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The Peacock King by Erica Bercegeay

 

The enigmatic Peacock King, ruler of half of the known world, seeks to possess the land itself by enslaving the spirits of the wild. Gerald, a newly initiated Poet whose magic is as real as he can write it, is also one of the Armed—enforcers of the Law who wield guns with souls. His mission: infiltrate the Peacock King’s Court and gather intelligence. Unfortunately for Gerald, things quickly go awry . . . 

Can he outwit the Peacock King? Will he be able to save his long-lost brother, who is the King’s new spirit-tamer?

The Peacock King is an illustrated fantasy epic that’s unfolding via free web serial novels and short stories.


A series, no longer online

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Listed: Jan 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

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Intrigue and malice in a decadent court

By Linda Schoales, editor

Feb 8, 2009: “The Peacock King” is a slowly unfolding epic about a Poet, or spy, in the court of the decadent but charming Peacock King. The Poet has the advantages of mental powers and an unexpected contact at court. The Peacock King has the advantages of wealth, power and absolute control over all he surveys. He likes to collect things, people and magical creatures. Even if it’s against the Law.

The story starts out with the Poet narrating in first person, present tense. He’s a self-described “gunslinger” who carries Arms and is charged with upholding the Law. The capitalization is the author’s. Our Poet is able to project a glamour that prevents others from noticing him, but he forgets to make it universal and gets caught. He can also “catch” a bit of his mind on someone, allowing him to ride along and see through their eyes, but that part of his mind gets caught, as well. I have to admit that at first I found the spy to be a smug, self-satisfied twit. The first couple of paragraphs sound more like a guy bragging to his drinking buddies than a professional spy reporting to his superiors.

Lotus, his contact, hijacks the Poet’s “eye” and the narration. We see what Lotus sees through the bit of the Poet’s mind that is in Lotus’ mind. After Chapter 4 I wasn’t sure who was narrating. I thought it was the Poet, looking through Lotus’ eyes, but the Poet is mentioned by name so the narration may have switched to third person.

Other than the confusion in narration, the writing is quite solid, with enough description to ground the story but not enough to seem odd in first person narration. The conflict of the story starts immediately, as the Poet sees the Peacock King purchasing an illegal slave. From there the pace is very deliberate, almost ponderous. This is not a story to be rushed but savoured. The backstory is filled in using long passages. Not much happens in each chapter but a lot is said, and more hinted. Most of the tension comes from the potentially deadly verbal fencing with the all-controlling Peacock King.

The Peacock King himself is an intriguing character. He’s wearing colourful silks, cosmetics and scent, but they’re like a mask he uses to watch from behind. He can be charming one moment and then dripping with malice the next. If he likes Lotus, then both Lotus and the Poet have an in at court, and a chance of the Poet completing his mission. If not, they could both be dead, or worse. In some ways, it’s like being at the court of the French Sun King. Everyone is playing the role of their lives.

Lotus is a con man and a survivor. He’s trying desperately to catch enough of the Peacock King’s attention to win a place in the court, but not enough to keep him in the King’s eye. He’s nervous – torn between his past and his conscience, and a possible future of ease and comfort.

I’ve read 10 of the available 28 chapters, and, so far, “The Peacock King” is a solid, well-written epic with a small, colourful cast of characters, an exotic world that unfolds slowly, and a lot of verbal fencing. The story moves at a slow, deliberate pace, inviting the reader to enjoy the language. For me, the pace was a bit too slow and the tone a bit too arch to really hold my interest, but I don’t expect that problem will necessarily apply to other people. If you like stories about an unlikely hero trying to survive the intrigues of a decadent court, you’ll probably enjoy this.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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I don’t know who to root for. But it’s awesome.

By Lucy Weaver, author of Tapestry

Apr 11, 2009: Like the court that is the centerpiece of the first book, this story is both rich and decadent. The writing is the chocolate cake of the web fiction feast, with an evocativeness that leaves one rereading certain chapters over and over. In Your Room comes to mind – the author says that was the first time they did creepy. To the author I say – you do it /very well/. The language is colorful and evocative of a world that departs from your regular fantasy fare with its own intricate [more . . .]

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Two thumbs up, definitely

By Kashi-hime, member

May 6, 2009: It is surprising how quickly one can get hooked on this epic piece of literature. The writing is stylized and flowing, compelling and exciting. Unlike many web fictions, which are rushed choppy and confusing, The Peacock King Trilogy has the set, meandering pace of a leisurely walk in the park. The plot unfolds constantly, however with out for-shadowing later points, and for every one thing that becomes clear, several questions arise to ponder on.

Although Lyric or Lotus, as he is [more . . .]

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Beautifully written

By Xirena, member

Aug 11, 2009: When I read the synopsis I thought I wasn’t going to like this story, even though quite a few folks I find myself reading the same stories with or even reading directly recommended it. It took about a week for me to decide I would try it and even then I went in to it with a good bit of skepticism. But I was definitively won over. The talking guns part is not as goofy as I thought it would be at all, in fact it is a very nice [more . . .]

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