King of Dublin by Heidi Belleau and Lisa Henry ~ Review by Lirtle Grafton

A brutal, not so new world filled with desperate people trying to survive in Ireland, Dublin most specifically. Food is in short supply, as are fuel, knowledge and happiness. It does have a king, though. Well, one guy who thinks he’s a king and decides he gets to make others suffer for merely being alive. Ciaran and Darragh feel differently, to say the least…ARC fullcover

Title: King of Dublin

Authors: Heidie Belleau and Lisa Henry

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

Twenty years after a deadly pandemic ravaged the world, Darragh Fergus Anluan and the people of his village have carved out a hard but simple life in the Irish countryside. But with winter comes sickness, and Darragh must travel to Dublin in search of medicine. What he finds there is a ruined city ruled by a madman, where scavenging is punishable by death . . . or conscription.

Ciaran Daly came to Ireland with aid and optimism, but instead was enslaved by the so-called King of Dublin. After months of abuse from the king and his men, he has no reason to believe this newcomer will be any different. Except Ciaran finds himself increasingly drawn to Darragh, whose brutish looks mask how sweet and gentle he really is.

The tenderness Darragh feels for the king’s treasured pet is treason, but it’s hardly the only betrayal brewing in this rotten kingdom. Rebellions and rival gangs threaten the king’s power, but not nearly as much as Darragh and Ciaran—whose only hope for freedom is the fall of the king.

* This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.

A Very Dark World Desperate for Some Light…


This book was a slow starter for me. A lot of description of places and people before we begin the journey of getting to know some of those very people. Anyone who has been to any of these places in Ireland will easily be able to picture them, as I’ve been. Actually, anyone will be able to easily picture all of the settings, they are all well done. This did add an extra dose of fun for me as I’ve walked in many of the same spots as some of these characters. Thankfully, I never experienced anything at all close to what they encountered and tried to survive.

Take heed of the warning from the publisher noted above. It is accurate.

No matter what all is said by anyone about this book, know this: the writing is fantastic. The use of language, the style, its comprehensive nature, the ease with which these two writers can help us hear and smell and taste what is going on, everything is there. In other words, what we usually get from them. I never came across a scene where I could tell one or the other wrote a particular passage or piece of dialogue. It’s seamless. Stellar.

The issue for me is the structure, the length honestly. Not the length of the book itself (this I applaud), but the length of time it takes before Ciara and Darragh are permitted as characters to create that connection that is so vital when reading a good story. Repeatedly pained, abused, tears pricking and falling, they all had the opposite affect and made me feel something we’ve all felt before: becoming unaffected by the continual overuse of particular tactics without a goal, without some direction for the path forward. If there had been more of what wasn’t done, these characters would have gotten more of what I think the story was trying, what it really wanted to give to them. Ciara and Darragh are goldmines in this post-apocalyptic Ireland of the not so distant future. Of Dublin and Trinity and Galway and Newgrange, and they deserved to experience, suffer, enjoy, lose and conquer more of it together. It felt like things were reined in, restrained, held back. Both of these writers know how to do unapologetic and it felt like there were buried apologies seeping up from the now overgrown, cracked and ruined roads of this world. Never direct, but I felt their presence.

It took about the first third of the book for me to start feeling a good connection to Ciaran and Darragh. They didn’t have much of an opportunity to build one themselves, most of their page time spent doubting, wondering and coming to the wrong conclusions about each other due to that lack of time. It felt like these scrumptious characters were overwhelmed by the fantastically written settings, atmosphere and all things five-senses. Players waiting for their story on the best stage on the planet.

There was something narrowly yet continually missing the mark. I’ve tried to articulate what that is but I’ve still not convinced myself I’ve squarely landed on it.

And then… a turning point. Breathe. Yeah.

Emotional connection, the chance for emotional connection and it takes hold. From this page forward, whenever I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about Ciaran and Darragh. I would try to and did imagine what may be coming next for them. I was engaged.

These two men do start to learn more about each other. It had started out as more of facts and places and things and was finally now about them, they were searching for their missing pieces just like I had been. Just because you say you want someone doesn’t necessarily make it feel true. But now? Truth was starting to break the surface. They clasp hands and don’t let go. Maybe they’ll get there. Maybe it will be that quietly beautiful place on the hill. They need it. I need it. I’ve been there and I know what it can do. Will it be the same? For them?

Sometimes there are magical places that we can’t quite grasp, where the history is so far before our own time, and that’s why it’s so good. This is how it affects Ciaran and Darragh. This is what I’d been looking for. Acceptance. Of themselves, not just each other.

I love the ending. It works. It fits. It gives. I love Darragh, and Rabbit makes quick work of worming his way into my heart. I think Ciaran will always be the wildcard. He may not always act on it, but it’s a part of who he is. This ending is merely a nap on the ol’ sofa, there is so much more in store. I enjoy thinking about that. I like when a story does that for me.

This is quite a ride despite my issues with it. It’s a quick read despite its length and in great thanks to the excellent writing. It is brutal, unceasing really. With moments of humor, hard fought and won. The threads of a new family are born. There is just so much blood and loss and pain and suffering before the needle prick reveals its true intention.

Buy Links:

Riptide Publishing

I would like to thank Riptide Publishing for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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