I received a free copy of Stranger of Tempest in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Tom Lloyd and Gollancz.
I am not ashamed to admit that I was drawn to reading this book by how stunning Jon McCoy’s cover artwork is. The second thing that made me think this novel was well worth my time is that it has one of the best opening chapters that I have read in a long time which begins with…
“For a damsel in distress, she was rather more spattered with someone else’s blood than Lynx had expected. And naked. Very naked.
‘Well?’ she demanded.
Lynx could only gape a while longer. Finally his words spilled out in an abashed mumble.
‘Um – come to rescue you, Miss.’
‘You’ll have to wait,’ she snapped at the knot of mercenaries crowding the doorway. ‘I’m busy.’
The main protagonist in Stranger of Tempest is a portly but effective warrior called Lynx who is astonishingly honourable yet has had a pretty brutal and mysterious past. Lynx begrudgingly joins a band of mercenaries at the beginning of the book as he has no other options. The crew that he is now involved with are a colourful bunch with some well crafted individual characters and are led by the Prince of Sun – Anatin. The mercenaries were reminiscent of a biker gang featuring strong personalities and lots of banter. Experienced members become “named” and get a cool picture on their jackets depicting a card from this world equivalent of poker. Prince of Sun, Knight of Blood and Stranger of Tempest are a few examples. I thought the whole card system portraying crew members status was cool and unique.
The action sequences in this book are often intense, especially the above-mentioned beginning and the thrilling ending, however; some sections do drag on a bit in the middle and weren’t very exciting. In my mind, this book was cruising for a 6.5/10 rating because of that until the excellent finale persuaded me otherwise.
Similar to a good number of fantasy books that introduce new readers to a multilayered world with histories, Gods and magic systems that are already established, we follow a current and a past account of events. I was surprised when the past story stopped what I think was abruptly about half way through the book. The timeframe for the past events is two weeks prior to the current so I thought full details bridging the time gap would have been included. There are about six points of view perspectives yet a large majority of the narrative surrounds Lynx. Lloyd also includes more of Lynx’s background when the veteran warrior ponders past happenings.
This is book #1 of The God Fragments and although the fragments are mentioned in passing they are not really explained and this creates a sense of mystery in a good way that Lloyd’s world has a lot more to offer. Similarly, the magic seems really interesting with different classes of mages that all have unique abilities relating to their alignment. We are only really presented the possibilities surrounding one magic class (Night) so a great amount more could be revealed in future tales. The weapons many of the mercenaries wield are Mage Guns which are super cool and computer game-esque. These guns can fire phenomenally powerful bullets based on a certain element (icers, burners etc…) There are also mysterious beings called Elementals which I am sure will be featured and explained further in The God Fragments next story.
Although Stranger of Tempest isn’t perfect, there are a lot of positives here. I thought this book had a great opening, an awesome ending, and relentless action scenes – with good humour and crew comraderies thrown into the mix for good measure. This can be read as a complete standalone as everything is wrapped up nicely. I am pretty excited about the follow-up Princess of Blood which will hopefully be released shortly. This is a pretty good fantasy story with a protagonist that cares.