Monday 30 April 2012

Book review: Dark Solus. An Assassin's Tale...

By David Andrew Crawford.

In the City of Duergar, the greatest yet most wicked city in the world, night is falling. And this is a place where the night is the time that evil walks. Leynorr, the pregnant half elf, and her partner Demon, one of the world’s greatest assassins, escape from the evil Arch Mage Kalifen and fly away on the enchanted ship Albatross to bear their unborn child away from danger. But danger, we learn, will always be close by.

Ten years later their son Dark is taken under the tutelage of his grandfather, the powerful wizard Mephistopheles. The wizard has a temper but underneath it all he does love his half elf grandson and presents him with a gift: Nightmare, the fire-snorting Hell horse with flaming hooves. And with that Dark’s studies commence.

But some years later old enemies catch up with his parents and as a consequence Dark desires nothing more than to see them punished. Mephistopheles does all in his power to stop his grandson but, realising Dark is heart set on his mission, he offers his assistance in the form of magic, mystery and a warden who will teach Dark to become a great assassin after his father. Dark concedes that more years of training and waiting will be worth the end result.

Dark Solus is indeed the assassin’s tale, as the first paragraph tells us, and it follows Dark’s story as he comes into his powers and learns to use them, although not always in the most cautious way possible and there are many trials along his way. The young hero is akin to classic tales of fantasy and we watch him grow and learn throughout his journey. His sometimes cheeky or arrogant nature makes him feel just a little more modern and more believable than other young protagonists I have read in the genre.

The best thing about this book is that it delivers pure unadulterated escapism and at a good length. Here we have the innocence of youth, a turning point in our hero’s life, and the man he becomes as a result, all packaged in a colourful and well-rendered world. There is as much joy in here as I get from watching classic fantasy movies from decades past, as the traditional elements of fantasy – the power of a name, mythical beasts, wizards and witches, magic, flying ships, floating castles, and creatures and places from legend – play out across the page.

It is an extremely visual story right from the start, and when statues come to life at the power of a druid’s chanting it makes for an action-filed and gripping opening. This power of description continues throughout the book, perhaps occasionally slowing the plot, but not losing that overall magic of an imagined world and the reader’s desire to finish the tale. Although at the end it did not finish, per se, and I am left wondering if a book two is on the cards. Nevertheless this is the perfect book for a lazy afternoon or a lunchtime break to really take you elsewhere for a few pleasurable hours.

Elloise Hopkins.

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