The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams
Please note The Iron Ghost is a sequel to The Copper Promise, so it is entirely likely that this review may contain minor spoilery type stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.
When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…
Last year Jen Williams delivered a rock solid debut in the form of The Copper Promise. Chock full of engaging characters, a cracking plot and more action than you could shake a big pointy stick at it was a successful reimagining of traditional fantasy tropes injected with a modern sensibility. A year has passed and the good news is that the sequel has arrived. The Black Feather Three have returned for more mayhem!
Wydrin remains ever incorrigible, Sir Sebastian endeavours to maintain a noble life and Lord Aaron Frith plays his cards close to his chest. As I mentioned when I looked at book one, it’s all about the characters in Williams’ writing. The three main leads are like a wonderful weird dysfunctional little family. They bicker and they squabble, but when the chips are down they are always there for one another. Wydrin is chaotic and lives for the moment, Sebastian is driven by always doing the right thing (irrespective of the personal cost) and Frith seeks enlightenment and understanding.
Joah Demonsworn is an intriguing new character. It would be a mistake to dismiss him as just the big bad of the piece. The further you read, the more you appreciate the layers that have been crafted into his personality. Yes, he could undoubtedly be classed as entirely evil, but he also has an inquisitiveness and hunger for knowledge driving him to perform evil acts. There is always an explanation, a rationale, behind his actions. It’s nice to see that extra level of insight into a character’s motivations. There is nothing worse than an adversary being bad just for the sake of it. The scenes where Joah and Frith are facing off against one another are particularly good. In many ways Joah is a mirror of Frith, and the darkness that resides in one highlights the darkness that dwells within the other.
It’s also nice to see the repercussions of events from book one still being felt. Sebastian is still dealing with the fallout from the climax of their last adventure. He has certain obligations that can’t just be hidden away and forgotten about. Too often novels feel entirely isolated from the predecessors, but Williams has judged this just right. Remnants of the brood army are still around and making their presence felt.
I forget; did I mention that there are dragons? There are dragons! Oh, and demons and all other manner of magical creations. In the world of Ede even the mountains are alive. A countryside littered with all these mythical beasts and warring factions gives the author ample opportunity to create some fantastic eye popping fights. I think it is fair to say that things get violent and bloody from time to time. Hardly surprising really, especially when demons are involved. There is one scene I keep remembering that leaves a genuinely lasting impression, there is biting!
If you enjoyed The Copper Promise then I don’t doubt for a second that you are going to enjoy The Iron Ghost. If you haven’t read The Copper Promise (I honestly can’t think way that would be the case), then you need to read it and then immediately follow that up with this sequel. The Iron Ghost confirms what I already suspected, that Jen Williams is a new voice in fantasy fiction well worth listening to.
The Iron Ghost is published by Headline and is available now.