Wolfgang Goldenleonard is everything you would least expect from a prince: fiery, street-smart, and completely and utterly disgusted with the royal lifestyle. Having spent years scraping by in the kingdoms slums after the mur- ...uh, untimely death of his noblewoman mother, the one thing that would make being summoned to the palace worth it would be seeing His Majesty The King - a philandering, hedonistic tyrant of a ruler - fall from the throne.
Wolfgangs strong sense of justice and thirst for revenge garners the attention of the reserved and enigmatic Shin Soohyuk, one of His Majestys many catamites, and his personal favorite out of a group simply referred to as the Kings Children. After being forced into the position shortly after his own father accepted the role of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Soohyuk has been searching for a chance at gaining back his freedom for far too long, but with no luck... until now, of course.
Sensing a kindred spirit in one another, the two soon find themselves striking a deal: Wolfgang will allow Soohyuk to educate him in the ways of politics and palace etiquette in order to gain enough public support to eventually overthrow his father, in exchange for releasing Soohyuk and company once he inherits the throne.
And so our tale begins
Kings Maker (킹스메이커) is a Fantasy/BL Webtoon that was first released in June 2017, written and illustrated by Haga and Kang Jiyoung respectively. Season 1 is currently hosted in its entirety on Lezhin Comics in Korean, Japanese, and English,, and its Chinese translation is hosted on Kuaikan Manhua. On June 1st, 2019, the first 14 episodes of Season 2 were released on Kakao Page under the title King's Maker: Triple Crown in South Korea.
This work contains examples of:
- The Alleged Steed: One such horse, Aaron, is introduced for Wolfgang to tame in Episode 9: bred from two of the finest steeds in the royal stables and remarkably intelligent (although it only ever comes into play at Wolfgang's expense) but horribly uncooperative and underfed. He turns out to be of the "secretly a Cool Horse" variety once he and Wolfgang get more used to each other.
- Ambition Is Evil: Inverted. It's the fact that Wolfgang has any ambition at all that allows him to gain public support so easily, in contrast to His Majesty, who openly admits that his motivations rarely go any deeper than Screw the Rules, I Have Money! right before the final battle of Season 1.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: He doesn't exactly say "I love you," but Soohyuk manages to deliver one to Wolfgang in Episode 24, after learning that he is to sleep with the King that night - in fact, its the only written dialogue we see that episode. While its a No-Dialogue Episode, Wolfgang clearly reciprocates, and it leads to a rather lengthy Fanservice sequence. The act in itself is deeply passionate, intimate, and consensual despite being impromptu... but it doesnt end well.
- Arc Villain: The king turns out to be this when Season 1 ends with him dying. Cue mass "Oh, Crap!" from the readers.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Soohyuk delivers one to Wolfgang in Episode 19, making it clear that he is not happy with the latter's outburst in front of his family. Granted, this is the highly unpredictable and overprivileged royal family we're talking about...
- Chekhov's Gun: In Episode 7, Wolfgang has an altercation with two guards (one of whom turns out to be a captain, much to his chagrin) and responds by throwing a handful of dirt in their faces to try to make a quick getaway. Despite moving on to more "refined" fighting techniques once he's older, this eventually makes a comeback when he faces off with the King - albeit with blood instead of dirt.
- Comically Missing the Point: Upon first meeting Lord Sys in Episode 4, Soohyuk expects Wolfgang to be put off by his more... out-there mannerisms, and is quick to try to explain that all appearances aside, Sys is their best bet at getting through to the Duke of Ulysses. Wolfgang immediately cuts Soohyuk off to angrily point out that he and Sys are apparently already on a First-Name Basis with each other, while he's only just learned Soohyuk's full name.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Played for Drama. Soohyuk tells Wolfgang that Dandelion is unlikely to heed his warnings against visiting the King in private, but would probably listen to him given that Dandelion has a serious case of Big Brother Worship. Wolfgang refuses. Dandelion, with nobody left to deter him after the execution of his tutor Theo, makes a surprise visit to his father and ends up paying for it with his life in Episode 32.
- The Coup: This is ultimately what the rebellion culminates in, with most of its active participants being either servants of nobles or lower-ranking royal soldiers.
- Dance of Romance: Soohyuk and Wolfgang share a surprisingly straightforward one separate from the rest of the crowd in Episode 22. Unsurprisingly, this is also when Soohyuk finally admits to himself that he's fallen for the latter - via, of course, Purple Prose.
