King's Property (Queen of the Orcs, #1)

King's Property PDF/EPUB Ð Mass Market Paperback
  • Mass Market Paperback
  • 336 pages
  • King's Property (Queen of the Orcs, #1)
  • Morgan Howell
  • English
  • 10 September 2018
  • 9780345496508

About the Author: Morgan Howell

Will Hubbell Hubbell uses his own name when writing childrens' picture books and for his science fiction novels published by Ace He uses the name Morgan Howell for his recent fantasy writing, citing the darkness of the writing A graduate of Oberlin College and the Rochester Institute of Technology, MORGAN HOWELL is a fulltime writer who lives in upstate New York.

King's Property (Queen of the Orcs, #1)Born into hardship, Dar learns to relyon herself alone When her family betrays her, Dar is conscripted into King Kregant’s army and its brutal campaign to conquer a neighboring country Now she is bound as a slave to a dreaded regiment of orcs, creatures legendary for their savagery and battle prowess Ratherthan cower, Dar rises to the challenge She learns the unique culture and language of the orcs, survives treachery from both allies and enemies, and struggles to understand a mystical gift that brings her dark, prophetic visions As the war escalates–amid nightmarish combat and shattering loss–Dar must seize a single chance at freedom.

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10 thoughts on “King's Property (Queen of the Orcs, #1)

  1. Beanbag Love says:

    Got this as a Kindle freebie and finally decided to check it out. I've had a few bad experiences with the freebies, but this was not one of them.

    The story is about a woman -- Dar -- taken into the army as a serving wench. The brutality can be disturbing at times, although there is a constant thread of hope with Dar's strength and subsequent triumphs -- small victories, but inspiring nonetheless.

    This is a fantasy story, of course, and I've had some problems lately with the bleakness of most fantasy writers. Robin Hobb and Brent Weeks come immediately to mind. What a joyless trip those two are! But this, while it ends on a bittersweet note, seems to have a chance of ending somewhat well for the heroine and a few other featured characters. The one truly sad event was foreshadowed, so I didn't feel like anyone ripped my guts out thoughtlessly.

    There may even be a romance brewing, which would make me happy. I'm not sure, but I can say that, of all the fantasy writers I've tried since I discovered Jim Butcher, only Morgan Howell's 'King's Property' has made me anxious to get to the next installment.

    If we start to go downhill, believe me, I'll dump Howell in less than a second. But the sense I'm getting is that this is ultimately a story of triumph bought by cleverness and goodness of heart, and that's a story I can enjoy.

    As I mentioned, there is much brutality to women in this book. But the bad guys are revealed very soon after their introductions to be monsters so there are no gut-punching surprises in that direction. The good guys (few though they may be) are refreshing and I enjoyed rooting for them. And while the women are severely treated by some of the other characters, this is also a story where a woman, if she's willing to risk it all, can make a difference.

    I hope I won't ultimately be disappointed in this series now that I'm hooked. It's happened before (Brent Weeks grrrrrr!), so there is definitely some apprehension here. But right now, I'm optimistic, and I recommend this first book of the Queen of Orcs series. We'll see what the next two bring.

  2. Debbie says:

    I guess I'd call this "dark fantasy" since there is little hope throughout the book. It's also not a book I, personally, would give to anyone under 15 years old. The book clearly implies, though never actually states, that Dar was raped repeatedly by her father and both Dar and a young girl come very close to being raped on several occasions. While most of the sex, rape, brutality, and killing occur 'off screen' and none of it is explicit or gratuitous, the horror and danger of her surroundings is nearly unrelenting. It's a rather depressing read.

    Understandably, Dar doesn't trust men and doesn't really like them. I was a bit turned off by the apparent "all men are scum" message but, near the end, it becomes quite clear that Dar doesn't hate all men--just the ones that really are scum.

    That being said, all of the characters were very interesting and realistically drawn. The story was suspenseful, and the world-building was excellent.

  3. Ben says:

    King's Property is the first in a series of three books by Morgan Howell. Set in a somewhat generic fantasy setting, the trilogy centers on the character of Dar, a resourceful (human) peasant woman who is conscripted into the king's army to serve in a orcish regiment.

