A breath of fresh air for the fantasy genre, The High King’s Golden Tongue isn’t about war or gore (though there is some). There’s no rape or genocide or corrupt, mad kings. There’s just a prince who speaks twelve languages, who, through the power of his wits, manages to charm a reluctant grieving king into opening up his heart to love once more. It’s the perfect antidote to the pessimist’s fantasy, the notion that men with power will always find a way to abuse it. Sarrica is a good king, even if he is a difficult man, and while he’s hard to warm up to, his reasons all make sense in the end.
I loved how hard-headed and stubborn both Sarrica and Prince Allen are, and while I’m usually tired of the Big Misunderstanding as a trope, the carefully crafted small misses in communication that almost lead to disaster are perhaps the best part of this entire book. I love how Sarrica and Allen dance around one another while everyone else can tell they’re falling in love. I love how the problems the empire faces are beaten primarily by the power of reason and negotiation, the sword being an implement of last resort. And I adore the rich world Derr has created where having twelve different languages causes everyday headaches, where diversity exists in a totally understated, matter-of-fact way, and where two guys can be married and have their own biological children without a single raised eyebrow from anyone else or pages of exposition on the politics and biology of it all.