The twenty or so people who read it must feel underwhelmed. Sorry folks!
So a week back I finished the second of two books in the latest series by Will Wight.
The series, called "The Elder Empire", currently consists of two parallel stories:
- "Of Sea and Shadow"
- "Of Shadow and Sea"
Set in a world of high seas, black powder weapons, weird magic, and a somewhat... Lovecraftian... theme, the stories tell tales of events after the death of the Emperor of the mighty Aurelian Empire that saw the liberation of humans from the inhuman and godlike Elders and their horrific Elderspawn.
"Of Sea and Shadow" tells the tale from Calder Marten's point of view. A member of the Navigator's Guild and captain of The Testament, a magical ship with some truly disturbing properties, Calder is also a Reader - a person capable of reading the Intent of an object and manipulating it to his ends (essentially this world's "magic"). With his impulsive wife, eccentric crew, and strange pet Shambles, Calder finds himself accepting a pair of passengers for a well-paying job.
He should probably have reconsidered.
Things go horribly wrong, not to surprisingly, and Calder finds himself at odds with the mysterious Shera, an apparent assassin for the Consultants Guild.
You see, the Empire may no longer have an Emperor, but it still has its guilds:
- The Am'haranai, also known as "The Consultants" who fix problems and have eyes everywhere.
- The Blackwatch, who kill Elders and Elderspawn and use their powers for the good of the Empire.
- The Greenwardens, who seek to preserve Kameira, the strange hybrid beasts that roam the world with their strange powers.
- The Champions, warriors without peer who are bonded with Kameira for incredible powers.
- The Imperial Guard, charged with protecting the Emperor's person and - with the Emperor gone - seek to raise a new one.
- Kanatalia, also known as the Guild of Alchemists, they make stuff.
- The Luminian Order, who seeks to cleanse the world of the taint of the Elders.
- The Magisters, the most powerful Readers in the Empire.
- The Navigators, sea captains, con artists, and pirates who are the only ones capable of navigating the deadly Aion Sea.
- The Witnesses, they who record all.
"Of Sea and Shadow" tells the tale of Shera, a young foundling brought into the Consultants Guild as a "Gardener", the never-spoken-of assassins in service to the Aurelian Empire.
Shera isn't any assassin, though. She's one of three hand-picked and trained by the Emperor himself. She knows better than anyone the dangers of someone trying to raise an Emperor. So Shera is tasked to deal with the passengers of one Captain Calder Marten of the Navigators Guild.
And that's when things go truly sour.
Both stories are solid and enjoyable. I liked the brash, daring, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants antics of Calder Marten and I have to say I absolutely LOVE his "pet", Shambles. His crew are fascinating oddballs and I loved the twists and turns as Calder's past started to come to light.
Some parts of "Of Sea and Shadow" felt a little jarring. Some deus-ex-machina he pulled out seemed forced, but that didn't dim my enjoyment.
I have to say I narrowly prefer "Of Shadow and Sea" and seeing things from the perspective of the lazy-but-oh-so-deadly Shera, who can fall asleep anywhere and is not someone you want upset.
Will Wight wove together two complimentary and fascinating tales. I can't wait for the next books in the series.