“Where is the difference between holy and possessed? I wondered. When does miracle become magic, magic become witchcraft? Is it in the nature of the deed itself, or in the eye of the beholder? Is it decided in the telling after the fact, and if so does it depend on who does that telling?”
Sarcastic and grim dialogues ✓ Immorally Bloody ✓ Atmospheric ✓
What is the Book about?
Soldiers, gangsters, magicians… the dark alleys of the city are fought over who has the say in the taverns, brothels and temples of gambling. The priest Tomas Piety and his people have a simple goal, they want it all, and they want it now.
The war is over, but the problems seem to be just beginning. Priest Tomas returns to Ellinburg with his soldiers and his second-in-command Bloody Anne. But the city has changed, his empire no longer exists. Other criminals have long since taken control of the inns, brothels and gambling and created a dense network of informers. But Tomas wants to take back what was once his. He is building a gang that is unsurpassed in shrewdness and clout. And then there is Billy, a boy who is touched by the goddess and has frightening magical abilities.
Writing Style ★★★☆☆
Tomas Piety, Ailsa, Bloody Anne (I’m sorry, but all the characters are so great that I couldn’t decide)
My thoughts while reading it
Captivating, atmospherically dense and told with pictorial language – the author has succeeded in making a brilliant start to a new fantasy series that makes you want more. The world he creates is warlike, archaic and dark, its people violent and immoral, and that is what makes it so realistic. There is a lot of swearing, fighting and killing, the former soldiers suffer from war traumas and are often difficult to restrain. Ellinburg’s society is largely made up of hard-working artisans, criminals and some decadent low nobles, polytheism reigns. The governor and his city guard are corrupt. The level of education is low, the gap between rich and poor, on the other hand, is wide, the people lead a hard life far from the capital, they cannot afford idealism and naivety. People do not want to live here. And yet the author succeeds in giving his characters each a multi-layered character and very different personalities, and his narrator, Tomas Piety, in particular, impresses with a strong will, morality and assertiveness that I found unusual and very promising in this setting.
Although himself severely traumatised by childhood and war, Piety always manages to motivate his people, they follow him and recognise his claim to leadership, and thus he manages the balancing act between cunning strategist, ruthless fighter, saviour in distress, Robin Hood and even confessor and comforter – I found that really fascinating. Nevertheless, he manages to give deep insights into his soul life and that of his confidants, and this narrative style adds authenticity to the story. In addition, he definitely demonstrates humour, for example by calling his gang “the pious men” in reference to his surname “Piety”, on the one hand a telling name, because indeed his followers are very devout (and superstitious) people despite all the violence, on the other hand of course very ironic.
In the course of the story, Ailsa gains more and more influence, she infiltrates the Pious Men and manipulates Tomas more and more so that he only acts and talks on her orders. I am always a fan of strong female characters and here Peter McLean has created an extraordinarily strong woman who bristles with her intelligence. The other characters are also very well fleshed out and I was particularly taken with Bloody Anne. As the only woman in the Pious Men team, she forms a strong counterpart to the female main character Ailsa, is emotionally closest to Tomas, as they both have the same morals and values, and can also compete with him in terms of intelligence and assertiveness.
Magic also plays a role, as befits a proper fantasy work. It remains in the background for a long time and is more a matter of the mysterious strangers, not the locals. There are no real magicians, just as there are no real doctors. But then it comes into action in the form of the boy Billy. It should be extremely exciting to find out how his story in particular continues.
After finishing reading the first volume, you just want more of this story.
Reading Recommendation? ✓