    I read this novel as I have been floating for a couple years now the idea of writing something similar, a sort of reinterpretation of the idea of orcs, which coincidentally also had a human woman as the main character (fantasy literature is not a very original field). Thus, I felt the need to examine the competition.

    Howell takes a slightly different direction than I might have expected. Some things are as I guessed: Dar lives in a dark, gritty, "realistic" place where pragmatism is by far the dominant ethos. I was surprised, however, by the orcs. They share little more in common with Tolkien's orcs (the light by which all orcs must be interpreted, for better or for worse) than being large, "ugly," and fierce. But even the fierceness is not as one might expect: These orcs are not always violent on their own (though they sometimes are) but rather at the behest of their human leaders, whom they serve for the sake of their queen who is in some way allied with Dar's king (many of these particulars are omitted in the volume and are presumably dealt with later). The orcs, rather than being a disorganized, violent mob, are the most disciplined of all the troops Dar encounters, up to and including the king's own guard. There are some more surprises I don't want to give away to those that haven't read the book, but the orcs eventually deviate even more from the Tolkienesque archetype. On top of all this, I could see definite hints of "noble savage" myths mixed in the orcish behaviors, which makes me somewhat uneasy. While I was somewhat disappointed that the orcs were not what I might have guessed, that is not a fault of the book.

    The main character, Dar, shows elements of nineteenth century adventure novel heroines and the women of Greek epics and tragedies (she shares some things in common with Cassandra), though I don't know that she could have existed prior to the advent of modern feminism. She is not Buffy, though (at least not yet). She survives on courage, genius, and audacity, not on her ability with the sword. One of the weaknesses of this novel is that Dar seems to display too much courage, genius, and audacity. In fairness, though, Dar is clearly depicted as exceptional; I just sometimes balked at how exceptional.

    The other characters, at least the humans, tend to go the other direction. I can't accuse them of being one-dimensional, most aren't, but rather of being dull, in both senses: stupid and boring. Development is admittedly not a high priority for many of these characters though, as few live long enough for us to care what happens to them. Thus, this is not as large a fault as it might at first seem.

    On the whole, though, I found this to be an intriguing book. There were enough surprises, but not too many, to keep me curious about what would happen. Dar is interesting and sympathetic (if not always wholly believable). I'm curious to see where Howell takes this all in the next two books.

    A word of warning: This is definitely a book for "mature readers" as they say. It is so in a way that is appropriate to the subject matter - this isn't an exploitation novel - but some elements may still be disturbing. Specifically, besides the usual decapitations and such, there is a constant threat of sexual violence (none of it graphic, but still...) in the book. Furthermore, Dar, it turns out, comes from an abusive past, and some references to that may also be disturbing to some, I imagine.

  4. Hélène Louise says:

    First of all, I'll start explaining why I haven't given 5 stars to this book, which I liked quite a lot: I'm excessively sensitive to turning points of view. In mine (point of view!) it shouldn't be done in the same paragraph, and only with precaution in the same chapter. This book is mainly wrote by Dar's point of view, in such an intimate way that it could have been wrote using the first person singular. Therefore, when the author suddenly throw her readers in another character's mind, it's a choc; the story - a very good one, very immersive - sounds artificial for a little while. It's a shame.
    Putting this weakness aside, 'King's property' is an excellent fantasy's read: no unhealthy lengthy horrors' descriptions, even if Dar's life is a harsh one, in a cruel world. Brutalities, rapes, murders are common place, but the reader isn't subjected to minute details of each atrocity - a disgusting fondness that many fantasy authors seem to have...
    An another strong point: quite frequently in the sort of fiction the main character is modernised, painted with our convictions and strengths. But not here, the details are absolutely realistic: Dar is honorable, courageous and likable, but her choices are coherent with her upraising and background. Also, she's physically much more resistant than we'd be! She's used to hard work, not wearing shoes, sleeping on the ground without any cover, and so on. And, in the beginning of the book, she believes bathing unhealthy!

