on August 14th 2014
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes&Noble
In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way up stream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it - from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do. In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together. For Fisk and Shoe - two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other - their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky. And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.
He hated them with a passion wronged men reserve for gods, dangerous women, and whiskey.
You can’t hear their screams of joy at freedom, the imps, but you can feel them, and every shot tears at the air, beats at your ears and exposed skin — as damaging as lying in the too-hot sun. It’s an invisible pressure. The pressure of damnation.
Cimbri’s moustache quivered. I couldn’t tell if it was anger or mirth or fleas.
The damnedest thing is, everyone is born into this world on the edge of a knife. From the time you’re wet and squalling — the slightest tip of the balance and you go sliding away, consumed by remorse, or guilt. Or revenge. Or even love. Only Ia knows how it will turn out, and he’s not telling.
Faith is just believing he cares.
I’ve been at the head, rear, and middle of a string of horses in my time, and they make a terrible ruckus. But once you get going, all those horses moving together, the wagon creaking, it’s a feeling like no other. All this life, Ia-given life, moving together with a single purpose. Damn shame, sometimes, when all that life comes together to take life.
‘Fear is a taint that corrupts resolution,’
Oh boy, did I love this book!!! And not for the reasons I would have thought. It’s basically about two guys escorting a boat and its wealthy family down river and encountering challenge after challenge along the way. It starts out easy, then escalates throughout, and by the end, you feel as if the entire world hangs in the balance. Brilliant!
First off, the world is great, in my opinion. It has a western vibe blended with a dose of steam-punk (neither of which I have read before), sprinkled with some fantasy. The western part wasn’t over done, just a nice hint here and there, and I settled right into the fantasy part. Admittedly, I’m not versed enough in steam-punk to really speak intelligently about how well it was done in this book. For an inexperienced reader, I thought it was utterly brilliant.
This is a first person narrative told by Shoestring the dwarf. It keeps close to him and his partner Fisk. Shoe is not what I would call your normal hero nor is the story really focused solely on him. Fisk seems to play a much bigger role, but Shoe has a way about telling this story that makes you root for both of them. Not only that, but you feel really connected to Shoe, despite the fact that he isn’t the main focus of the story. The family they escort was diverse and fleshed out nicely, the legionnaire had enough screen time to make us feel as if we knew them as well as Shoe and Fisk, and the engineers were artfully drawn. I wasn’t character obsessed by any of them, but I found all the characters — even the ones I hated — fascinating.
For me, where this books shines the most was the use of Hell. I admit, when I first started reading this book, I thought when Shoe mentioned Hell or deamons it was more figuratively speaking. But no, he really meant Hell and demons. It. Was. Great!! Hellfire (their version of guns) was made by trapping a demon. Each bullet had a bad guy trapped in it. I mean, how great is that?!? Here’s when I admit that I’m kinda messed up. Even so, I like it when an author puts a spin on something I’m familiar with. Because I have a hard time with my imagination, it helps when it’s something I know. The way Jacobs utilizes hell and demons was just plain entertaining and creepy and poetically written at times. How Shoe feels about these creatures makes them even more terrible. I couldn’t get enough.
Which brings me to an overall statement: The bad guys in this book were incredibly entertaining, creepy (the stuff of nightmares), and painted beautifully by Jacobs writing. I loved them all. The fight scenes were tense and nail-biting. When I reached about half way, I couldn’t put the book down.
For me, I loved Jacobs’ writing. I thought it flowed wonderfully, and I easily slipped into my reading trance. He was a tad descriptive at times, but it was through Shoe’s eyes and it made them beautiful.
So overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s got enough in there that any lover of fantasy should be satisfied. Seriously, a great read.