I can’t be the only person who switches on their kindle to find books there they don’t recognise. Can I? Either way I thought I’d try and trim these back a bit and landed on….
Going off the cover it looks fairly action packed, with pretty girls and enough steam punk elements, goggles on top hats, to waylay any concerns over it being a boring historical. The fact that first thing we find is a cock sure, ace, fighter pilot called Ridge Zirkander probably helps with that.
Now Ridge is one of those standard protagonist types. One who hates and openly antagonises authority in the name of decency and common sense. If you picture him as Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H then you’re probably not too far off the mark. Or at least that’s what I did. What I liked here is that the writer in only the first few paragraphs manages to balance him out so that he isn’t too much a case of the only sane man in the army and you can sympathise with the commanding officer somewhat for the situation Ridge lands him in. Yes he bust some ‘Rupert’s’ nose, a ‘Rupert’ who deserved it and a bit more besides, but all the same we can’t just wipe it form the record just ‘cos Ridge happens to be the best damn pilot we’ve got. Thus he is sent to a prison camp out in the snowy wastes. Not as a prisoner but as the new commanding officer.
The other main character comes in in chapter two. She is Sardelle Terushan. A wizard whose taken a nap in the ice and snow and now woken up after all she has loved and known is consigned to the history books. How this works is not really explained and in fact I’d probably point to chapter two as the comparatively low point of the book as there’s a little too much fantasy jargon thrown your way to really follow. We know she hid in an emergency bunker during some kind of attack but I don’t think they even give us the line of the bunker being particularly magic, it’s just a big round room, or at least magic enough to preserve someone for a few hundred years. Thus you have to wonder if these people are rather elvish and thus long lived enough to take a century long lie in. I think it comes down to personal preference whether you prefer the fact that the line ‘A wizard did it’ is implied over outright stated.
The other thing here being the other “survivor” Jaxi. Now with the terminology coming thick and fast in chapter two it took me a few more chapters to be sure on what Jaxi actually is. Is she a ward, a friend, an apprentice or just a sword. The answer, by the way, is that she’s a sword. A magically bonded, sentient sword but a sword none the less and while I don’t expect Sardelle to say this outright a bit of exposition from the author could have helped at this bit of the book. A line of how she used to use the blade to hack up training dummies under the summer sun or something. Now this could be in there and I may have missed it and truth be told it doesn’t really affect the plot as whatever she is, Jaxi is the driving quest for Sardelle for the rest of the novel as she wants to rescue her from the mountain that was atop her and get the heck out of dodge.
This becomes somewhat trickier when she finally gets out of hyper sleep and out in the light of dawn and runs smack into the new commanding officer of the prison camp that has been made out of her home. That of course being, for those who couldn’t guess, Ridge Zirkander.
This is a quick and fairly light read and if you’re after that then this book is pretty decent. It’s light enough to not bog itself down in it’s own lore and backstory too much. The characters are likeable where they should be and less so when the story calls for a bumbling buffoon or villain. But just as with the introduction of the lore in chapter two tripping over itself to get out of the way this might not be a great book for those after an epic. The love story is there from first sight because we don’t have much time to lay the ground work, though Ridge holds off doing the nasty with a potential spy or saboteur, as far as he is aware, till at least past the middle of the book which helped sell it for me. Likewise the magic does what is needed to keep the plot moving. Always strong enough to help beat any potential problem but not strong enough to make it a cake walk and end the tale early.
To keep this a cosy read that can be done in one afternoon, either on the beach or wrapped up warm by the fire there is a sense that corners were cut from a more interesting story. Did Ridge have to get in trouble defending some poor, young woman’s honour? Would Sardelle really fall so easily for the the first man she sees who doesn’t try to rape her? Especially if he’s the current figure head of the people who destroyed all she had ever known? Could her powers not come with more a cost that would explain why her ultimate plan to retrieve her soul blade wasn’t done weeks ago? (As there are several gaps in between chapters to thankfully make this more than just an action packed weekend.)
I know this probably sounds like I’m super down on the book and I’m not. I enjoyed it when I read it and afterwards I’m still looking on it fondly. It’s probably a bit better than okay. I’ve got the second one as well and while I enjoyed this the fact that we’re leaving the main cast for the sequel make me question whether I would stick around this series for the world building long enough to see them return in book three? Should this stay as one light bit of spring time reading or just the start of something great? I’ll probably find out. One day.