In this subversive debut fantasy, a fallen heroine is drawn into the schemes of madmen.
Alcoholic Katrina Lamont is in the frontier town of Dictum in the untamed Graylands that separate the Two Empires. While drinking away memories of her tragic past, she’s approached by the suave Rasul Kader who needs help tracking down a mystery woman with a grand destiny. “I’ve had enough destiny in my life,” she declares. Meanwhile, Capt. Deacon Marcus of the Sentry Elite has arrived in Dictum on a hunt for the stolen Dragon’s Fang dagger. He meets with Guardian Mage Elijah Warren, who informs him that a sickness is brewing in the nearby forest and he must investigate a possible breach into the Black, where evil rules. South of Dictum, in a fortress near the Dark Lands, the vile Jacob Daredin waits for his machinations to bear fruit. He possesses the Dragon’s Fang and needs only to spill royal blood during the Devil’s Moon to become all-powerful. And finally, there’s the legendary pirate Krutch Leeroy, whose agents have assaulted Katrina, pushing her to join Deacon Marcus on his quest in the Derelict Woods. Katrina, however, has no idea that she’ll soon confront the brutal, invincible Enforcer and a girl named Lily, whose fate overlaps with her own. If these “Travelers on a mission” and “talk of quests and destiny” make author Walsh’s debut seem like every other fantasy adventure, think again. His self-aware approach to genre blending (using not just orcs and gargoyles, but also a serial killer) provides a rigorous example of tight, engaged storytelling. The playful prose dances the line between silly and epic, like when Krutch is described as “a legit, real-deal pirate.” After the complex chess-style setup, Walsh begins savagely removing pieces from the board in ways that should satisfy fans of gory creature features. It’s Katrina and her incredible past, though, that make this a must for casual and hard-core fantasy readers.
This debut features a string of startling, satisfying twists wrapped up in mesmerizing fantasy.