This is a novel by Lorina Stephens.
Full disclosure: I am a member of SFCanada of which Lorina is also a member. I don’t really know, other than through SFCanada’s very interesting discussion list.
Overall I found the novel to be an interesting journey through a land rife with political turmoil. Initially I was a little overwhelmed by a profusion of odd names, such as Prima Violina Pallavicini di Negli, Principessa Viviana Pontiaro ni Valerio, and Principe Aldo Valerio all in the third paragraph/first page of the novel. This is not an uncommon practice for fantasy novels and I quickly came to understood who the various characters were and what their roles were in this Italian flavored fantasy world.
The story had many interesting concepts, such as the arcossi bows which are laminated from the bones of the dead, and the practice of ancestor worship in the main country. The general story is that Simare is a smaller nation under weak governing, hemmed in between two ‘superpowers’. Its struggle for survival and independence seems about at an end. It falls to Sylvio, a banished minister and bowyer, to rectify the fallen kingdom.
The novel had good action and reasonably strong characters and kept my interest throughout, I finished it in a couple days.
My only real complaint with the story is at times there are traces of anachronisms, or words, that appear to be out of place. I mark up appear because this can be subjective territory and the reason I am so sensitive to it is because of my years of reviewing dialog for BioWare — this was something that we focused on, because we felt the use of the wrong words could jar the player out of the experience.
Again these are subjective and there are various levels of anachronisms, from the obvious (to me) to others that might not actually be anachronisms, but seem to be (confusing, eh?). For example, the phrase “red tape” was used in the novel and this really pulled me out of the narrative. But then I did a check on Wikipedia and the phrase seems to have origins as far back as the 16th century (surprised me), so one could make the argument that it was appropriately used. But if the ‘most people’ were likely to react negatively to the use of the word (which is one of many advantages of having a quality assurance department in a game studio), it would be best if it were rephrased. Anyways, I think some of these anachronisms worked against the world-building for me, but different readers will probably have different experiences.
All in all a fun read.
– Brent Knowles