Stranger of Tempest
Book One of The God Fragments
by Tom Lloyd
Fantasy | 320 Pages | To be published by Gollancz on 16th June 2016
This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review
With a premise which promised action and grit by the spadeful, and a dramatic cover boasting an awesome Diablo-Balrog mash-up, it didn’t take me long to crack open Stranger of Tempest once I got my hands on it. Having already impressed with the first in his Twilight Reign series, a book which spent a leisurely nine years on my bookshelf before its eventual dusting off, Tom Lloyd has surpassed himself with this action-packed and enthralling tale of mercenary misadventure.
Stranger of Tempest is an intense thrill-ride across disreputable cities, sprawling plains, and the deepest dark; where conflicts of power, marauding bands and the deadly unknown reign supreme. With a cast of colourful characters, and a blisteringly bloody pace throughout, this novel is a thrilling and high-octane opener to what promises to be a spectacular new series.
Being an honest man in a lawless world is never easy…
Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. Bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or to kill without cause.
Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years.
An ex-soldier of So Han on the run from his past, Lynx is a mercenary who travels the Riven Kingdom taking contracts and drinking heavily – whilst accepting general contempt for the legacy of his people, of course. When his path crosses that of Anatin’s Mercenary Deck, a band of seemingly honourable mercenaries widely known as The Cards, he throws in his lot and embarks on a quest to free a kidnapped girl from the clutches of an unknown rogue.
But the intentions of mercenaries are seldom clear cut. When everything that could go wrong blows up in spectacular fashion, Lynx and his new found band of brothers – along with a stray and said damsel in distress – attempt to flee across the Riven Kingdom whilst hunted by the Knights-Charnel. But when this pursuit pushes them into the deepest dark, a band of militant zealots hot on their heels is likely to be the least of their problems.
In an explosion of burners, icers and sparkers, Stranger of Tempest is marked by its gorgeous descriptions, its witty dialogue and a driven storyline which beats a bloody path through the ensuing chaos. This is a land where cultures have been thrown together through war and conquest; a land where people do what they can to carve out an existence under the shadow of the militant orders. From underground ruins from long gone civilisations, to the vibrant and debauched cities of the Riven Kingdom, Tom Lloyd has created a wonderfully diverse world which is fleshed out with the solid weight of history and conflict.
The mysterious and much sought-after God Fragments, the rare powers of the mages, and the creatures of the deepest dark come together to make the first in The God Fragments series an incredibly inventive, infinitely mysterious and highly addictive concoction of fantasy delights. With a unique and well thought out magic system, Stranger of Tempest unleashes a whirlwind of innate elemental powers across the storyline which give rise to dangerous elemental monsters and fuel the weaponry whose inventiveness becomes the driving force behind much of the action in the novel.
And if the thought of beautiful – if bloody – descriptions, inventive weaponry and a unique magic system weren’t enough to whet your appetite then the Mercenary Deck might just push you over the edge. With a varied assortment of gamblers, drinkers and debauchers, The Cards live for the fight but maintain a vague sense of collective morality throughout. From the gigantic and terrifying Reft, to the infinitely likeable Himble and their calculating leader Anatin, Stranger of Tempest is driven forwards by its cast of colourful characters, where everyone has a past and nothing is ever as it seems.
However, whilst The Cards and their associates may present an entertaining front, it is Lynx – our aforementioned protagonist – who steals the show throughout this novel. Past his prime but incredibly dangerous, he is a man whose anger and rage boils beneath the surface but are dampened by his sense of honour and his determination to do the right thing even if it costs him. A man with a complex past, one which slowly unravels over the course of the novel, Lynx is a memorable character who remains captivating throughout and retains enough mystery and intrigue to carry over to the next novel.
Told in alternating chapters from the recent past to the present, this novel builds a detailed picture of the world and its characters before crashing together in spectacular style in a richly imagined centre. And whilst at times the switch between character’s thoughts and the main body of the narrative may have been a little confusing, the narrative style is incredibly engaging and the quality of the writing is apparent throughout. From the incredible opening chapter to its tense conclusion, Stranger of Tempest is truly a non-stop thrill-ride from beginning to end.
With flawed characters, a fascinating world, and a veritable cornucopia of antagonists throughout, Stranger of Tempest is a powerful and impressive series opener. Tom Lloyd has crafted a captivating and well imagined world which promises great things to come in what is set to be a storming new series. Fantasy fans who have yet to discover Tom Lloyd: Now is the time!