Following the overthrow of the pretender Emperor and the end
of a disastrous war with its neighbour Thrandor, the empire
of Shandar finds itself at a crossroads in its development;
its new Emperor, General Surabar, is not of noble blood, creating
dissent amongst the established ruling class. Against this
background Femke, an imperial spy, is chosen to act as ambassador
to the court of Thrandor, but Femke has other problems. During
the fall of the previous regime, Femke had bested and professionally
embarrassed Shalidar, a member of the Guild of Assassins.
Now she must journey to a potentially hostile country not
knowing when and where Shalidar will strike...
Spy is the new novel by Mark Robson, not to be confused
with the gent of the same name who directed Earthquake
and Von Ryan's Express. Having previously found success
with his Darkweaver series of books, Spy is
the first book in his Imperial series. I never read
the first four books, but did look them up and was a little
perturbed to see that they were rated for the 10+ age group.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Spy
wasn't just another teenage sword and sorcery juvenile paint
by numbers effort.
narrative is well constructed, with the many plot twists growing
out of the unfolding design. It was nice to read something
which didn't lay down the plot threads like Trans Atlantic
power lines so that you have worked out the whole book by
page fifty. If you want to get the whole story then you'll
have to read to the end. The book contains a nice little map,
though to be honest it's somewhat redundant as the action
only really takes place in two locations, possibly it's included
for the following two books which will hopefully open up the
world and make it seem a bigger place.
Characterisation is well thought out, with the various players
having their own voices and motivations. At first, when I
thought that this was more juvenile fare, I thought that the
choice of a young woman as the main protagonist was a strange
one, as those type of books are usually aimed at teenage boys.
However, I found the character of Femke very engaging. Robson
cleverly avoids either portraying her as weak and girly or
as a testosterone poisoned She Hulk. She is portrayed as a
complex character reacting naturalistically to her circumstances.
one character lets the book down and that is the assassin
Shalidar, who is drawn with a little too heavy of hand, making
him come over more like a Victorian music hall villain.
book felt more of a medieval novel than sword and sorcery;
whilst there are mentions of wizards luckily we don't encounter
them allowing the action to remain firmly focused at the human
over all, a good book which I found most engrossing, it even
got past my personal dislike of silly similar sounding names
- Surbar confronting Shalidar in Shandar - more like she's
sells seashells on the sea shore. Even given that, I look
forward to reading the next two in the series.
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