Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Very fun book.
When we first meet Loch she is breaking out of a prison that is supposed to be escape proof. She has a plan to retrieve a valuable book and stop a very powerful man. She just needs a little help.
BTW...I couldn't help but wonder if the author was Firefly fan because as I was reading I kept picturing Loch to look like this:
Anyhoo...To help with her plan she and her trusty sidekick Kail, recruit a thief, a Death Priestess with a sentient weapon, a magician, a shapeshifting unicorn, a young man with a destiny and a...well even after finishing the book I am not quite sure what the specialty is of the character known as Icy Fist. He is very...flexible.
While the motley crew is assembling the other side is not idle. Loch's escape is very bad business for the Republic and some very important people want her captured and some want her killed. A member of the Republic's justice arm is dispatched to bring her back. As he follows her trail, Justiciar Pyvic isn't 100% convinced that Loch is quite the villain she is painted to be and he becomes fascinated with his prey.
I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to rate this book. I waffled between three and four starts, ultimately deciding to go higher because despite some of it's flaws I had a good time with it.
The book is primarily plot driven. So the character development of the members of the group gets short shrift, imo. If the author had delved into the characters more, given more room for their motivations and thoughts and given the book a little more emotional heft, this would have been a damned near perfect book to me. As it was, even as I spent time really enjoying the intrigues, counter intrigues and the game of cat & mouse that Loch plays with her nemesis I fretted over the lack of understanding of the characters. I wanted to know why they all decided to throw their lot in with Loch? How would they grow to trust each other as they embark on this dangerous task?
Loch and Kail had a very deep, trusting relationship. That was clear. It is the kind of relationship I imagine Harrison has for Olivia Pope (in the tv show Scandal). It is very Ride or Die. But while we see there are moments when various members of the team have each other's backs in dire situations, I was never satisfied with how we got to that level of trust. But still... there is such a lightness to the tone that, as you are caught up in the antics of the group, the need to get deeper with them sometimes just slides away.
The writing is very snappy. The dialogue amongst the group consists of that easy banter, complete with witty zingers and moments of absurd humor. There were moments when it felt like a nod to Pratchett.
I have to say I loved the world building. As I said above, the plot does the heavy lifting in the book and that is true of the world-building. The author doesn't stop the action and explain things to you, but rather you discover them as you are drawn along in he characters' wake. As events unfold you get a strong sense of the politics of the land, the countryside, the people, the magic systems etc.
I especially appreciated the deft touch with the racial politics in the story. Loch and Kail are black or Urujar as they are called. And the race relations in their Republic feel very much like they are in present day US. There is a hinted at past of overt systemic racism that is subsumed under a present day of integration and acceptance. And yet pockets of people are still suspicious or have small telling prejudices. That aspect of the story isn't heavy at all and doesn't consume the book. The author doesn't make it a thing. But it is an ineffable part of the world that is built that is relayed in small ways.
I could easily see this as a first book in a series. The ending especially sets it up and that would allow for some further character building later. If that is the case, I would gladly grab a follow up.