The Iron Ghost
by Jen WilliamsThe adventuring trio of Wydrin, Sir Sebastian and Lord Frith are glowing from the success of their previous exploits, and newly in demand wherever reckless adventurers are called for. So when they're invited on a mission to the frozen city of Skaldshollow they relish the opportunity. Their job is simple: to retrieve a stolen object and get paid.
However, they reckoned without the politics of a distant land, where two kingdoms seethe in constant animosity. In Skaldshollow the people work the mountain rock into huge automatons that do their bidding. But they're under constant threat of attack by the Narhl, a race of cold-loving people who fly on wyverns. The Narhl and the people of Skaldshollow are locked in war, each accusing the other side of unforgivable acts. As the three adventurers stumble into a political situation they don't understand, the legendary mage Joah Demonsworn makes a reappearance. Joah was renowned for his power, his evil, and his madness.
The contrasting characters in this story balance the tensions of the plot nicely. Sir Sebastian, perpetually haunted by guilt and his personal issues, resisting all temptation to relax and follow his desires. Wydrin is careless and carefree, always ready for reckless adventure. Lord Frith meanwhile is brooding and responsible. The spicy banter flows freely between them as the action gathers pace.
There's quite a large cast of characters amongst the two warring groups, and within them a certain nuance develops in the way various people deal with the conflict and also the challenge of a crazy mage on the loose. There are villains in The Iron Ghost, but they are rare, outnumbered by more interesting characters who are navigating the war more thoughtfully. Yet in this frozen northern land rigid, insular cultures clash over extreme views and old-fashioned xenophobic ideas.
Any romance in this novel tends to be sweet, blossoming with awkwardness between characters and leading on to pretty coy, closed door results. Love is there, but it's not the main focus.
It's a story told from several different points of view, not so many as to be overwhelming or confusing, but enough to suggest the epic scale of this adventure. There are some great transitions between the scenes to enjoy. The stakes are high, and so is the body count, but because we're dealing with mages almost anything can happen. When reading this, you can expect to feel certain emotions strongly. It's heavy on thrills, wonderment, and pulse-racing excitement, an escapist fantasy with smart characters who are easy to warm to.
1st January 2022
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: review copy