Top critical review
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Great Idea, Okay Book
on 6 January 2010
The year is 2009, and Elizabeth is on the throne - Elizabeth XXX that is. For this is England with magic, a magic controlled by the church, which has no need for technology, and thus no Industrial Revolution. In this world Sir Richard Triumff has just discovered Australia - or Beach, as its non-magical, technologically advanced civilisation calls itself - and now he has to stop others from doing the same.
But while Triumff is distracted with his Ploy, plenty of others are willing to use him as a distraction to hide their own plots of treason. Within days it seems everyone in London is out to kill him. Luckily, Triumff has his trusty manservant, Agnew, his Beach friend, Uptil, and actress, Doll, to help him. But it might take a miracle to keep Triumff and the rest of London alive.
Abnett's setting is very clever, if a little inconsistent on what developed past the magic, and what didn't (30 queens, yet fashion is still the same...? And the Protestant Elizabeth I allied with Catholic Spain?). Rupert is a typical ne'er-do-well, drunken oaf with a remarkable skill with swords whenever he happens to need it, and a wonderful naval career. In other words everything lines up when it needs to, regardless of logic. (Yes, I know this is fantasy, but still...)
I'm also not a big fan of chunks of unnecessary information crow-barred in at random, especially in the middle of a dramatic scene. The first chapter is all waffle, proving the author can write about London in the rain. Nice and impressive, perhaps, but it dragged on and on. Bit like the plot, which felt laboured, with patchy pacing and some heavy-handed wit. Rupert bumbled about like an idiot, while everyone else saved the day. There are moments where this worked and worked well, but they didn't last.
There are far better fantasy books out there.