REVIEW: A Drowned Kingdom by P.L. Stuart

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

Submerge yourself in the majesty of P.L. Stuart’s masterful debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom, a fantasy inspired by the mythology of Atlantis. A Drowned Kingdom asks the question: when the most powerful country in the world is swallowed by the sea, can a new kingdom rise again?

Cover for A Drowned Kingdom by P.L. StuartThe novel opens with a colonialist mission conducted by the First and Second Princes of the island kingdom of Atalanyx. While their objective is obviously political, they use religion to justify their actions, having the goal of converting pagans from their polytheistic religion to the one true God of Atalanyx. The monotheistic Atalantean religion is represented by the sign of the triangle and the circle, as depicted on the minimalistic cover of the novel.

A Drowned Kingdom is told as a first-person narrative by Othrun, the Second Prince of Atalantyx and half-brother of First Prince Erthal, heir to the kingdom. P.L. Stuart’s decision to employ single-perspective first-person narration works very effectively, although it is often discomforting being stuck inside the head of a despicable character such as Othrun. It doesn’t take long for Othrun to reveal his racism, misogyny, and religious intolerance.

Being inside Othrun’s head creates a morality distortion field on par with some of the greatest grimdark protagonists. But P.L. Stuart’s approach is also unique with the deeply religious influences on Othrun’s reasoning. Othrun’s belief in the Atalantean religion with its one true God seems genuine, but there are moments when his religious fervor may cross over into delirium. Othrun’s faith-based explanations for major events in the novel push him further into zealotry. P.L. Stuart has done a marvelous job plumbing the depths of Othrun’s psychology as he justifies treachery and sets himself on a path toward possible tyranny.

A Drowned Kingdom is also heavy on politics, and P.L. Stuart is adept at capturing the nuances of political interactions and the subtle games that people play to give themselves an advantage.

Although this is his debut novel, P.L. Stuart writes like a well-seasoned veteran. His prose has a gravitas that feels Biblical in some parts and like a historical diary in others. Despite its formality, Stuart’s prose is remarkably accessible, captivating me from the first page. The story itself is a slow burn but methodically paced.

P.L. Stuart is a master of characterization. The worldbuilding in A Drowned Kingdom is exceptionally well done. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg, as our view is limited by Othrun’s unreliable tunnel vision.

Overall, A Drowned Kingdom is a remarkable debut that will appeal equally to grimdark and classic epic fantasy fans. The saga continues with The Last of the Atalanteans, the next installment in P.L. Stuart’s planned seven-book series, The Drowned Kingdom.


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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.