My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This very dark fantasy is set in a world with two races in conflict. On the mainland “The Main” are humans and on the “Isle” are the “Commrach” (aka elves) with halfbreed “Calibans” rejected by everybody. Humans are portrayed right out of the superstitious dark ages, complete with a rather strict moral code and a powerful church to enforce it. “Perfecti” are clerics that can perform actual miracles. “Pennyblades" are mercenaries for private hire (as opposed to an army). The Commrach are a decadent race that is brutally organized to the perfection of their race, with all individuality subordinated that goal. Rank is represented by the location and type of towers the serve as the family seat. I saw echos of Melniboné as the author gradually revealed the details of their society in flashbacks.
The main protagonist/antihero is Kyra, an exiled Commarch working as a Pennyblade on the Main. Her flashbacks are addressed to the ghost of her lost love (which was an interesting use of a first person perspective using a second person perspective … something generally hard to pull off). The flashback eventually converge with the present where Kyra is “recruited” by a sister Perfecti to help investigate rumors of an ancient evil (the commrach know them as the fomorg). She is teamed up with a halfbreed caliban (Nail) and another pennyblade with a history of betrayal (Shortleg).
The general impression is that life in this world is brutal and often short … supported by very course and frequently vulgar/sex oriented language that might put some folks off. I don’t generally enjoy such; and while I can understand the artistic merits for it, it was the main reason this didn’t get 5 stars (the story really is pretty good outside of that).
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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