Reviewed by David Brzeski
At the time of writing this review, ‘Book One: Chained’ is available in paperback and kindle versions. ‘Book Two: Quest’ is available in a kindle edition, but there is a paperback forthcoming. ‘Book Three: Secrets’ will be available soon. There are to be six books in all.
The first thing the reader can’t help but notice is that there’s a strong influence of fantasy role-playing games throughout. That would normally be enough to put me off, but these are tightly plotted, very well-written books, with a multitude of engaging characters.
Emilia is a serving girl, a slave really, but one with hidden depths. She escapes her servitude in the company of a pair of adventurer thieves, Jem and Huron. They take Emilia on as an apprentice. She soon proves to be a natural in swords craft, thievery and wild magic.
They live in a world that isn’t ours. It has four moons! It’s a weird amalgam of Earth, Middle Earth, Barsoom and who knows what other fantasy worlds. We have fighters, druids, wizards (of various flavours), monks, thieves, horses, dogs, griffons, bird men, lizard men, demons, ghasts and vampyrs.
It’s classic high fantasy/sword and sorcery adventure, in that it involves the bringing together of a disparate group of adventurers of varying races and skills and sets them on a quest to prevent a great evil from overwhelming their world. There are various sub-groups within this group. It’s the evolving relationships between these various sub-groups that really makes the series work so well. The interplay between the duo of Jem and Huron, for instance, reminded me somewhat of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, albeit the actual characters weren’t all that similar. It’s actually the female characters that really grab the reader’s attention though. Predisposed to detest each other due to their circumstances and upbringing, they gradually begin to meld into a major force for good in the world. Kitson handles this gradual coming together with great skill.
I could say much more about the plot, and describe many more of the characters, but I prefer to let readers meet them for themselves. There are characters and races introduced in book one that still haven’t reappeared by the end of book three. Ross M. Kitson has built a complex and convincing world here. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend just picking up just the first book, or even the first two books. Get all three, because you’ll be chain-reading them. Thankfully, book three ends at a reasonable stopping point. Suffice it to say, I found the story completely involving through the first three volumes and fully intend to keep up with the forthcoming books in the series.