Saturday, 14 January 2012

‘The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel’ – Jennifer Williams

If you’ve read my review policy (not the most interesting post ever but it needed to be written) then you’ll know that there’s a lot that I don’t actually read and review. Self published stuff for a start but not for the reasons you might think. Other books that I won’t look at are those published for e-readers; I don’t actually own an e-reader (am I the only one left?) so there isn’t really an awful lot of point in my accepting ebooks for review...

It takes something that’s either pretty special, or something that happens to catch my eye at the right time, for me to go back on this policy. Jennifer Williams’ ‘The Copper Promise’ caught my eye, at a time when I was after a little ‘Sword and Sorcery’ action, and I was lucky enough to be able to score a PDF for review (this one is published for the Kindle, only a couple pounds to buy). It’s also pretty special. I’m either going to have to fork out for a Kindle or hope that ‘The Copper Promise’, and the three novellas that will follow it, is eventually published in a physical format.

The Citadel of Creos is the last place where any sensible person would want to find themselves; there are armed guards outside to deal with the not-so-sensible people trying to gain entrance.
The young Lord Frith wants in as he has heard that the secrets within the citadel are his key to revenge. Sebastian and Wydrin want in because Lord Frith has promised to pay them on delivery of said secrets. Treasure hunting in Creos could also prove to be an interesting distraction from other things in their lives though.‘Interesting’ isn’t the word for it though. The Citadel of Creos is overflowing with traps to catch the unwary (for ‘catch’, read ‘gut and generally dismember’) but the real danger lies in the hidden depths of the Citadel. Something waits in those depths and all that is required to release it is a little blood...

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I used to raid the bookstall on Norwich market for all those pulp fantasies that pretty much kicked the genre off. I had some great summers reading those books and the books that followed :o) Reading ‘The Copper Promise’ is like going back in time and finding one of those gems on the market stall all over again.

The plot looks fairly straightforward at first and, to be fair, there isn’t a lot of room for tricksy stuff in a book that’s only fifty four pages long. There’s a citadel with riches promised inside, there’s a group of adventurers that want some of those riches (well, more like ‘all’) for themselves. They break in and go adventuring, that’s it.

Actually no, that isn’t it. Williams has given us three characters that I really found myself enjoying hanging out with. By the end of the book I found myself hoping that Lord Frith gets to regain his lands and castle, I’d only known the guy for fifty four pages but Williams made every use of those pages to have me rooting for him, both now and in the future. Same deal with Wydrin, the ‘Copper Cat’ whom the book takes its title from. Wydrin’s handy with a blade and also free and easy with the wise-cracks, an entertaining character to follow but with hints of depth that I want to see explored in the future. Sebastian? I don’t want to spoil his story but the same deal applies here.

Time was strange here, down in the dark between these secret walls, as though it were draining away down hidden cracks, pooling in unknown crevices.

And the Citadel... The Citadel of Creos might be a little too influenced by D&D and ‘Knightmare’ (do you remember that?) but once you’ve gone through a few of the rooms you won’t notice anymore. It’s grim, dank in all the right places and full of little surprises to catch out the unwary. This is the cue for lots of action set pieces that prove Williams is as capable of writing a fight sequence as she is getting us into the heads of her characters. I read ‘The Copper Promise’ over a lunch break and came out of it feeling exhilarated and eager for more. The world outside the Citadel isn’t drawn as neatly but that just left me wanting those gaps to be filled in.

There are three more novellas planned and I intend on being around to see more of the world that Jennifer Williams is creating. I might even have to buy myself a Kindle for the trip. ‘The Copper Promise’ might wear its influences a little too proudly but this approach feels kind of apt for what is going on in these pages. I got the chance to take a little trip back in time and I’m grateful to Jennifer for giving me that chance. I want to make that trip again so I’ll be back for more.

Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten

1 comment:

Heloise said...

Sounds very promising - I'm rather in the mood for a bit of classic Sword & Sorcery myself (for which I blame Lavie Tidhar), so this comes at just the right for me. Will definitely check it out!