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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Kingdom Cons

Yuri Herrera

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To purchase Kingdom Cons

Title: Kingdom Cons
Author: Yuri Herrera
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2017)1
Length: 103 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Kingdom Cons - US
Trabajos del reino - US
Kingdom Cons - UK
Kingdom Cons - Canada
in Le royaume, le soleil et la mort - France
in Der König, die Sonne, der Tod - Deutschland
La ballata del re di denari - Italia
Trabajos del reino - España
  • Spanish title: Trabajos del reino
  • Originally written as Herrera's MFA thesis at the University of Texas at El Paso, 2003
  • Translated by Lisa Dillman

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Americas Quarterly . (3)/2017 Anya Ventura
NZZ . 4/6/2011 Leopold Federmair
New Statesman . 9/7/2017 Yelena Moskovich
TLS . 12/9/2017 Carlos Fonseca

  From the Reviews:
  • "What is truth, he asks -- historical, literary, personal -- in a world of lies ? (...) The plot may be predictable, but Kingdom Cons is still an exquisite parable." - Anya Ventura, Americas Quarterly

  • "Sosehr es sich um einen politischen Roman handelt, schafft er eine «andere», eine durch und durch poetische, fast möchte man sagen: märchenhafte Wirklichkeit. (...) Das schmale Buch Yuri Herreras erschöpft sich aber keineswegs im Politischen, es zeigt auf feinsinnige Weise auch die Dynamiken von Freundschaft und Verrat, die unsichere Grenze zwischen Vertrauen und Misstrauen, die Macht erotischer Anziehung. Und es enthält eine Prise von jenem schwarzen Humor, der in der mexikanischen Literatur wie auch im Alltagsleben so tief verwurzelt ist." - Leopold Federmair, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Kingdom Cons rises above a mere tale of lost innocence or a drug-land eulogy, specifically because it is the language and not the narrative that powers its subject. Herrera’s writing reinvents its own territory with simultaneous streetwise mischief and canonical splendour. At times a Renaissance quill, at other times a tattooer’s needle, his syntax misbehaves masterfully, and Lisa Dillman proves herself once again exquisitely loyal to his lyrical disobedience with this translation" - Yelena Moskovich, New Statesman

  • "In a world where the King owns everything, regaining mastery of one’s language becomes an ethical concern. Deftly translated by Lisa Dillman, Kingdom Cons tells the story of Lobo’s journey to regain his voice, and with it the possibility of seeing beyond the horizon of his hermetic dystopia." - Carlos Fonseca, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       At the beginning of Kingdom Cons the main character, a musician, is introduced by his name, Lobo. In the opening chapter a drunk badgers Lobo to sing, but then only offers a paltry sum for his efforts; the local drug lord in this Mexican border town is present as well and takes care of the situation -- and tells Lobo: "Artist, take your due". Soon Lobo insinuates himself into the drug lord's orbit, assuming a role -- at the cost of his personal identity: he becomes simply 'the Artist'.
       The drug lord is indeed the lord of these lands:

He was a King, and around him everything became meaningful. Men gave their lives for him, women gave birth for him; he protected and bestowed, and in the kingdom, through his grace, each and every subject had a preciseplace. But those accompanying this King were more than vassals. This was his Court.
       Lobo wants to -- and manages -- to become part of it. An accordion-playing master of the corrido, he composes these ballads about many in the Court:
     To no courtier did he deny his talents, but the Artist recounted the feats of each man without forgetting who made it all possible. Sure, you're down, because the King allows it. Sure, you're brave, because the King inspires you.
       Herrera's stylized portrayal of a drug lord and his entourage and enablers, and a culture steeped in the violent drug trade on the American border, is very effective. Bright, even bombastic, this 'Court' and the tales surrounding it seem almost free of time and place -- not much different from historical tales of the Middle Ages, say -- but in fact many markers place it very specifically. As a result, what seems, in many respects, an almost light entertainment also depicts, through this artful veil, very ugly realities.
       Like many, the Artist is seduced by this world, and the charismatic, all-powerful King -- but, as the Girl he is drawn to observes:
     "You don't know jack, do you ?" she said with scorn.
       Only at end, when this world has collapsed and he escapes it, does 'the Artist' transform into simple Lobo again.
       From its word-playful title in translation to Herrera's often almost fable-like presentation, Kingdom Cons is an effective and nicely-done take on power and violence. Simple but well- and carefully crafted, Herrera uses language and style particularly well; like the world it describes, Kingdom Cons is both pleasingly agreeable and deeply disturbing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 9 August 2017

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Kingdom Cons: Reviews: Other books by Yuri Herrera under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Yuri Herrera was born in 1970.

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© 2017 the complete review

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