I don’t think this one falls under the purview of ‘dark fantasy,’ because it doesn’t end with “and then everything was awful forever, the end,” but it’s… close. Adjacent to that subgenre, I suppose.
Amra Thetys is a thief, and a pretty good one, at that – she lives in a variety of homes around the crime-ridden city of Lucernis, all of them paid for. Her friends, of course, are also thieves. So there’s nothing much out of the ordinary when one of them shows up at her door, asking her to help him hide something while he goes to sort out the payment for his services.
Unfortunately, he never comes back for it. Instead, he’s murdered pretty brutally, and Amra gets sucked up into the mess because whoever did it is after the strange golden statue she was given to hold on to. And, of course, several other people are also interested in it, because something worth killing for is something worth stealing.
Where it gets interesting, to me at least, is in the magic. Because as Amra goes on in her accidental quest to find out who killed her friend, she starts to get more and more involved in the weirdness going on – a monster with an overwhelming aura of hatred, a mage who’s far too good to be a thief but is nonetheless, a downtrodden inspector who turns out himself to be a mage.
Throw in some ancient gods, a hint of undead, a Protector-spirit that has to be locked in for fear of what it’ll do if it gets out, and a hell mouth, and you’ve got an interesting story to be told. The necromancy was a nice touch.
So, the story itself was really interesting – a sort of magical murder mystery, with an adventure mixed in by the way. No problems with that.
Where I get slightly iffy is the setting. I mentioned above that it seems a bit like a ‘dark fantasy’ kind of thing, and all of that is in the setting. The world was, insofar as I can tell from the various hints that were dropped, of the “formerly occupied by the gods” sort. There was a massive war of the gods, though, something like two thousand years ago, and it cracked open a continent or two, creating a sort of diaspora for the humans that occupied the world. And the various other races that got brief mention – there’s some kind of orc-thing wandering around that makes a hobby of murdering every human they come into contact with, I think? Not very charitable of them.1
That said, it wasn’t depressingly so – the end has some hints that, yes, the leftovers of that Age of the Gods or whatever are coming to an end, and the magic is going to go with them2 – but while it hints at that ending, it points towards the Age of Man. There’s some early precursors of the industrial era showing up – arquebusses being the main one, although the invention of mass transportation is another – so I think it’s more saying “the age of myth and legend is ending, it’s time for the age of man.”
Which is cool, I suppose. I liked it, I’ll keep an eye out for the hinted-at sequels, I suppose. Go have a read.3
- This footnote doesn’t have anything to do with anything, it’s just that I realized I’d gone this entire review without using one and that’s not like me. ↩
- Which I am quite sad about, to be fair, magic is a lot of fun. ↩
- And read through the little post-script bit that’s an in-character explanation of the world, because it’s hilarious. ↩