    The story develops a very interesting idea, by presenting Orcs in an unusual light: brutish and deadly but also honorable, guileless, impervious to deceit, lies, shams and trickeries.
    The book's thread rest upon their blind obedience to their queen, who have given the human king's army many Orcs to help the despicable sovereign to fight his wars and also strip bare his people to sustain his army, encouraging his soldiers to kill and loot without any restraint.
    Dar is given by her father to be a slave in the Orc army, branded like cattle, subjected to the vile soldiers of this strange army, in which much hated and feared Orcs demand to be given food by women, and women only.
    But Dar is unusual, clever and courageous in adversity, and will soon be able to see truth behind the veil of hatred and prejudices.

  5. Mir says:

    Dar is a poor country girl conscripted into the army. The soldiers are vicious scum who seize women, whom they brand, rape, and use as slave labor in their camps. The miserable lives of the women, fighting for scraps of food, are generally short and end in violent deaths as they are flogged, decapitated for bounties, perish of malnutrition or childbirth, or are simply killed. Also, the women must serve the Orcs, as well. Orcs are generally indifferent to humans but may strike crippling blows at individuals who fail to bathe or offend them in some other way.

    Doesn't sound entertaining? It wasn't. Not a fun read. I found most interesting the parts where Dar tries to learn about the Orcs' language and culture. I appreciate that Howell wanted to depict how even under horrible conditions it is possible to try to maintain some degree of agency and personhood, but I could have done without scene after scene of physical and psychological abuse. Not a book for the sensitive soul.

    Lastly, this does not function as a stand alone. What I guess to be the major plot arc does not begin until near the end, so the first 250 pages are basically to set up the character and situation.

  6. Sable says:

    I picked up this series on some credit at the second-hand bookstore. I was intrigued by the premise, in that it sounded like this was a book that was going to challenge the tired old "orcs are bad guys you can kill with impunity" fantasy trope. Since I am writing a story with a similar premise, I thought I should have a look at what other people had done with that idea recently. When you submit a manuscript to a publisher, they want to know about similar works out there so they have an idea where and how to market your idea. So call it "market research."

    I didn't know how I would feel about it. "Slave girl learns about orcs to survive and finds they're not really monsters after all" could be seven types of bad (visions of a more brutalized Gor were making me cringe.) But, it was store credit, so what the hell. I figured if it was lousy I could always bring it back and get more credit.

    I needed something new to read for the bathtub, and since I was back to work on that same story (novel series) I mentioned, I thought maybe reading it would inspire me to break through my block. I checked its ratings on Goodreads, and discovered that it had encountered a mixed reception: everything from one to five stars. Weird, I thought. But then I saw that my friend Cat Rambo had rated it at four stars, and I thought, Cat doesn't say something is good if it isn't. So that decided me. I would give it a shot.

    It was not seven types of bad. It was excellent. The key as to whether you like it or not seems to be, How much can you handle it when the protagonist suffers?

    Dar is a desperately poor highland girl who is conscripted into the King's army. Her family offers her up like a sacrifice. She is branded so she can't escape and no one would give her refuge if she did. The reason she has been conscripted is that the King employs orcs in his army, and they refuse to be served food unless it's from a woman's hands.

    Of course, the soldiers use the women for a variety of other things too: scullery maids, servants, kitchen wenches, grooms, and unwilling bedwarmers. If a girl doesn't find a soldier to protect her in return for sexual favours, then she's at the mercy of the entire band. Life for these women is brutish and short: they get the last of the rations, are expected to do all the work in camp for the regiment, cook all the food, and screw all night if desired. If they become pregnant, the babies are taken away. One is drowned, though the soldier who took it promised to find it a peasant home to raise it in.

    Dar was abused by her father until she stabbed him with a knife, so she has no intention of providing her favours for anyone. But there's no refuge for her except with the orcs.

    The humans hate and fear the orcs. They call them "piss-eyes" (a rather unique epithet, I thought) and Dar does too, at first. The first things she hears about the orcs is that they eat the conscripted women. One girl who is seized with Dar believes this so strongly she hangs herself on route. Dar is made to carry her head to the camp, because she didn't stop her. This is within about the first twenty pages, so you have some idea of what you're in for. Kindly, however, all the sexual violence, while mentioned, takes place off-screen, so there's less trigger warnings than you might expect. Still definitely a book for mature readers, though.

