Kingdom in Chains
The common people have become the currency, outlaws have shifted to mercenaries, and freedom is no more than a thought of the past. Fear, violence, slavery—throughout his adult life, Barloc has known no other way.
A quarter of a century has passed since King Sclavus decreed slavery legal in the Kingdom of Kuldaire, certain it was the only way to keep the economy strong. He created alliances with the wealthy ruling class, and cast the common folk into chains. A handful of rebellions rose, but fell almost as quickly as they began, and the concepts of freedom and peace became dusty relics of the past, a nearly forgotten dream.
When Barloc is sold to Lord Harbor, his new owner offers queer promises of freedom, promises only King Sclavus can honor after a thirty-day trial. Barloc, as someone who has lost everything, or who never had anything of his own to begin with, is forced to question everything around him as he embarks on this new trial.
Whom can he trust? Why has he been selected and thrown into this strange new setting? What happened to just being a slave? How can life be any different from the only way he’s ever known? What is freedom, and at what cost?
This is Barloc’s chance—perhaps his last chance—to once and for all cast off the chains that bind him. And maybe, just maybe, he can bring others to freedom with him.
Dale L. Elster says: "JW Zulauf has crafted a YA fantasy tale that pre-teens and early teens are sure to enjoy, and parents of those kids will be comfortable with them reading. There's much to like about this novel. The characters are engaging and well-developed, and the plot moves right along, punctuated with clever action sequences framed around a truly despicable villain and a cheer-worthy hero. I also found the story very relevant to today's world as it deals with the challenges of achieving freedom and peace - both personal and societal - as it tackles the painful topic of human trafficking, which sadly still exists. These are important themes to be sure, and crucial for young readers to learn about and explore as they make their way to adulthood. As always, Zulauf takes on this subject matter in a way that educates rather than preaches, and as he did with the excellent Balderdash series of books, expands young readers' vocabularies by cleverly folding uncommon words into the text, cleverly framing them in such a way that they become easily understandable. There are some threads here I'd like to see expanded upon more, but this wasn't really a problem for me as this is the first book in a series. If you have a YA reader in your family, I highly recommend this thrilling fantasy adventure!"