- Daylight Horror: Dandelion's death, portrayed in graphic, bloody detail, takes place on a bright and sunny afternoon.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Of a sort, anyway. Some are just as selfish and prideful as His Majesty himself, while others are simply cowardly, and would prefer to lull themselves into a false sense of security to cope with their rulers increasingly depraved demands than face the risks that come with fighting back.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Oh, boy, are they ever. Notable examples include Wolfgang's mother, Lady Christine, who first instilled the idea that the royal family of Goldenleonard is not who they say they are in Wolfgang, as well as the lesson that one must never kill senselessly, and Lord Sys' biological parents, a pair of apothecaries who, while notably more strict with their son, loved him enough to offer up their own lives in place of his when the king confronted them about a Child seeking shelter in their home.
- Fan Disservice: The idea of a naked Soohyuk sounds appealing enough, especially from Wolfgang's point of view. The idea of a naked Soohyuk who's only about 14 and has been forced to stand out in the cold for so long that the soles of his feet are cracked and bleeding, however, is significantly less so.
- Go-Go Enslavement: Subverted. The King's Children do have a uniform, but it's rather modest and seems to have been fashioned after those of clergymen, with the most recognizable piece even being a black capelet. Regardless of modesty, however, it still serves as a symbol of oppression throughout the story.
- Gold-Colored Superiority: Averted. The King's second-tier soldiers wear full suits of real gold armor to indicate their status, but this comes back to bite them in the coup beginning in Episode 34, seeing as gold is only one of the softest metals out there, making it ill-suited for practical armor.
- Held Gaze: Happens often, especially in the early days of Season 1. Somewhat justified in Wolfgang and Soohyuk's case, since going any further than longing stares would likely (and at one point, does) end poorly.
- Hypocrite: The nobility of Goldenleonard is more than happy to turn a blind eye to the King's wrongdoings as long as they can continue to live in luxury, at least until it starts to affect them - first when Soohyuk, a Minister's son, is taken to become one of the King's Children, and then when Dandelion is killed several years later.
- I Am Spartacus: Subverted. When the King's men begin executing anyone named Wolfgang in order to weed the real one out at the beginning of Season 1, the real Wolfgang offers himself up right away in order to prevent any more deaths.
- Kingmaker Scenario: Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with Soohyuk being the weaker third party who aligns himself with Wolfgang in order to make him strong enough to take down the King.
- Mood Whiplash: In Episode 3, Soohyuk, after helping Wolfgang dress himself in accordance to his newfound role as prince, is caught off-guard once he gets a full view of the final product, and in a momeont of uncharacteristic fondness, finds himself finally giving Wolfgang his name. This, of course, doesn't stop him from pointing out that fully decked out royal garb is highly impractical for everyday use, and that Wolfgang will have to change into something simpler. Again.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When advised in Episode 31 to warn Dandelion face-to-face against visiting their father in the Chamber of Bloom, where the King goes to meet with his catamites, Wolfgang refuses, pointing out that it would only draw more suspicion to both of them. He and Soohyuk compromise by coming up with a new plan to cause a flood in the ministers' meeting hall and have them relocate to the hall where the Chamber of Bloom is located; Wolfgang, in the meantime, was to stay hidden and come to collect a likely-traumatized Dandelion after he leaves the Chamber of Bloom - and the ministers, being in the same hall to bear witness to this, would only have been left to assume the worst, giving them all the more reason to oppose the King's rule despite any possible repercussions. The court is indeed horrified... at Dandelion having fallen to his death from the window of the Chamber of Bloom.
- Parents as People: Soohyuk's father. He first moved to Goldenleonard after being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, likely hoping to secure an easier life for his family in a country that he had only ever heard good things about... only to be forced to work for an almost cartoonishly evil tyrant and have his son forced into sexual slavery. He's rarely ever seen in the same room as Soohyuk, but whenever he manages to visit him (which probably isn't very often to begin with,) he's clearly worried about his wellbeing - even moreso when it turns out that Soohyuk may have ended up bedridden due to illness after the events of Episode 25.
- Playing Sick: In Episode 26, Soohyuk is revealed to have been doing this for years as part of his Wounded Gazelle Gambit. It's far more convincing than most examples thanks to Lord Sys' assistance, to the point where almost everyone is convinced that he's become bedridden for good.
