A dense, detailed novel about the mysterious city-state of Grimpkin and an outcast’s bid for fortune and glory.
An especially appealing book for addicts of heroic sword-and-sorcery, this bold submission for the approval of the fantasy readership deftly weaves an epic tale out of a byzantine city, an equally complex plot, compelling characters and a sympathetic heroine from one of many intriguing race-cultures that provide the evocative palette coloring Chestney’s original but respectfully indebted mythos. At the novel’s center is the wonderful set piece of Grimpkin, so lovingly rendered that it functions as a character, and at Grimpkin’s center is the Goblin Knight Inn, a rogues’ gallery of sorcerers, soothsayers, swordsmen and shadows where all the energies, myths and black markets coalesce. Grimpkin is a city just outside of time, but with many vestigial traits that keep it from the brink of total anachronism; nice touches include the denizens living by canonical hours and the magic being partly structured on biblical theology. Grimpkin is most broadly racially divided between humans and those creatures considered “Inhuman.” And at the center of the drama is the outcast heroine Lakif who arrives in the city to find a competent swordsman and perhaps the mysterious Rare Earth Stone, the revelation of which is central to what appears to be a planned series of novels. Magic abounds as Lakif pieces together the clues that will lead her to the stone, and her psychic struggles are rendered in the purplest of prose. Indeed, the real star of the show is often the writing that is carefully crafted and linguistically playful (some characters speak in a laconic plain speech and others in a diction peppered with medievalisms). So strong is the prose’s love affair with the settings and characters it describes that there are a few moments when Chestney could be moving things along instead of pounding away at the romance, but these are admirable faults that readers easily forgive in a fantasy market often dominated by formulaic potboilers that are forgotten almost as soon as the covers are closed. This one lingers on.
An uncommonly intellectual adventure.