by David Tallerman
With a name like Easie Damasco, a character really has no choice except to follow a life of crime. Easie is a thief
who can't resist taking risks, even when the stakes are his life. When we first meet him he's about to be hung for
his crimes, but for him this predicament is more or less business as usual. His last-minute reprieve in the form of
conscription into an invading army turns out to be anything but when he discovers he'll be joining one of the most
expendable sections. He's not expected to survive beyond the morning's battle.
Easie's not a fighter, so the first chance he gets he goes on the run. And if he happens to pick up a few choice
trinkets on the way, and the odd big, smelly giant, then so much the better. However it's not easy to be stealthy
with a giant in tow, and the warlord Moaradrid wants his property back. Moaradrid is an ambitious man with his
eye on the throne, and he won't tolerate losing what he believes he has a right to. Easie also comes to the
attention of Moaradrid's opposition, led by the mayor of an occupied town, Marina Estrada, who has the help of a
crook called Mounteban. They want to stop Moaradrid from taking over the country, but unfortunately for Easie that
doesn't mean they're necessarily on his side.
Moaradrid follows Easie like a man possessed, chasing him up and down the country with his soldiers. The
thief races from frying pan to fire to frying pan, pausing only to filch whatever takes his fancy or maybe to stuff his
face. He's a skinny rogue, but somehow he always seems to be hungry. He's a magnet for trouble, and quite a
contrast to the peace-loving giant Saltlick. Easie thinks Saltlick is a stupid brute because he barely talks and he
has very rigid beliefs about leadership, but there are hints that there's more to him than meets the eye. Similarly
the harried Estrada seems to have a thing or two up her sleeve, whilst Mounteban's transformation from career
criminal to apparent hero of the dwindling band of resistance fighters raises questions about his real motives.
is largely plotted around a long chase, but it's spiced up by lots of varied scenery including
dens of iniquity, an exotic foreign court, and hair-raising climbs. Easie's adventures are fast-paced and enjoyable,
as befits a gambler with a past that always threatens to catch up with him. In some ways he's a stock fantasy
character, the incorrigible thief and rogue, but he remains fun and interesting because it's hard to predict what
he'll do next. Even when he's extremely repentant about his actions and vows to change we don't quite believe
he's sincere, but there's always a shred of doubt. That's why he's a compelling character.
The dialogue also sparkles with wit as the antagonistic characters lay into one another verbally as well as
sometimes physically. I wouldn't call this novel a comedy, but it's certainly a feelgood fantasy with a light, cheeky
tone. The giants put me in mind of the trolls in Terry Pratchett's Discworld
novels, and the tone and setting of this book is reminiscent of Jessie Bullington's
The Enterprise of Death
Wherever Easie Damasco goes he leaves a trail of destruction and angry people eager to lynch him. Fortunately
I felt just the opposite, and I hope this charming lawbreaker will be back for some sequels.
Review © Ros Jackson