Dark, gripping swords-and-sorcery noir, first in a promised fantasy series.
The land of Noreela has a turbulent, violent history. After the Cataclysmic War, magic was banished from the land, and an order of demonic men known as Red Monks have made it their mission to see that it stays banished. Though they are a fearsome and deadly menace, they lurk in the shadows of myth and hearsay, used as boogiemen to scare children. Signs of impending conflict emerge when a Red Monk comes to a small village looking for a boy named Rafe Baburn, thought to be the conduit for magic. The entire village is slaughtered, but Rafe remains unfound. His only chance for survival lies with a group of unlikely heroes, including a falsely branded thief, a clever witch/prostitute and a brave young librarian. Lebbon’s medievalesque world is well-developed, if overly familiar; the bleak tone and setting, which includes drugs and whores aplenty, counterpoint with dark effectiveness those fantasies that focus on highborn royalty and knights in shining armor. If any armor shines here, it’s because it’s covered in blood.
A promising departure for horror novelist Lebbon (Desolation, 2005, etc.).