I had hoped to have this one finished and reviewed before the voting on the Gemmell Awards closed since it’s on the short list for the Morningstar, which is the award for best first novel.
Alas, my parents’ had their 50th wedding anniversary celebration last weekend, and so I wasn’t able to finish it on time.
The title might imply that the novel is similar to Glen Cook’s Black Company. Put that idea out of your mind. This isn’t the Black Company or anything like it. But it’s still a darn good book.
The story is set a little over 500 hundred years after the mages got together and killed all the gods. They pretty much run things now. They aren’t nice people. Magic is being used up, and the mages in this one particular region of the world who have survived are at war with each other over the few remaining sources of magic.
The story concerns a number of characters. These include an orphaned young man involved in a rebellion against one of the mages; he possesses a dagger capable of killing a mage left to him by his father. He’s going to be a great hero. He’s been told he will be by his mentor. (The truth turns to be a bit more complicated.)
There’s an aging barbarian, once a legendary warrior, fleeing the north with a prize on his head. He’s getting too old for this adventuring business. I liked him the most, probably because I can identify with his aches and pains.
There’s the commander of the elite guard of one of the mages. He is duty-bound to serve no matter the cost. And the cost will be high.
There’s a crippled and bitter mage and his mysterious manservant, who is definitely hiding something.
There is treachery. There are abominations that have been spawned in the aftermath of the gods’ murders. Kaiju, in other words. There are hard-fought battles. There is much character growth, character growth coming of course through great hardship.
Overall, this was a solid debut deserving of its nomination. It was good, solid heroic fantasy at its best. It’s the first of a trilogy. I’ll be waiting for the next installment.