King of Kings Review | M.J Porter

Plot: In the battle for power, there can be only one ruler.
AD925: Athelstan is the king of the English, uniting the petty kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, the Danish-held Five Boroughs and York following the sudden death of his father, King Edward.

His vision is to unite the realms of the Scots and the Welsh in a peace accord that will protect their borders from the marauding threat of the Norse Vikings.

Whilst seemingly craving peace and demanding loyalty with an imperium over every kingdom, Athelstan could dream of a much bigger prize.

But danger and betrayal surround his best intentions, namely from his overlooked stepbrother, Edwin, who conspires and vies for what he deems is his rightful place as England’s king.

As ever, powerful men who wish to rule do not wish to be ruled, and Constantin of the Scots, Owain of Strathclyde, and Ealdred of Bamburgh plot their revenge against the upstart English king, using any means necessary.

An epic story of kingsmanship that will set in motion the pivotal, bloody Battle of Brunanburh where allies have to be chosen wisely…

Publisher: Boldwood Books| Date: 2023 | Genre: Historical Fiction

I received King of Kings from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

King of Kings Review

I’ve been a fan of MJ Porter for a few years and was excited to have the opportunity to read her latest ahead of time. King of Kings is a tale of ambition and deceit, where the wrong alliance can cost an entire kingdom.


This historical novel is told through a number of narrators. Initially, it took a little time to get your head wrapped around who was who, what their agenda was and whether they were aligned with our main protagonist, Athelstan, king of a newly formed England. As with anything set in this time period, the names sounding similar to one another didn’t help.

Once you figure out the identities, however, the shifting view point creates a full story. You get to witness all sides of a fragile alliances – how and why it’s working and why no one can be entirely trusted to mean what they say. The king’s young brother, Edmund, was my favourite: he offers a more innocent look at the world and you learn with him about the importance of certain behaviours.


Compared to some of Porter’s other works, King of Kings is much slower in pace: there’s only one main battle towards the end. The majority of the book is made up of the characters trying to consolidate their power and work towards their own agenda. But the underlying tension of the shifting alliances means I was invested in the story and eager to see who would be the victor of the fight – even one fought without swords.

The story is set across a number of years. A few times throughout, I found myself getting lost. Until I realised it was important to take note of the chapter headings, providing both the timeline and the narrator for that section. The main thing I found with the jumps in time was Edmund’s age – nothing else really was affected. Note to self: pay attention to all the words in the book, not just those telling the story.


I’ve read a fair amount set in the time period just before this one, with the Saxons fighting to repel invaders. It was interesting coming to a few years later, when the threat isn’t as strong and the focus is trying to unite the land into one kingdom. It does mean the book is political in nature: it’s all about winning (or forcing) fealty and allegiances rather than taking them by force, which may not be as much of an interest to some readers.

I read King of Kings fairly quickly. It’s not a long book which works well with the content. You remain engaged without ever feeling like there’s too much talk going on.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in this time period, I’d definitely recommend this one. Porter’s writing draws you in, makes you root for these characters and want them to get their desired outcome. It’s tamer than some of her other works in terms of language and violence, but equally as gripping. I look forward to more.

Is this a time period that you’re interested in? Have you read any of MJ Porter’s other books?

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6 thoughts on “King of Kings Review | M.J Porter

    • Thank you! Yeah, she certainly has a way of creating characters you just root for and want to keep safe despite them being rough, tough guys riding off to battle haha.


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