Darien: Empire of Salt
by C.F. Iggulden3 out of 5
From acclaimed historical novelist Conn Iggulden, DARIEN is an epic new fantasy series of spellbinding imagination.
TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.
The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.
Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city - Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt - and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.
Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made - and lost - in Darien.
A land of magic, mystery, noble families and beggars. Darien is on unstable ground, and ready to explode.
I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
This has all the makings of a good fantasy story. So much so, that it felt like it was working hard to tick the boxes.
You have the hunter. A man happy with the simple life, training his only son in the art of 'reaching', unaware of his full potential.
You have the gun-slinger. The man that never misses, and keeps you guessing where his loyalties lie.
You have the General and his army. A man from a lesser-noble-family, with big ambitions, and no morals to stop him.
You have the ex-fighter. The man with the mysterious past, who cares for the orphaned lads of Darien.
You have the peacekeeper. A man who is happy to play his part in keeping Darien safe, but is concerned with his own future and fortune.
You have Arthur. A mysterious young boy who can't talk, but mimics skills.
And you have the King. A feeble man who is constantly paranoid, since the murder of his father.
Yay for all the women. But that's a different matter. (Nancy and Lady what's-er-name both have their part to play, but... yeah.)
That's a lot of characters, and the book follows them almost equally.
It's it just me, or has Game of Thrones set the precedent that epic fantasy stories have to have lots of different pieces in play, like a chess set?
Unfortunately, this had all the emotion and intrigue as chess.
The story is well-written. It doesn't surprise me that Iggulden comes from a historical-writing background. There is a lot of detail, and facts are presented for each individual, and how they live their lives. It feels very real and well-supported.
But I was bored. The narrative is spread over too many people, all of whom have the same voice, and are hard to distinguish between.
Because there's jumping between characters, I only half-remember, it was hard to feel any connection or sympathy to them.
The story is solely driven by the plot, to get the chess pieces in the correct position.
None of our main characters is in the thick of it because of their own design. They have either been bullied, blackmailed, or stumbled onto the scene.
The hunter has agreed to do something for the General, to earn the safety of his family. The gun-slinger has to accompany him, to make sure he carries it out (pointless, I didn't see why the hunter was needed).
The ex-fighter was following his own selfish need to nurse an old insult, which brought Arthur to everyone's attention.
The peacekeeper was trying to find treasure, and ended up having to help Nancy, as she sought revenge.
And the king? We see next to nothing of him. It's just a given that he's a weak fool.
Rook to Knight 4.
The Nancy that I've mentioned isn't one of the many main narrators, but it one of the main characters from the peacekeeper's point of view. She has an inborn ability that makes her priceless (she nullifies any magic, or magical object in her presence). It's something she does unconsciously, and wasn't even aware she was doing it - which I think is perfect for the tone of this book.
She agrees to help the peacekeeper, for a price, and expresses how she wants to get her revenge on an important city official. But she wants someone else to carry it out for her. She goes from blinkered, to blubbering mess; and despite how amazing her ability becomes, she's a tool for everyone else.
She started out as a promising character, but quickly became a cog in the machine.
It's well-written, and I think a lot of this will come down to personal taste.
This book isn't for me, and I won't be continuing with the series.