It’s the kind of bar where they keep the lights down low so you can’t see how murky the beer is. The air is thick and the wine thin.
You stumble down the steps, make your way through the clusters of clientele, wondering why it had to be this particular establishment; when a chair is thrust in your path and almost sends you flying. In your confusion, you stutter an apology to the chair and dare a glance up at the perpetrator. A figure is slouched in the gloom, flickering candlelight illuminates a dagger at a waist, a glint in an eye.
“You look like you need a story,” a husky voice declares.
“Who, me? Oh, thank you, no, I’m just lookin-”
“Sit. I have a tale for you. Of sell-swords and gods, mages and magic awakened in the dark. A family torn apart, a kingdom stolen. You’ll travel the length and breadth of this world; from a road of glass under a desert sun, to the snow kissed tops of mountains. From a pirate’s den, to a forest where anything could be waiting for you, to the most remote, god forsaken rock in a sea of mists. Can you put your life in the hands of the Graces?”
This book has consumed me.
Usually, I’ll write my reviews immediately after having read the book, but in the case of Jen Williams’ The Copper Promise, I had to leave it a few days. Otherwise, this review would have been the equivalent of high pitched squealing and arm flapping and demands that you read it immediately.
And I am desperately trying to create a veneer of respectability and professionalism.
So – deep breath – let’s try and approach this with some kind of coherence, without giving anything anyway…
Firstly, what can you expect from The Copper Promise? It is your archetypal fantasy, with so very many boxes ticked; pirates, sell-swords, knights, revenging lords, mythical creatures, mages, wizards, tricksters, demons, gods, wise old women, rogues, knife fights, magic duels, castles, temples…
So if any of those float your boat then you’re good to go.
But to go into more detail… The writing immediately caught my attention (only partly because my name appeared on the first page; I never see my name in books! Except TP’s Light Fantastic). It’s such a well constructed book; not too heavy handed on the exposition, with pacing that just doesn’t quit. You are immediately thrown into the action, and it doesn’t ever let up. Williams has a wonderful way with words; she has a colourful way of expressing things and a knack for avoiding cliches which I loved. She does a fantastic job of entreating to your senses throughout the book, which leaves you utterly immersed;
Now he smelled like a dog left to vomit itself to death in a barrel of offal
It’s quite a vivid image, isn’t it.
Once the writing had drawn me, the thing that gripped me and ultimately kept me devouring the book was the characters. They are complex enough to be interesting, human enough to be relatable, and so much fun. Williams creates little nuances and quirks which were wonderful to read;
“I am vengeance,” said A Character, and immediately felt vaguely foolish.
I’ve always wondered if characters feel daft when they say things like that.
This is the first book of a trilogy, and yet the characters develop and evolve a great deal by the time we reach the end. There were moments I was genuinely worried about characters and the paths they were treading, morally and otherwise. There were a particular group of characters whose evolution I loved following and I cannot wait to read how they’re further developed.
Finally I’d like to just talk about Williams’ world building in this book. It’s astounding. And again I think it’s why I found the book so immersive; the scenery was so diverse, there were so many different cultures. It’s what you come to expect from a fantasy novel, thanks to the likes of A Song of Ice and Fire et al. But Williams does it so well here, the range of landscapes are easy to picture and find yourself in.
Please go and read this book now.
You can find The Copper Promise on Book Depository.
Purchasing books through the above link supports this blog.