The Copper Promise, by Jen Williams
Jen Williams’ debut, The Copper Promise, is billed as being a fantasy thrill ride and has been likened to a Dungeons and Dragons quest in novel format. It’s mostly well-paced and fun to read, with some interesting plot points as we join a party of adventurers taking on a job for a wealthy benefactor who is seeking the power to avenge his family. Originally, The Copper Promise was released in four parts, and you can see this in the writing as there are four well defined sections to the novel, however the linking between them is not so smooth, meaning the story seems to jump around a bit.
The characters and world are ok but not overly memorable – the jumping around in the storyline is a bit too literal, with magical travelling perhaps being overused and preventing the reader from seeing much of the land. The magic itself is well done however, with a clear portrayal of how this works although I almost feel cheated at the prospect of someone becoming a great mage just by walking into a magic pool. Overall this is a fun read, but one that could benefit from being neatened up in a few areas.
Dominish rating: 72%
Rise of Empire, Riyria Revelations #2 by Michael J Sullivan
Rise of Empire is the second omnibus edition in Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Revolutions, and while not quite as good as the first, it’s still a rollicking good read. The two books contained within, Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm are less alike than the two in Theft of Swords and while this is welcome, I did find The Emerald Storm to be less enjoyable. This part of the book is set largely on a ship and for me, whether tied to this restriction of exploration or otherwise, it just didn’t seem to have the usual Sullivan pace.
As before, the main draw of Rise of Empire is the relationship between the two leads, Royce and Hadrian. With the creative escapes from whatever situation these two find themselves in, the majority of the book is really easy reading and the banter as natural as ever. With Royce and Hadrian there’s always some part of their interesting history mentioned in passing and there’s some big clues here that help build the excitement for the prequel novels that came along later. This is a book with quick wit and quick pacing that makes me just want to keep reading on and on.
Dominish rating: 87%
A Dance of Cloaks, Shadowdance #1 by David Dalglish
David Dalglish’s A Dance of Cloaks is the opening of another series that explores the dark underworld of a fantasy city and attempts to make heroes of the usual bad guys. While on the one hand this gives license for the characters to perform all manner of atrocities, it also looks at the internal conflict they face and the dreams of redemption harboured by some. It’s the story of Aaron Felhorn, a young man with an impressive set of skills and a conscience not really suited to the life his crimelord father wants for him.
The book’s prologue sets a bloody tone, with the viciousness of father and son showing through from the start, and at times it’s easy to forget how young Aaron is. The action builds and the pages turn quickly as Aaron takes on older, more experienced opponents and these fight scenes are well written, helping to make this an enjoyable novel. With a few tweaks here and there, this could be a cracking opening book for the series. It’s a good read, but in a market saturated with books of thieves and assassins, there’s just not enough about this one to set it above the others.
Dominish rating: 71%
Winter Warriors, part of The Drenai Saga by David Gemmell
Winter Warriors is a standalone epic fantasy from one of the greats of the genre. It forms part of David Gemmell’s collection of Drenai books, so those familiar with these works will recognise some of the lands and histories mentioned, but there’s absolutely no prior knowledge of the other books required in order to read and enjoy this one. Every so often it’s nice to be able to pick up a fantasy novel that’s not part of a trilogy (or more) but that still gives you a compelling story and characters you can really get behind, and Winter Warriors is definitely one of those books.
We follow a trio of old Drenai soldiers who, at the winter of their careers, are being sent home into retirement. Rather than leave with their comrades, our heroes find themselves battling evil forces intent on killing a newborn king to complete a ritual and bring demons back to the world. Winter Warriors is a well written and fast-paced tale of standing up and fighting for what’s right. There are a few questions left unanswered and a somewhat anti-climactic ending, but overall it’s a very enjoyable read and a good addition to the Drenai collection.
Dominish rating: 84%
Among Thieves, Tales of the Kin #1 by Douglas Hulick
Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves is one of those books that seem two a penny lately. It’s set against the backdrop of a city underworld with a thief as its main character. The cover features man with his face in the shadows and his blade out. The only thing missing is the hooded cloak to finish off the outfit. This isn’t just another run of the mill book about thieves though, its story has enough about it to draw you in and it’s well written and well enough paced to keep the pages turning. This is a good start to the series and I look forward to reading more.
The main character is Drothe, a thief with more than a little Locke Lamora about him – he’s a resourceful rogue with just the right combination of charm and guile to wriggle out of the tightest situation, and just the right combination of curiosity and bad luck to get in to them in the first place. Along with his trusty sidekick Degan, Drothe ducks and weaves his way from one near disaster to another, eventually finding himself to be a major player in a changing criminal underworld, whether he likes it or not.
Dominish rating: 75%
Magician’s End, The Chaoswar Saga #3 by Raymond E. Feist
Magician’s End is billed as our last visit to Raymond E Feist’s Midkemia – a series of series that began with the Riftwar and Magician, and quickly became one of my favourite reads even if the quality did drop off some towards the end. With over twenty titles of a decent size though, there would always be some that didn’t hit the marker left by others. Sadly, I found Magician’s End to be one of those. It was by no means my least favourite of the Feist works, but there were hefty chunks of the book that I didn’t like as much as I could have done.
For the large part this involved various chapters titled “Journey”, which I felt could have been handled a bit better, and instead ended up largely as a precursor to tying up loose ends. I also felt a little cheated at a twist in the tail where it seemed that convenience would allow the scrapping of a rule that we’d known about since the first couple of Midkemia books. It’s nice to have closure on a collection like this, but for me Midkemia went out with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang.
Dominish rating: 68%
Righteous Fury, Legends of the Älfar #1 by Markus Heitz
Righteous Fury is a welcome return to the world of Markus Heitz’s Dwarves series. There’s a crossover of events, but as the first in the Legends of the Älfar series, this novel is very much an opposite to Dwarves in terms of which side we’re following. The main characters, Sinthoras and Caphalor, are both known to those familiar with the Dwarves series and Righteous Fury gives a good insight into the world of these Älfar, and the events that lead up to the storming of the great Stone Doorway.
Righteous Fury also gives us a first glimpse at the Gålran Zhadar, which begins to provide answers to questions raised in Fate of the Dwarves, and it will be interesting to see how that pans out along the rest of the Älfar story later on. Righteous Fury has a good pace and is well written, even if the story itself is not as engrossing as that of the Dwarves series. There’s some good action involved, but I see this as mainly a scene-setting sort of novel. It’s definitely a worthwhile read though, and hopefully the follow up novels will continue with some of the more interesting exploits of Sinthoras and Caphalor.
Dominish rating: 79%