So, the fullest of full disclosures, because I know people like these things up front when they see the word “review”. Jen and I are friends. We also have the same agent. I was a beta reader for the novel, and I bought the original novella back when the cover looked like this:
For the record, that is still an awesome cover. it screams “indie”, but in a good way, you know.
Anyway, my point is that you should probably start from the assumption that my review is going to be generally positive. If I didn’t like The Copper Promise, I would conspicuous in my silence.
The second thing you should realise is that I’m going to drop some GIFs. Phone browsers be warned.
It is good. Aaron Frith, Lord of Blackwood and last of his line, seeks out a pair of mercenaries to help him explore an ancient, haunted labyrinth. Wydrin – the Copper Cat – is famed for her quick blades and quicker wit, while Sir Sebastian Carverson wears the mark and mantle of an Ynnsmouth knight. They toddle off to the Citadel and – oops – unleash Y’Ruen, God of Destruction and Chaos, in the form of a dragon.
If it was played entirely straight, the setup would drop like a lead balloon: adventurers meeting in a tavern and arranging to explore a dungeon with only a fragment of a map for guidance? Really? Here, though, it works. The narrative is sufficiently self aware that it is fun to read, but never dips to the level of mugging at the reader. Frith means business, no matter how insouciant Wydrin is about it all, and that balance of wit and purpose drives the story forward.
On the topic of self awareness, The Copper Promise wears its influences proudly. I know the author cites Fritz Lieber’s Lankhmar as an influence, but as an immediate point of comparison you have to look to Dragon Age. The characters are all know exactly how to get on one another’s nerves, and they are pin-sharp throughout the entire book.
I’m not going to dive too deeply into the plot as I’m keen to avoid spoilers, but what I do like about it is that so much of the story comes from Frith, Wydrin, and Sebastian. Yes, there’s a bloody big dragon casting a shadow across the whole thing, but the vast majority of the book deals with the fact that to be an adventurer takes not only bravery, but also a particular kind of arrogance:
And those issues are hell to overcome, even when faced with a world-ending calamity.
So yeah. The Copper Promise is a great fantasy title. I saw one of the mini-blurbs for it described it as a “romp”, and I think that’s pretty much the exact word that applies here. It’s funny, imaginative, cracks along at a fair old pace, and is great fun to read. Do so. It comes out in February 2014, and you can pre-order it here.
Wait. What’s missing? What else do reviews need? Am I meant to give it a mark out of ten or something?
Okay, okay. I give it Tom Hiddleston Dancing out of Ten.