This edition: Kindle
Published: February 13th 2014
My rating: 5/5
There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…
Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.
For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.
But sometimes there is truth in rumour.
Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.
Epic fantasy adventure stories are, in this day and age, very old hat. To put it mildly. If you’re writing such a story, then the chances are really good that you could play it safe, tick the right boxes and still have a book that sells well on your hands. Fantasy fans eat it up even now, right?
You could do that – or you could take that premise, stick it in a blender with modern thinking and – gasp! – a female lead character who pulls every pound of her weight, roll it out and see what you get.
If you’re Jen Williams, evidently what you get is a bloody fabulous result.
Wydrin of Crosshaven is the star of a wonderful show, for me. The self-styled Copper Cat isn’t your average chainmail-bikini-wearing mercenary. She plays second fiddle to no man, not even the two she ends up travelling with for much of this book. She’s coarse, rude, clever, fierce and, at times, a bit exasperating – and she had me hooked. And this is why this review is going into my Rewriting The Script file.
The Copper Promise makes a star of Wydrin, yes, but that’s not all that it does. The whole package is a winner – I loved Wydrin, but a large part of the reason why is all the chemistry and sparking interaction between her, Sebastien and (waggle those eyebrows) Lord Frith. Now, before anyone can frown at that last part, yes, there is chemistry between them, but fear not. Nobody is putting Wydrin in a dress or on a fainting couch anytime soon. (Unless there’s a con job and some pretty pennies involved, perhaps, and even then I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea was her own.)
She’s all right, that one.
Then there are her companions – Lord Aaron Frith, the one with the money and a serious grudge to bear, and Sir Sebastien, the knight in disgrace. Both men carry their share of the weight of a story that, quite frankly, delighted me. They’re saving the world, but they’re all doing it for their own – wildly differing – reasons. Those reasons bring them together, split them up and bring them together again, and it’s all done seamlessly and with wonderful skill by their writer. And the threat that unites them in the end?
Holy crap, dudes. Talk about epic.
Again, there are shades of a much-used (and much-loved) trope here, but as with just about every other aspect of the story and characters, Williams gives it a fresh and gleeful twist. She winds it up and lets it go, and the result is something undeniably punchy and fun.
And epic. Did I mention it’s epic? Because it’s epic.
Really, though, the key word here is Fun. I think that, in a time where everyone seems to be competing to see who can kill off the highest number of characters, push this boundary, break that taboo, sometimes what gets left by the wayside is that one thing that, just maybe, ought to be the reason we still get books like this one on the shelves – it’s supposed to be fun. Kudos galore to Ms Williams, she never loses sight of that here. You can write this stuff in such a way that it feels fresh, new and exciting, while still showcasing the best of the familiar aspects of fantasy, without having to be Very Very Serious. Maybe it’s a delicate balancing act, but that’s just one more point in this writer’s favour.
If any of this is what you’re looking for in an epic fantasy, then trust me when I say that you do not want to let this one pass you by.
(It’s kind of epic.)