Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+++
“There’s a language between our heartbeats I have no translation for—no words, just a thumping communion.”
There is something hypnotic and transcendent about Kennedy Ryan’s storytelling. Its depth is found in very few romances, and it bears fruit in a way that most romances don’t. Her newest book, The Kingmaker, the first book of the All the King’s Men duet is no different. It’s a hearty memento of our current generation about a love bigger than its hero and heroine, a love for culture and people and the world. Kennedy Ryan’s words, like the ones laid out in this newest book. are always larger than life.
From its outset, there’s a headiness and a maturity to The Kingmaker. Reading this book should be a rite of passage. Intertwined in the romance between Maxim Cade and Lennix Moon Hunter are messages about culture, climate, and social consciousness. It’s clear that Ryan is well-researched in the culture of indigenous peoples and customs. Even more she treats us to mature, thoughtful discussions about climate science and politics. And she does this in a way that doesn’t read heavy-handed or like a PSA announcement. These messages act as threads that bind Lennix and Maxim together. They never overpower them. Instead, they lend depth to their connection, making The Kingmaker worthy of being required reading in any school. This is always the brilliance of Ryan’s storytelling; she awakens our minds and challenges our perceptions of social issues and ills. She also titillates with a villain father, a presidential hopeful, an adventurer hero, and an Olivia Pope-like heroine. Everything is here in this story.
And can we talk about Ryan’s quotability? My version of The Kingmaker is a highlight paradise. The words, her style, the syntax of Ryan’s words are magic. Lennix and Maxim’s dreams and ambition find purchase in the eloquence of Ryan’s words. In this book, it’s even more pronounced because the ideas behind the words feel important in our global climate. It reads necessary and emphatic while tempered with emotion and passion.
In terms of characterization, Maxim and Lennix are the ultimate representation of big love. These two are star-crossed soulmates. We hope in the end they find their way to each other, yet, in order to do so, they will cross the earth and back, transcending time, to return pieces of their hearts to each other. The depth of their love strengthens the thread of Ryan’s story. The passion for each other is only rivalled by their passion for their causes. I believe the depth of love for each other is meant to represent the depth of love for culture and climate.
“…I gain the one thing that has eluded me all these years. A perfect stillness. An end to searching. A found-ness, a seen-ess I didn’t even know to look for. So this is contentment.”
In promo materials for The Kingmaker, Ryan characterizes Maxim Cade as a “woke” hero. He’s fluent in climate change rhetoric, he expounds on the limitations of the two-party political system, suggesting that we should all strive for locating the best parts of each towards a better world, and he acknowledges, even through a gritty heart, Lennix’s ambition for changing the system for native people. While his ambition is his superpower, he recognizes it in Lennix too, never trying to tie her down but setting her free. He’s an intelligent hero adorned with a heavenly body and face and all the right moves in the bedroom. More importantly, after all of that, he is not perfect. His early decision making create trouble for him and Lennix, and he must make amends to her in order to right their relationship. Above all, though, he sees the essence of Lennix, and THAT is what makes him sexy. His principles and his adoration for Lennix make him worthy of his hero status and a major reason to read Ryan’s book.
As a heroine, the best words to describe Lennix are wise and tenacious. Early in the book, we are treated to a young Lennix (seventeen years old), and Ryan shows her depth and breadth of spirit. I think Ryan’s description of her in her protest of Cade Energy’s pipeline evokes a spirit of wisdom and power, and it’s Maxim’s first attraction to her. It’s where he first notes her strength and power. In that moment, as a reader, you begin to fall in love with her too. She’s compassion, she’s a marginalized voice as woman and indigenous person, she’s hope, and she’s a loud voice. For any young woman, Lennix is a model, an apt example of what modern day women should and do look like. There is nothing vapid or transitory about her. Just as she took Changing Woman into her body, she represents the true power of women to effect change in the world. Even more, her love for Maxim is palpable and electric.
“There are few things more affirming than someone seeing you exactly as you aspire to be—for them to say I see that in you.”
These two are halves made whole in each other. Their chemistry flies off the page, grabbing the hearts of readers.
This book ends with a cliffhanger, a worry over the proximity of Maxim and Lennix to their happy ending. Yet, what Kennedy Ryan’s The Kingmaker is predicated on is hope: a hope for our hero and heroine to find their happily ever after, a hope for these two to change the world prominently together, and a hope for our own society to become a better place for us ALL. That is the truth behind Kennedy Ryan’s newest romance, a hopeful emblem for our times.
In love and romance,