Form: pdf e-book
Target audience: fantasy fans young and old
Synopsis (mostly from Goodreads):
This book was originally self-published in two parts, entitled The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha.
Royce Melborn, a skilled thief-for-hire, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles, often double-crossing them in the meantime. One day, however, they accept a deceptively easy and too-profitable-to-be-true job. All they have to do is to pilfer a famed sword, preventing a death of an innocent man. Their earnings will assure them a comfortable winter. Well, nothing is as dangerous as a good deal in the form of a good dead especially offered at very short notice. Soon enough they find themselves in royal dungeons, framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a small dynasty of a tiny kingdom.
Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know? And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend
What I liked:
First let me tell you that this novel was constructed like a solid bit of good architecture – the right proportions, accents laid out properly, the right number of characters, everything in perfect order. Small wonder I couldn’t stop reading it till the very end. The plot progressed smoothly and was quite engaging, the world building was original and interesting, mentioning magicians, elves, half-elves and dwarves. I loved the cast of secondary characters, especially Princess Arista, Alric, her younger brother and the heir apparent, Myron, a monk librarian with eidetic memory and of course my lovely pearl of a baddie, Archibald Ballentyne – young, handsome, rich, full of himself and… a total jerk! Well done!
What’s more commendable the author avoided several traps which often plague such stories. When a princess is saved, her saviour doesn’t fall in love with her (thanks goodness!) and she doesn’t fall in love with him. When a young, spoilt and rather dumb prince is made a king he, surprisingly, tries to be a good monarch and he actually manages that with a little help of his friends. No insta-love, no unbelievable happy ending!
The comic relief came in the form of Myron who had lived a completely secluded monastery life since he was four and then, all of a sudden, was forced out of his shell to explore the world and its wonders. I enjoyed every scene with him!
What I didn’t like:
I found the two main protagonists, Hadrian and Royce, a bit too two-dimensional. Hadrian is Mr. Social Skills and Mr. Muscle (no pun intended lol!) Royce is Mr. Break-and-Enter and Mr. Strategist. All good and clear but too schematic. I must add that their amazing lack of cynicism was also sometimes too obvious to swallow. Ok, Royce at least tried to be sensible, while Hadrian…he often acts like a noble knight in a shiny armour, riding that spotless white horse which doesn’t exist. You can say I am jaded but here I missed some dark fantasy grit. Real thieves and thugs are far more mercenary and cruel, far less influenced by those “woe me, pity me” stories. Well., maybe it will make more sense in the next installment – I do hope for more character development as it was definitely hinted here!
My last quibble – there were some small info-dumps in this novel which almost, ALMOST made me bored. Fortunately the author managed to keep them relatively short. What’s more, the knowledge was put to use soon afterwards so it made sense after a while.
There is nothing like a decent fantasy book to soothe your nerves and make you happy after a long day of hard work. Yes, I will continue to read this series and I recommend it to every fantasy fan. It is entertaining, it is well-written and it doesn’t contain graphic violence.