    One of the orcs speaks to her gently at the food-serving ceremony and tells her in broken English (or whatever the common human language is, which we read translated as English) that she is saying it wrong. He corrects her pronunciation and she works to get it right. Because he is the only person in the whole regiment who treats her with any gentleness or dignity at all, including the other women, who conspire to earn the favours of more powerful and high-ranking soldiers, she reaches out to him. She realizes that the men fear the orcs, and uses their fear to protect herself by hiding among them when she can.

    Slowly, she breaks down the language and cultural barrier - and this is really well done. Really, really well done. Top marks for worldbuilding. We even get an orcish glossary at the end. It sounds vaguely Slavic or Polish.

    Dar forms a friendship with this orc, who agrees to protect her. She learns that the orcs serve in the army because their queen has a debt to the human king for healing her sickness; though it quickly becomes clear that something isn't right there.

    Dar also learns in orcish culture, food belongs to women, and only they may dispense it as a gift from their goddess. She pushes this issue when the orcs begin to resist her presence in their camp. She tells them that if they do not consider her a real woman - a mother, in their language - then the food from her hands is no good and they'll have to get it themselves. But if she is a mother, she's entitled to their protection and they should listen to her.

    Kovok-mah, her orc friend, agrees, and so he announces to the soldiers that Dar is under his protection the next time she attacked in the only way he knows how: "This is my woe man!" Then everyone thinks they are lovers - something a rival among the women for the attentions of one of the commanders, whom Dar is only trying to avoid - is happy to spread. Dar becomes a complete pariah. Her only hope lies with the orcs, and they don't want her there either.

    I'll stop there, because the rest would be a complete spoiler. But I'll let you know that I was riveted. I could hardly put the book down.

    Why not give it five stars then? It's got a couple of glaring flaws that are difficult to ignore. Understand that I think it's worth putting up with them, but they are occasionally intrusive and jarring.

    One is that there's an unsettling "noble savage" element to the orcs in how their language, culture and behaviour is portrayed. It's not overwhelming, but it is a bit like a sour aftertaste.

    Another is the "not like other women" syndrome. People repeatedly, for good or ill, say that Dar is "different from other women." The rest of the branded women are dismissed repeatedly as whores, even when they don't have a choice in the matter, and she's the only one who seems to have any courage. I am tired of this old misogynist trope. Now, to be fair, there's a bit of the "different from other men" thing going on too, as most of the men in the story are indiscriminate rapists and killers, but it's not as much. Or maybe I just dislike the fact that there seem to be exactly three or four decent people (human, orc or otherwise) in the whole story and everyone else is irredeemably awful. I understand the circumstances are unusual, but "grim-for-grim's-sake" gets wearisome after a while.

    A third is that the author clearly has no understanding of the mechanics of war. I wish that more writers would spend more time researching this in epic fantasy! The king's army doesn't make sense and wouldn't function. They would fall apart at the first sign of real battle with their slovenly ways and terrible discipline. All they seem to do is march. They never drill, not even when they are stopped from marching by weather. And if any army had to survive on the rations described as long as they did, they would simply fall over from exhaustion and stop marching entirely. I realize that medieval armies put up with a lot more deprivation than modern armies do, but there's a limit. I grant that this is an unwilling camp follower's view of war, mostly told from the third person personal, so maybe Dar doesn't understand, but I can't figure it out either.

    That said, the story does what a story is supposed to do: it grabs a hold of you by the collar, makes you want to keep turning those pages, and makes you want to read the sequel when it's done. So I think I will! I'm invested in Dar and Kovok-mah and I want to know how things turn out for them.

    If you're a fan of traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy, as I am, this is a delightfully refreshing read in that war is horrible, death is permanent, and the orcs are not just bad guys because the humans say so. Well worth it!

  7. Jim says:

    King's Property is the story of Dar, a woman whose family hands her over to the army of King Kregant to serve the human and orc soldiers. Being a rather spirited woman, Dar makes several powerful enemies among the humans. Instead of allowing herself to be used, she turns to the orcs for protection, a choice which further alienates her from her fellow humans. It's a dark and violent book, often depressing, but Dar's struggle to survive makes for a good story, as does her gradual immersion into orcish culture and beliefs.

