Hey. Syawn here.
So my author finally published something. One novella, and you can only get it on your computers and phones and Kindles, and it doesn’t even feature me, but hey. It’s a step in the right direction, so I need to be all encouraging and supportive.
In interest of doing just that, I’ll tell you why you should read it even if I’m not in it.
First of all, it’s in my world. Next, it does feature Joreth, the leader of an assassins guild, who has my knowledge of how to play one’s underlings, and my love of knives. (I would like to think my skill level is superior, having begun training at a younger age. In both.)
Unlike me, however, he is a man replete with unwise passions. Tsk. The teenaged lordling in the same novella does a better job of keeping his head; for shame. Ah well, we can’t all be me.
But enough chit-chat. Time for an honest review.
“Wait, a review?” Tirzah asks, startled. “But you’re… isn’t that… you’re in my head!”
Which doesn’t mean I have no objectivity. Brace yourself, author. First, fine readers mine, have the blurb and cover.
“Look—it’s a shadow, creeping on the wall.
Look—it’s a nightbird, feathered, black, and tall.
Look—o’er your shoulder; think ye twice,
Look—out, ye wicked rats, pray he finds ye nice.”
Risen suddenly to lordship of the fiefdom of Cavernad, young Ferlund struggles to fill the shoes —and carry on the marriage engagement— of his late father. Doubly sorrowed by the old lord’s death and his duty to part ways with his common lover, Ferlund also seeks to pursue his suspicion that his father’s death was no accident…
Elsewhere in this fantasy-tinged novella, another man is recently risen to power. Joreth, formerly an assassin by trade, is newly the master of the assassin’s guild responsible for the elder Lord Cavernad’s demise. Wren, a servant girl deeply enamored of her new boss, seeks to gain his favor, and happens upon his strangest secret.
A lone vigilante stalks this landscape of cloak and dagger, sense and madness, and grudge and ardor old and new; the preying Nightbird stands in judgement of injustice masked by night or noble station.
In this tangle of stale bitterness and fresh affection, who will stand justified, and who will fall condemned? And will the cry of the Nightbird sound loud enough to go down as more than a washerwoman’s four-line ditty?
A bit long-winded as blurbs go, if I do say so myself… my full-length novel doesn’t get that much back-o-the-book yattering.
Fortunately, I cannot give the same complaint to the tale in question. The pacing was excellent, with the viewpoint switching very regularly, but no more (nor less) than was needed for the twenty-five thousand word tale of intrigue and adventure to be told well.
The writing style was smooth and largely unobtrusive, but not to the point of blandness, lending a pleasant but mild aroma to the tale itself.
The characters were were well-defined, distinctly themselves–and largely loveable, sometimes in spite of being themselves. Humanly flawed and often confused, but rarely to that point where you want to smack them upside the head for it, these were people any budding thief lords would want to ally with: the high-minded nobleman, the bitter assassin, the “overlook at your own risk” servant girl, and the sweet but desperate pretty one.
(The Nightbird, on the other hand, is a bit more of a wild card. Might be safer just to knock him off if you ask me. Anyhow, jumping back from The Young Thief Lord’s Handbook to the review…)
The action sequences were engaging, walking that fine line between bogged-down-in-detail and what-is-even-going-on-here, and provided the much needed interludes between all the feelings everyone kept carrying on with.
However, I’m not quite certain about Duncan’s portrayal of the ending scene. While certain others who have read the scene make report of crying, I’m not sure what the tears are all about. It was an almost abruptly definite ending to a character arc that could have been stronger.
“It was as strong as it could be reasonably made,” Tirzah protests. “I didn’t want to overplay it!”
Ah-ah-ah, Duncan. Authors aren’t allowed to defend their decisions in the middle of a review. My position is my own, and I think Wren’s character arc ought to have been stronger. There’s a comment section open to take your arguments after.
My objections taken into consideration, I give it four stars out of five. Very nicely done, Miss Duncan. I might even invite you onto The Ink Caster blog for an author interview. Yes, it is gracious of me, isn’t it?
Go, buy it, enjoy it, have your appetite whetted for the superior novel waiting in the wings! And get a sneak preview of my own hitherto-unrevealed prologue at the end of it!