After the death of King Grifo and the fall of the Avaelian kingdom, former solider Elstan now makes his living as a mercenary. Accompanied by his friend Venutius, they rack up coin by taking care of the occasional Minotaur, ogre, wolf, troll, or vampire. But when a stranger in a small town gives Elstan a gold coin to meet with an elven noble for a secret mission, Elstan’s life is turned upside down.
Straight out the gate I was really gripped by this book. The writing is intricate and beautiful, but concise and to the point. The best of both worlds. Woodrow’s writing will excite you, but never bore. The pacing is also really good, I hate drawn-out books, but this moves with purpose and intent, while still stopping long enough to smell the flowers. Immediately I was reminded of The Witcher series, the lone mercenary, wandering around living off killing monsters and sharing adventures.
The plot is really good, the secret mission Elstan goes to do, how it plays out, how it connects to Elstan’s previous life and the bigger picture of the world we find ourselves in. It becomes bigger and bigger as we move through the book, at the same time becoming more serious and dangerous. I loved it, and the ending is terrific, if maybe a bit slow.
I really enjoyed the world-building, because it leaves a lot to be explained and desired. You don’t get a complete rundown, you don’t get everything served to you. You learn it. Through stories by today’s inhabitants of the world, by how they talk, what they wear. This makes it become much more alive, at least to me, because it’s so organic. No one is stopping in their tracks to tell you the great histories of this place, from A to Z, you have to pay attention and pick it up yourself.
I already mentioned The Witcher, but if I was to compare it to anything else, it’s a mix between The Hobbit and A Song of Ice and Fire; with the beautiful adventure of the first and the intricate, political thrills of the second. It is really one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while, and I highly recommend it. Even with a few easily overlooked errors, it’s amazing.