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There's something rotten in the state of Landfall ...
on 27 April 2014
18 year old Lucien de Fontein is an Orfano - a deformed orphan left outside Demesne (a huge castle that houses the ruling families of Landfall) and made a ward of the king (who has not been seen for years and who lets his majordomo rule in his stead). Since the age of 8, Lucien has been taught and tested every year, ready to assume a position of responsibility within the Demesne. But Lucian knows that something's rotten within the state of Landfall and he's acquired a number of enemies, the most dangerous of which is Superiore Giancarlo who'll be running Lucien's last test and who's just looking for an excuse to do him real harm ...
Den Patrick's fantasy novel is a nicely written but slim tale of intrigue and discrimination in a claustrophobic castle where everyone is subject to the scrutiny and malice of their neighbours. The novel's chapters alternate between Lucien's final testing and its aftereffects and an account of his childhood, which gives the story an episodic feel. My main issue is that for someone highly educated and politically aware, Lucien charges headlong into trap after trap, reacting to events rather than driving them forward. Worse is the fact that he's been aware for 4 years that something bad is happening to Landfall's women and yet does absolutely nothing until the plot requires him to, which made it difficult for me to care about him. This is a shame because Patrick keeps the action moving and I enjoyed the Medieval Italian influences to his fantasy world, however while the book sets up a sequel I'm not that interested in reading on - although I would check out Patrick's other books.
My favourite character in the book is actually the mysterious Anea, who always wears a veil in public and who communicates by writing notes to be read out by others. Intelligent and cautious, she's the only character who really calls Lucien on his stupidity and who successfully navigates the dangers of the court. I would have preferred more scenes with her in the book than the under-developed Rafella, who's signalled as a love interest far too early and whose attraction to the younger, brash Lucien was not something I really understood.
Ultimately, while this novel didn't really do it for me I enjoyed Patrick's writing style enough to want to read his other work - just not this series.
Review copy from publisher.