin and the reader fear may be too high for Alistair. But dealing with a man eager to find his inner King while reluctant to surrender to the process also forces Vin to look deeper into himself; is this hard because he’s dealing with a fraud or because he’s looking into a mirror showing him everything he needs to overcome in order to stop being a lost King?
“His King Weekend will be a huge disappointment, unless he stops seeking approval outside himself.”
“He wants to be discovered. He wants someone to find him, to reach beyond the iron fortifications he constructed, and see him. Love him, I know. We are cut from the same cloth.”
Alistair may be a lot like Vin, I think he’s also a lot like many of us, trying to learn lessons most of us could benefit from.
“The problem with a man like Alistair is no amount of praise, flattery of loving from the outside with impact his core. Not love from me, not love from any of the kings.”
“I don’t need you to be sorry, Alistair. I need you to understand the price you pay for getting your way. For choosing not to submit.”
“I don’t need to know your secrets, but as long as you don’t let anyone in, you’re trapped with them.”
This story hit me harder than the previous books did, the subjects it deals with are darker—dare I say it—uglier. And yet, while the tension grips you and the fear makes you read faster, they are dealt with in a loving, if not necessarily beautiful, way. It is tempting to go on about this. To spell out exactly what I mean, but I can’t do that without revealing those issues and that would mean spoiling the story for others, so that's a no go. I ask you to just trust me, to take my word for it. This story will shake you, may at times become very hard to read, and yet it will open your eyes and heart.
“Maybe I can’t become a Found King because I don’t remember who lives underneath this façade. Maybe this isn’t a façade at all and the real me is just really lost.”
“The more a man knows about his kingship, the less likely he himself will cross over.”
And Vin—oh Vin—I want to wrap him in my arms, hug him close and whisper in his ear that he already is a Found King. Because it takes one to know one. Because his love is huge. That all he needs to do is believe and it will be true. I want to tell him he makes me cry every time he recognises that another man is blocked because he’s made something huge out of a circumstance or past occurrence he never had any power over, while failing to see the same applies to him. Vin touches me in ways few, if any, fictional characters touch me. He’s more real to me than fictional characters have any right to be.
It’s the quiet, easy to miss, observations Vin makes about himself that break my heart. They’re in the story as if they’re passing thoughts, hardly worth our notice, and yet I feel they hold the key to the deeper truth Vin is looking for.
“I revel in how ordinary this feels, as if I could do this back home. Take a date out dancing. Hang out with friends. I can’t. But here—here at Burning Man—freaks fit in. I’m one of the gang. I’m normal.
Burning Man is the closest I’ve ever come to family.
Burning Man is like home.”
As with the previous Lost and Founds books, King John has left me both shaken and stirred. I’m emotionally wrecked and cursing the fact I’ll have to wait several months at least before the story will continue. And yet I feel enriched too. It is as if my heart has expanded, as if I can now see, understand and feel things that were just beyond my grasp before I started reading. And for that I am grateful. I thank Edmond Manning for making me think and feel, for allowing me to look at the world through a different lens and thus showing me things which were always there, just not always visible. I bless the day these books were suggested to me and will treasure them for as long as I have eyes to read or a brain to remember them with.
As predicted the piece - I wouldn't go so far as to call it a review - I wrote is a rambling mess. I'll therefore end it with one more quote. Because both the author and his protagonist are far better with words than I can ever hope to be.
“Though our roots be earthed in misery, and nurtured with our humbled tears, tomorrow’s hope is today’s firm green sprig, pushing upward, barely seen. Eager to unfold, to manifest the unknowing directions, we grow. We are all destined for Spring.”