This is an old-fashioned sword and sorcery novel, in some ways quite reminiscent of the great swashbuckling novels of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series. That is refreshing in itself! Nothing has more escape value than a tale of flawed heroes and heroines dukeing it out, both with each other and the minions of evil!
When a dangerous artifact goes missing from the Temple of the sun-god, the high priest charged with its protection must come to grips with the fact that he cannot retrieve the stolen relic alone. Calling upon a man who was once his own apprentice, Tiyarnon the High Priest enlists the aid of Garius Forge, who is now an Inquisitor among the Order of the Faceless Knights. Garius, a man of power and reputation, gathers a handful of allies to help complete his quest--but who among them is worthy of his trust? Aided by the mischievous Rose Thorne, a rogue among rogues, the stoic and bloodthirsty Saeunn, and a promising but naïve elf named Elec, the Inquisitor hopes his training as one among the Faceless Knights has prepared him to keep his companions focused and prepared to survive the trials to come. Garius must lead his band of allies into dark regions to recover the tainted artifact before it falls into the hands of the evil being that once held or it could spell doom for the inhabitants of Wothlondia and the entire Realm of Ashenclaw.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s Dungeons and Dragons on steroids, and indie author Gary Vanucci is the Dungeon Master.
Noble Garius is in way over his head with the group of allies he has gathered. But he’s got no choice, he has to use them. It was a toss up between him and Elec the Elf as to who my favorite male character was. Elec is awesome, so young and naïve.
Rose Thorne is aptly named. She is one tough lady, sharp, sweet and dangerous to know. She is bold and unashamed to use every one of her many weapons to make her point.
Saeunn is the heavy on the good-guys side. Filled with anguish and darkness, she, too, is dangerous to know. I wanted to see more of her in this tale, and that means she is an awesomely written character. Every one of these people is exactly what a true fan of epic fantasy expects to find in a book.
Even the side characters have great stories. So much angst! At times this tale is quite entertaining as Rose’s colorful past poses difficulties for certain respectable men with whom she has a history. That is one of the better threads in this tale!
The plot is great, and the twists and turns are engrossing and at time hilarious. I LOVED the villain! Big, bad, horrifyingly evil villains are what make a tale, from my point of view. The fight scenes are really well thought out and kept me on the edge of my seat. Vanucci’s magic system is logical. Things don’t just happen randomly, which can be a problem in today’s tidal wave of wannabe epic fantasy on the indie front.
Gary Vanucci’s great strength as an author is the ability to create a real, tangible world filled with the right sounds and scents that make the reader forget they are reading. He fills that world with real people, fully drawn and fleshed out, behaving the way they should, and never losing that momentum. As events unfold, things don’t always go the way they want them to, and their reactions to those moments are spot on.
If I had any complaint, it is that there are a few places where the author seems to repeat himself, but that is by no means a detraction. All in all, the book has a great flow. It is written with passion and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves truly epic fantasy.