Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Book Review: The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Pros: political intrigue, gritty realism, great setting, lots of plot twists, gorgeous cover

Cons: so much is happening I didn't get to connect with any of the characters as much as I'd have liked

It's Venice, 1407.  Marco IV, 'the simpleton', is Duke in name only.  His mother, Duchess Alexa, co-rules with her hated brother-in-law, the Regent, Prince Alonzo.

One thing they agree on is the upcoming wedding of their niece Giulietta di Millioni to King James of Cyprus.  But Lady Giulietta is 15 and unwilling to wed.  And Alonzo has sinister reasons for agreeing to the nuptials.

Meanwhile, the numbers of Venice's royal assassins have dwindled.  Their head, Atilo il Mauros, needs an heir and fins potential in a chance meeting with a pale faced, silver haired young man.  A young man named Tycho, who was freed by chance from a special prison aboard a Mamluk ship.

The plot changes focus frequently, dealing with the politics of Alexa vs Alonzo, Atilo and his new apprentice, Giulietta and others.  In this book alone are: werewolves, a vampire, a stregoi, several fights (including a naval battle), unrequited love, frustrated love and true love.  Many people die.

The Venice of the story is gritty, dirty and dark.  The underside is better detailed than the palace scenes, which are brutal in their own fashion.

While going back to the origins of his creatures (Tycho can't abide sunlight or cross water comfortably), he still makes them unique. 

The one downside to the book is that scenes change so fast you can't really connect with the characters.  On the other hand, this makes it easier to move on when principle characters start dying.

A fantastic novel.  It comes out January 27th from Orbit Books.

Here's an article Mr. Grimwood wrote for their blog, on how he writes.   And he's agreed to do an interview for me, to be published here in February!

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