    Props to Howell for taking an unflinching look at the role of women during wartime. It's not a pretty picture. The work is backbreaking and unforgiving, and the women have to choose between crawling into bed with a "protector" or risking gang rape every time the army makes camp. It's a refreshing change from the way women are typically ignored or glossed over in this sort of book. Howell focuses on Dar and the women, narrating the war from their perspective. We still see the battles and the bloodshed, but it's a very different perspective. Less honor and glory, and more of the day-to-day fear and desperation.

    As a result, this was definitely not a light read. The human men started to feel a little cardboard in their nastiness, and there's at least one point where things got dark enough I almost tossed the book aside. I'm glad I didn't.

    The book is obviously part 1 of a trilogy, not so much ending as stopping. We see hints of dark powers and foreboding omens, fight a big battle, and leave Dar and the orcs in a very tight spot.

    It's a gripping story about issues which have been unforgivably neglected in the genre. And I'm all about books that develop the typical monstrous races. The orcs were interesting, if a little too romantically idealized. (They reminded me a bit of the noble savage stereotype.) Overall, I'm glad I read it, and I'll almost certainly pick up the next ... but I'll keep a lighter book on the bedside table, just in case I need a break.

  8. Kathryn says:

    Dar is a young peasant woman who is drafted into service as a cook and servant for the army of King Kregent. She is told that she must serve the Orc Regiment, since for unknown reasons, orcs refuse to be served by men, and only accept food from the hands of women. Dar is terrified by the orcs at first (naturally), but she has spirit and refuses to let it be broken by orcs or men. She decides to risk her very life in an attempt to forge a kind of alliance with the orcs, and learns all that she can from them, including their language. Eventually her calculated risk pays off, and Dar is accepted by the orc leader, although the rest of them think he is a little crazy for spending so much time with her.

    This series was a bit "iffy". It had potential to be a great book, but for me it just didn't click. It has some important, although not very original, points to make, chiefly tolerance of different races and cultures. Howell chose a pretty orginal way to get that point across, however. In this world, orcs are reviled by humankind as vicious, maneating, dull-witted brutes who are good only for service in the army. In actuality, orcs have a highly structured and peaceful society, arguably more peaceful than that of humans, since the very concept of dishonesty is totally foreign to them. But in order to be left in peace by humans, they have made an alliance with a human king and agree to send soldiers to fight for him in his attempt to expand his kingdom into an empire.

    I didn't hate it; I didn't love it. I finished it with a feeling that it hadn't lived up to it's potential.

  9. YouKneeK says:

    This is a fantasy book that I downloaded for free almost seven years ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t get around to trying it sooner. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody talk about it, and it doesn’t seem to be very highly rated, but I actually really liked it. It’s not a book I’d recommend without reservation though; it’s pretty bleak.

    The story focuses on a young woman named Dar whose family treats her terribly, culminating in the event at the beginning of the book where her family gives her away to the King’s army to serve as a slave to a regiment of Orcs. The story focuses on Dar’s adjustment to her new role, the threats she faces on a day-to-day basis, and her discoveries about Orc culture.

    The men in Dar’s world don’t value women, and there’s a lot of brutality. Most things aren’t described in an explicit manner, but that doesn’t make the events any less disturbing. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Dar, but every now and then we would randomly jump into somebody else’s perspective for a few paragraphs. I really liked Dar, as well as some of the other main characters in the story, but I did think the villains were rather one-dimensional.

    The story was told simply, and this book served as a great distraction that didn’t require excessive brain power while I was recovering from a cold. This is the first book in a trilogy, and there’s clearly more story to be told, but it didn’t end with any sort of a major cliff hanger. I plan to continue on with the next book right away.

  10. Jean says:

    The title and premise caught my eye, and while the summary on the back makes it sound 'meh' it was much better then I expected.

    It's cliché, but enjoyably cliché. I found Dar charming, if not terribly relatable, and the prose reads smooth and the plot moves forward at a wonderful pace even though the writing isn't the most polished. I love the twist on Orcs, and their culture is the strongest aspect of the book. The weakest part, for me, was the first chapter when the story starts rather abruptly and we're flung straight into the world. But after that things even out.

    I'm looking forward to picking up the next two in the series on my next trip to the bookstore. :D