Author: Anne Lyle
Length: 518 pages
Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: The Indianapolis Public Library
Plot Basics: Swordsman Maliverny Catlyn is down at his luck and out of money when he’s hired for an unusual job — protecting the ambassador of the skraylings, a race from the new world, with strange customs and potentially magic. Everyone wants the skraylings on their side, or dead. Mal takes the job (one can’t exactly say no to orders coming from Sir Francis Walsingham). With the help, or interference, of his friend Ned, and a troop of players with their handy girl-disguised-as-a-boy tireman Jacob Hendricks, Mal might just have the resources to keep the ambassador safe… if his own secrets aren’t revealed first.
Banter Points: I’ve avoided fantasy epics for so long that this was fairly refreshing to read. It was a mash up of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Swordspoint” and the two Queen Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett (Walsingham will forever by Geoffrey Rush in my head, no matter the book or movie). As one book, it isn’t going to put me back on the road to reading lots of epic fantasy, but it’s sure a great step forward. It was the title and the cover art that got me interested a while ago when its sequel posted on Wowbrary. Once I got past those first few pages (and I’m not kidding, no more fantasy books starting in taverns, ok?) I was hooked, particularly by Coby (aka Jacob) and her pluck and the chance for her discovery as a girl. This is a plot device that always works for me because I know that the girl will be discovered and there will be romantic tension between said disguised girl and the lead male character. Also, Mal’s personal secrets were compelling and fit with the choices he made in his work, which was good to see how they were a motivation for him.
There was a little skrayling vocabulary to learn, but the book didn’t have a glossary or a map and for a big fantasy, that was a big plus for me.
Bummer Points: It’s a 500-page book one and for all the words, I felt like I lost track of characters and jumped heads a few too many times. There were too many henchmen and I couldn’t always keep straight who worked for whom.
Word Nerd Recommendation: I’m going to put book two in the Eight-Up queue as soon as I can. The third (and final) book is due out on October 29, so I found this series in the perfect timing without having to wait months (or years) for the next installment. If you like historical fantasy, this is a good choice.