- Puppet State: The vassal nation of Depennia - so much so that their public image of the royal family of Goldenleonard is on par with that of gods, thanks to their highly fictionalized accounts of their deeds being written in the style of classical myths or fairytales. In Season 1, this aspect of Depennia is best exemplified through Dandelion, an idealistic young boy who's spent most of his life there due to illness.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The narrative doesnt hesitate to point out the Kings other flaws as a ruler, namely that hes neglectful of his actual duties and leaves close to all of them to his staff, appears more concerned with ensuring his own survival and pleasure over that of his subjects, is hedonistic to the extreme, never seems to actually have a reason for doing any of this aside from Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, and so on and so forth but his affinity for underage partners, whether theyre willing or not, is brought up the most often.
- Reality Ensues: Several times, as a matter of fact:
- Wolfgang is dead-set on ripping the King's throat out from day one, but of course, there's no way a 13-year-old boy is going to be able to overpower a grown man, especially with no allies or advanced stealth skills. He ends up having to spend years training in any and every field that would help him build upon his strengths or gain more supporters.
- The nobility of Goldenleonard has developed the practice of sending their children away to neighboring countries before they turn 15 after the king declared he would never again defile anyone under that age in a fit of grief. This doesnt actually make the act any less traumatizing if he decides that he wants them afterwards - as it turns out, rape is seriously mentally scarring no matter how old you are!
- In an apparent moment of weakness, Soohyuk makes an Anguished Declaration of Love to Wolfgang, proclaiming himself as "his," after learning that he is to sleep with the King that same night. This leads to Wolfgang necking him in the heat of the moment, and Soohyuk ends up being punished harshly for letting someone else "use" him via Shameful Strip. It's implied this was another scheme of his, albeit an impromptu one, to keep himself just beyond the King's reach while letting Wolfgang know of his true feelings.
- The King's second-tier soldiers have armor made out of pure gold. Gold is also ridiculously soft in comparison to other metals, including the ones used in a lot of weaponry. Do the math.
- Dandelion, woefully naive and oblivious to the reality that his father is a monster who either enslaves, incapacitates or outright kills anyone who refuses his orders thanks to having been fed propaganda about him for years, decides to surprise him by hiding in a cabinet in the squickily-titled Chamber of Bloom, where the King meets with his catamites. Do the math.
- Royalty Super Power: The Goldenleonard line has one in the form of "The Golden Blessing," which, in addition to access to magic, gives the bearer the incredibly convenient ability to cleanse themselves of almost any poison. It's possible to tell if one has the blessing if they have golden blonde hair and gold eyes.
- There is, however, a catch. According to legend, the Golden Blessing was bestowed upon the first King of Goldenleonard with a set of as-of-yet unknown conditions. If the current bearer fails to meet these conditions, they lose the power of the blessing.
- Silent Scenery Panel: King's Maker is very fond of this trope - whenever there's a major shift in location, expect to see a wide shot of said location's lovingly rendered architecture before any of the actual characters.
- Shameful Strip: Soohyuk is forced into this, combined with Come to Gawk, in Episode 25, as punishment for giving himself to someone other than the king. This also occurs during a harsh winter, putting him at risk of falling ill, just to kick it up a notch.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: The King's wine is poisoned by an unknown assailant (later revealed to have been Theo) in Episode 21, but survives after taking a night off to recover thanks to the Golden Blessing's poison-cleansing ability.
- Throwing Out the Script: Shortly after being brought to the palace and accepting Soohyuk's offer to work together, Wolfgang is sent to the Duchy of Ulysses (with Soohyuk in tow) to find some way to negotiate with the Duke - which turns out to be in the form of a speech to the duchy's residents, who do not possess a favorable view of the royal family for obvious reasons, to tide them over while they wait. Predictably, a street urchin burns the script as a form of sabotage, and Wolfgang ends up having to improvise. While the crowd doesn't exactly come to trust him right away, they are at least interested enough to stick around for the whole thing.
- Time Skip: Two in total for Season 1 - the first time skip occurs after Episode 14, and spans roughly 1 or 2 years. The second makes it so that Episode 26 takes place another good few years after Episode 25; while the exact number is unclear, enough time has passed so that the leads are at least just entering adulthood.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Soohyuk turns out to have been carrying one out during most of, if not the entire post-Episode 25 Time Skip. Although it isn't really to manipulate others so much as it is to drive suspicion away from himself as an active participant in Wolfgang's rebellion.
- You Killed My Mother: Its not the only reason Wolfgang wants the King dead, but its certainly up there on the list.
- Younger Than They Look: Wolfgang and Soohyuk are only about 13 or 14 at the beginning of Season 1, yet they act like and regularly carry out duties expected of older teenagers or even adults. Although considering their circumstances, it might actually be a case of them more or less being forced to grow up early.