Review: The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn (Kingdom of Grit, #1) by Tyler Whitesides

Rating: 10/10



Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief – a master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When he gets hired for his most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilisation.


Thank you to Nazia at Orbit Books for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are mine only.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is a unique novel. In the sense, that’s its half musical, half heist, and half dragon. All of these three elements mentioned creating a fabulous start to this novel. Its also that a ruse artist has to steal the King’s Replica! I don’t wish to spoil anything, but Tyler’s done a fantastic job in illustrating the daily struggles that thieves have to go through to steal such items which amount to treason! And yes, the magic system known as grit, is bascially burned dragon poop that creates the magic that humans need. Grit is a unique system, and it’s not easy to come up with a magic system for any fantasy writer, whether from the beginning stage to the advanced stage. My favorite Grit magic? The memory wipe! A fascinating weapon if used in the right hands….Also if you want dragon snapping humans….(here’s a hint) and there’s a lot of cultural messages being sent here. Dragons are a big part of this world. The bakery is as well! You’ll come across a lot of pastries 🙂

A good magic system immerses you into the world, whereas a bad magic system will not immerse you. That falls into the simple category of what determines how a good story is executed and how well it is planned. Tyler here has made it simple enough, and it’s enough to immerse you into this world. He’s created a good magic system. He’s done a good job. Its simple enough, yet complex enough as well to immerse you and make you want to find out more. Though, I would have gone with fewer systems of grit purely because half the novel relies on a treasure trove of explaining how grit came to be, and what it has to do with the dragon.

My critique of this part would be that even though it is a fantasy novel and it’s a first, the trend is these days, to set up the world and begin a slow burn. I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books and I am thinking that maybe a slow burn isn’t needed so much. Some parts of the story did slow down for me, and there were times where I felt the pacing should have been a little bit better. But then again, this is a fantastic story and a story with a lot of potential. I did like Ard in many parts, but without wanting to spoil the story, Ard sometimes may have acted like a selfish guy when in reality, I don’t think he is. I think the guy’s lonely and he needs someone to love.

The chemistry between Raek, Ardor, and Quarrah was a good set up and a good build-up. I do, however, want to see more of Ardor and Quarrah as I felt you could have had a whole novel for Ardor and Quarrah alone. Their love setup is well constructed, but it is also to some extent realistic. You can fall in love, but what happens when you realize that that foundation isn’t as solid as you thought it was? That’s only a hint I’ve given, but it’s not enough. Once you discover the intricate backstory that is behind all of this, you’ll soon begin to understand. Rank was one of the BEST characters. Loyal and good, and a character that I want to SEE more of in fantasy. And I liked Quarrah a lot, she’s a loyal character as well, and I feel that Ardor has to see this: She’ll make a fantastic partner. Go marry her you, idiot!

Overall, this is a fantastic story. A fantastic setup. Dragons, Ruse Artists, Pastries, and whatnot. What’s not to like when a ruse artist or thief for that matter gets involved in shaking the destiny and fortune of an entire Kingdom? I can’t wait to read book 2 already! 10/10 from me. It’s very…musical! Very musical indeed!