Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: Death’s Angels (Volume One of the Terrarch Chronicles) by William King

Death’s Angels is an unusual mix of fantasy, Sharpe-style technology and army (muskets abound) and a little Lovecraftian horror.

The protagonist, Rik, is a half-breed (half-Terrarch [elf], half-man) in the Foragers. They’re a sort of scouting unit, similar to a Light Company or the Greenjackets from Sharpe (they do have muskets rather than rifles, however).

The second leading character (and only other chap to get his own PoV bits) is Sardec, Rik’s Terrarch lieutenant and leader of the Foragers. He’s a snooty, arrogant sort, but not without the redeeming features of honesty and bravery. A bit like Arnold J. Rimmer crossed with Richard the Lionheart.

Supporting them is a cast of Foragers including the amusing ‘the Barbarian’, the nefarious Weasel, and Leon, Rik’s childhood friend (the pair were thieves together before joining the army). A few more Foragers would have helped a bit, I think (a few more are mentioned but appear only briefly) but the unit seems to work pretty well.

The Foragers are sent to kill a prophet and a wizard who have been rallying hill-men to their cause. They enjoy a partial victory, and the majority of the book deals with the aftermath of the half-failed mission and trying to finish the job.

There’s a nice sense of realism to Rik. He doesn’t tell Leon everything, despite being close, and is torn between his own desires and what he knows is a wiser course of action. Similarly, some of the Foragers aren’t exactly heroic, and the officers are portrayed as a mix of dutiful and very self-interested.

The start and end of the book were both very engaging, and had an edge of doubt when combat began. I like books with death tolls, and whilst Mr. King doesn’t go nuts bumping off characters there is an air of mortal danger about the battles. The middle seemed to sag slightly. It was perfectly well-written and developed Rik’s character a bit further but there was an absence of urgency or real excitement.

However, given I raced through the book (this seems to have become a habit) in a couple of days it certainly wasn’t seriously detrimental.

I’ve already begun the second Terrarch Chronicles book: The Serpent Tower.


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