This is a fantastic book. It’s an exhilarating mix of Chinese wuxia action and Japanese folklore, all wrapped up in a tapestry of well-drawn characters and high octane fight sequences. This is what happens when you throw a bunch of carefully selected tropes and motifs into a blender and pour the results onto the page. In a word, delicious.
Before I get into the meat of my review let me get one thing out of the way right now. This book is almost seventy years old, written before we had any real understanding of what Mars was like. We hadn’t even managed to get anything into orbit when this book first came out, so there’s bound to be a bit of a separation between the science and technology we know now and what this book asserts. Got that? Good.
I received a copy of this book ahead of publication as part of Amazon’s Kindle First program for January ’19.
I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the tale of Sandis, a young woman who has the ability to act as vessel to otherworldly creatures known as numina, and tells of her attempt to escape the slavery she finds herself in as a result of this ‘gift’. Helping her along the way is Rone, a streetwise burglar and thief with a magical secret of his own, while working against her is the summoner Kazen, the man who kept her locked up in his underworld lair. The story gallops along at a fair pace, with very few places for the protagonists to catch their breath, and along with the main plot there are also a few secondary elements woven through the narrative involving Rone’s mother getting locked up for a crime he committed and Sandis’ search for an uncle she never knew she had. There’s a lot going on in those 300 or so pages.
James Draygo used to be a police detective but now he’s a fairy dust addicted psychic just trying to get by. When a well-to-do client gets murdered in his parlour things start to get a little more interesting than Draygo likes and he soon finds himself being dragged through a whole range of complications in an effort to clear his name. Helping him actually put some effort into this are his erstwhile manservant Jinx, the freelance journalist Helen Saunders, and the smart-mouthed ghost of the aforementioned dead client.
This is a remarkably good little book. It tells the tale of an ill-fated caravan journey between Baghdad and Armenia, and how the book’s protagonist and narrator, Masrur al-Adan, manages to survive bandit raids and the attentions of the vampyr stalking them.