This energetic first fantasy novel is familiar in outline, but told with unusual intensity. "The Raven" is a group of seven mercenaries, just starting to lose their fighting edge, who reluctantly get hired by a mage from a college of magic with a nasty reputation for blood sacrifice. Their mission: to save the world from major bad guys called the Wytch Lords. These, defeated long ago at great cost, have escaped their sorcerous confinement and will be unstoppable once they've grown new bodies; meanwhile their teeming minions are already going to war. The only hope is Dawnthief, a lost super-spell which, if correctly cast, can zap even Wytch Lords--but make one mistake and the sun will never come up again. A typical fantasy-quest shopping list emerges: you need the dragon-guarded amulet to open the ancient mage's workshop to find the portal leading to the demon watching over the parchment with the spell, which itself requires three "catalyst" talismans hidden in difficult places. What makes Dawnthief
a ripping yarn is Barclay's ruthless pace and lack of sentimentality. No character is too nice, innocent or important to die or suffer hideous tortures. The death toll is horrific, as are the many exotic ways of dying in this dangerous world. This is a breathless, action-crammed fantasy thriller. --David Langford
A fantasy epic with the action of David Gemmell and the characterisation of Robin Hobb from a brand new British talent.