Fiction Reviews

Old Manís Ghosts

(2015) Tom Lloyd, Gollancz, £16.99 / Can$22.99, trdpbk, 386pp, ISBN 978-0-575-13121-7


ďEntertaining and strongĒ proclaims SF, but what did the rest of their review say, I wonder, having once been the victim of selective review plucking when part of a review I did for Interzone for the previous book in a series hadn't been particularly favourable, but still the publisher managed to snip four words from the review to put on the cover of the next book. Sneaky, eh?

From the pen, or keyboard of Tom Lloyd (author of the five part 'Twilight Reign' series, plus a collection of short stories written within that same world) comes the sequel to Moonís Artifice which was the first book in Lloydís new 'Empire of a Hundred Houses' series, and boasts a similar styled cover by Krzysztof Domaradzki. Moonís Artifice had our hero wading through green water towards a blazing city which is dwarfed by the looming full moon above it. This time, the cover of Old Manís Ghosts has our hero crouched for action, pistol in hand, swords at his side and strapped across his back, ready to defend himself against three wolves, and again a city watched over by the moon awaits him, if he can get that far.

What awaits him, and us between the covers are 41 chapters and an epilogue followed by 'The Hegemonies of the Empire and their subordinate nation-Houses in order of standing beneath the Great House'Ē; and then after that we get 'The Celestial Orders of the Ascendant Gods' - hint - might be an idea to read this information first, rather than wait to the end. In fact these extras made me think we were in Adrian Tchaikovsky country with his late-lamented 'Shadows of the Apt' series, but then we could just as easily be in the hands of Joe Abercrombie, or more recently Edward Cox and his book The Relic Guild or Peter Newmanís The Vagrant. Why do I say that? Well, like them, this novel is very, very busy, teeming with characters and sub-plots and surprises and twists and political intrigue and all sorts of celestial, or wannabe celestial shenanigans.

Fear not, if you have not read Moonís Artifice for we start with 'What Has Gone Before: Moonís Artifice' which gives a truer account of the events of the first book than the very next section which is a 'Private Summary of the Moonís Artifice affair prepared for the Imperial Court, subsequently entered into the restricted Palace records', phew!  A summary which puts just enough spin and gloss on the proceedings and knows where to place the blame and who should get the credit even if they were entitled to it or not! Then we are in the hands of the major characters who foolishly think after Moonís Artifice that they can live the quiet life but not for long as schemes, dreams, gods, demons, ghosts, impending child birth, and the mistakes of the past are thrown into the mix with the likes of spies, noblemen, immortals and magical viruses, plus a whole quiver full of action sequences and cliff-hangers. Yes, like the work of the authors I have previously mentioned there is a lot going on here with prodigious world-building , which Lloyd delights in describing to great lengths. Iím sure his fans will love it, I just thought it was another book in the fantasy herd with nothing really outstanding in terms of plot and characters to distinguish it from so many similar titles on offer these days.

Ian Hunter

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