Spotlight on the Backlist: The Relic Guild Trilogy

Welcome to the first post in my new occasional series! Well, it’s intended to be a series, but the last one I started didn’t fare too well, so we’ll see how this one goes quite frankly.

The idea behind these posts is to give older titles a bit of love. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that I’m always attracted to new shinies instead of giving older books a bit of attention, particularly on the blog when you have a pile of review copies which need to be read and reviewed. So this series will highlight some of my old favourites, as well as books that have been around for a while that I haven’t read.

We’re going to start with a series that falls into the latter category. When I started going to conventions more regularly, in 2014, there was a lot of chatter about The Relic Guild by Edward Cox. Ed was actually a participant at some of these conventions, and I remember listening to him talk about his book, which was his debut, and thinking ‘oh, I need to read that’, and then I didn’t. Because I’m a terrible person whose TBR pile was already a mountain. I did buy it on kindle, but see above re new shinies taking priority. So when I got an email from Gollancz (in August. I’m so sorry this is so late!) offering the chance to read and review the entire trilogy, just as I was thinking of starting this series of posts, well, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m very glad I did jump at the chance!

(The Relic Guild Trilogy was gifted to me for free by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review)

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

People, the lack of love for this series is criminal! It’s so good! I’m not sure in which subsection of fantasy it should be classified – probably epic, but that doesn’t feel quite right as Labrys Town is dark and dirty – but however you want to class it, if you’re a fantasy fan, this series should be on your TBR. I raced through all three books and loved the characters and the settings. I especially loved seeing the younger versions of the Guild back in the last days of the war and realising how decisions made 40 years earlier had affected the present.

Labrys Town is a really interesting setting. Although The Cathedral of Known Things and The Watcher of Dead Time open things out somewhat, Labrys Town is always the centre of the story, and it’s a fascinating place. Cut off from all outside influences, surrounded by demons, and essentially reliant on one man for 40 years, it’s exactly the town you would imagine would develop under those circumstances. While it’s not somewhere I would like to live, it’s definitely the sort of place I like to read about! I also found the effect that living in a place like that had had on our heroes was interesting – the present day versions are much harder and tougher, not to mention more bitter and cynical, than the people we meet in the earlier story, and while I think this happens to everyone with age, to some extent, it was clear the circumstances of the last 40 years, and of course the losses they’d experienced during the war, had had a huge impact.

The story was well paced over the three books, and the two different chronologies worked very effectively in building the world and emphasising the terror engendered by the villains. There were many points in the plot where I couldn’t see a way out, and obviously that heightened the tension to almost unbearable levels. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty good at seeing where a book is going, but this series had some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting at all, and I love it when that happens!

I’m so glad Gollancz offered me the chance to read The Relic Guild trilogy. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed to read the series. I’m not sure I’d have ever got around to it otherwise, and I would definitely be missing out – as are you if you haven’t picked it up yet either!

4/5

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Book Review: The Ruin of Kings

A free copy of this book was gifted to me by Tor UK/Pan Macmillan and Jamie Lee Nardone in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons is a difficult book to review. The basic storyline and the characterisation are excellent, but kind of hamstrung by the execution. I started reading an e-ARC from Netgalley and ended up having to beg for a physical copy of the book, because I just couldn’t keep track of what was happening on my kindle. Fortunately, the experience of reading it did improve with a physical copy, and I enjoyed the book very much, but I am hoping the next book in the series is written in a different format!

ruin of kings

What if you weren’t the hero?

Kihrin grew up on tales of long-lost princes and grand quests – despite being raised in a brothel, making money as a musician and street thief. One day he overreaches by targeting an absent noble’s mansion, hunting for jewels. There he witnesses a prince performing a terrifying dark-magic ritual. Kihrin flees but he’s marked by a demon and his life will never be the same again.

That night also leads to him being claimed as a lost son of that prince’s royal house. But far from living the dream, Kihrin finds himself practically a prisoner, at the mercy of his new family’s power plays and ambitions. He must also discover why his murderous father finds Kihrin more valuable alive than dead. Soon Kihrin attempts to escape his relative’s dangerous schemes, but finds himself in far deeper waters.

He becomes tangled in a plot to kill the Emperor, rob the Imperial Vaults, claim a god-slaying sword and free bound demons to wreak havoc across the land. Kihrin also discovers the old tales lied about many things: dragons, demons, gods, prophecies, true love – and the hero always winning. But maybe Kihrin isn’t fated to save the empire. He’s destined to destroy it.

That synopsis makes it all seem so straightforward, doesn’t it? It’s not. It is, as I said above, a cracking story but it’s told from two different points of view, on different timelines, in alternating chapters. Yeah. It also has footnotes. Now I love a good footnote, but combined with the alternating viewpoints, these just made everything confusing. Partly this was my own fault – there’d been a gap between me starting it on my kindle and carrying on in paperback and I’d forgotten who was writing the footnotes. But I do also think it was inherently confusing anyway, especially as the storyline involves multiple instances of body swapping. One of the alternating viewpoints is Talon, a mimic who eats people and absorbs their memories, personality and the ability to look like them. She’s using her stolen memories to tell the early part of Kihrin’s story, while he tells the more recent story. (His part of the story also involves people swapping bodies, which actually confused me more than Talon’s tale!)

It’s certainly a different style of storytelling, but I’m not sure it served the story terribly well. Which is a shame. Once I’d mostly got my head around the different chronologies (which did start to make sense, especially in hindisght) and who was who, I really enjoyed The Ruin of Kings. It has a full, vibrant cast of characters and excellent worldbuilding, to the extent that three days after finishing it, my brain is still partly in that world. I loved Teraeth, the Black Brotherhood and Kihrin’s time on the island in particular. Once I was into it it was difficult to put down, as most chapters left on a cliffhanger and I needed to know what happened next. I still need to know what happens next and I will be reading the next book as soon as it comes out!

So The Ruin of Kings is epic fantasy as epic as it comes I suppose. Despite my difficulties with the format, I don’t want to put anyone off reading it, because it is a great story, which is why I rated it as highly as I did. It’s definitely worth picking up, but I would recommend a physical copy if it’s possible for you – kindles and foototes don’t mix!

4/5