Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
Angels With Dirty Faces
on 26 November 2011
Okay, so take your classic fantasy world, but imagine for a moment that the elves (or Terrarchs, as they are called here), rather than being benevolent forest-dwelling figures, instead conquered humanity with dragons and sorcery after fleeing their own world. Now advance that world a thousand years, to the point where the overlords with the pointed ears are fighting a protracted civil was using human armies wielding flintlock pistols and rifles.
Straight away, you might gather that King has thrown a few fresh ideas into the genre, and the result is both refreshing and exciting. This story, if I can compare it to anything, reads like a military saga in the Glen Cook/Steven Erikson mould, but written with the pace and flair of Robert E. Howard.
Our main protagonist is Rik, an ex-thief and part-Terrarch halfbreed, as we follow him and his fellow soldiers into battle against their masters' enemies. A mission against a renegade sorcerer leads him into the possession of a set of grimoires, and while his squadmates only see them as a source of profit, he is tempted by the dark secrets they hold...
For you see, in this benighted world, those seeking to overthrow the Terrarch do so by threatening to unleash the Lovecraftian gods and demons that ruled the planet in ancient times. Magic brings madness and corruption, and every soldier wears an Elder Sign for protection.
Rik is well-drawn, neither a shining paragon of virtue nor an outright antihero, just a young man trying his best to get by in a bleak world. The nearest thing we get to a romance is a faltering, clumsy relationship between him and a prostitute, and his friends include the mercenary Weasel and the dull-witted, violent Barbarian.
Our second POV character is Lieutenant Sardec, Rik's commanding officer, an arrogant Terrarch who disdains humans, and Rik in particular for his mixed blood. His is a much less sympathetic but just as interesting viewpoint, showing us some of the political machinations of the immortal race, especially during Sardec's interactions with the ancient, beautiful and magically puissant Lady Asea.
The story builds to a thrilling finale as the characters confront an unholy threat, dark powers are unleashed. This is a wonderfully gritty take on the fantasy genre, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. More please!