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Title: Stranger of Tempest
Series: The God Fragments #1
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Lynx fought in the war. But when his leader’s charisma wasn’t enough to overcome his children’s greed, the war machine imploded and now any soldier who fought on the leader’s side is looked down upon and distrusted by all the surrounding countries. Lynx just wants to retire but without money, he can’t do that.
So he hires on with a mercenary group, the Cards. In the process of going to an assignment, Lynx rescues a fellow countryman, a young girl who is a mage, from the clutches of one of the religious orders. The current assignment puts them into direct conflict with said religious order, so the Cards are doubly screwed.
Then their contact publicly kills their mark and forces the group to use their most powerful mage bullets to escape the city. The whole Militia of the Order is now after them and the only way to escape is to go underground through Duegar ruins, which are filled with traps and other such creepy crawlies as has driven men mad. Quadruply screwed.
In the process of fleeing through the underground ruins, they run into the local scary things, then they run into the Order and then everbody runs into The Big Bad Thing. Yeah, that thing on the cover. It eats magic. 7 times screwed over.
The Cards barely survive, make it out and deliver their contact to an out of the way town. She is involved in some nasty politics and after having seen how they conduct themselves, wants to hire the Cards on her master’s behalf without them knowing it. Welcome to the new war boys and girls!
I really enjoyed this. The thing I enjoyed most was the magical bullets that the specially built mage-guns could shoot. With names like “icers”, “sparkers”, “burners”, “earthers”, it reminded me exactly of the Moranth munitions from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I love those munitions and the kinds of guys who use them, These god fragment bullets (hence the name of the series) had the same vibe as the moranth and I loved every second of it.
The second thing I really enjoyed was the balance of worldbuilding and character information with the action. I found that tightrope walked perfectly. I was fed just enough info to keep me satisfied without feeling like Lloyd was info-dumping on me. The action was pretty good too. Mages, magic, mercenaries and whole lot of super creepy, underground, scary creatures that want to, and can, eat you whole. That balrog looking thing on the cover (I’ve included a larger picture you can click if you so desire) is the main “boss” creature but there are plenty of other things too. It’s all good.
Thirdly, I liked the characters. Lynx is a great main character. The older I get, the more life experience I have, the more I want the characters I read about to keep pace with me. Lynx is a scarred and broken man and seeing him struggle is encouraging. He can keep on and he hasn’t given up hope. He’s not expecting rainbows and unicorns, but just waking up in the morning to some hot coffee is an anchor point. The rest of the Cards have real potential. One or two of them are already traitors and I suspect their storyline will end in the next book. Hopefully with some appropriately vicious and brutal ending.
Finally, the Cards. This whole card scheme once again reminded me of the Malazan Master of the Deck and the Houses and Aspects. You have your suites and then your cards within the suite. So you have the Stranger card. It is in the Tempest suite. Hence the title of the book. In many ways Lloyd got some really cool things without all the existential drama so prevalent in the Malazan books. I LIKE that.
The reason I gave this 4 Stars instead of 5 Stars is because of the following two things. First, the profanity. These guys are hardened mercenaries and talk as such. It’s not something I want to overlook though and anyone going into it should be aware. It crossed my radar enough that it became an issue. Second, for whatever reason, when the whole group moved from the town to the underground scene (roughly 40’sh percent of the book), I just didn’t feel the tension the same way. The circumstances were worse, but I never felt like the group as whole was in danger like I did when they were escaping the town and the Religious Order earlier. I can’t put my finger on why exactly and it really makes no sense, but I was able to pin it down to that point.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It gave me all the magical fantasy adventure I wanted and was a good standalone story but with the rest of the series taking shape in the background. A lot of potential without overwhelming me with details I didn’t need for this story. Added my “Favorite” tag to this one!
This review is just over 900 words. So you know I liked this book *smile*