Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick


Title: The Boy With The Porcelain Blade
Author: Den Patrick
Release date: 20/3/2014
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria. Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself.

My thoughts: This book was not what I was expecting from the blurb and opening chapter. It starts at a critical point in the main character Lucien's life, as he faces the final test that will complete his training as a soldier. It goes horribly wrong, and Lucien is soon exiled from the city. Demesne is a city split into elite houses, each with a speciality, ruled by a king no one has seen for decades. Lucien is one of the 'Orfani', treated to an exceptional education & living in luxury, but separated by some kind of abnormality - in Lucien's case, he has black fingernails & no ears.

The book alternates from chapter to chapter between the present where he deals with the consequences of exile, and the past where we learn more about him, from when he was a small child gradually getting closer to the present.  While some of these flashbacks were interesting, I did find myself skimming through several of them, wanting to get back to the excitement of the present and the maturity of 18 year old Lucien rather than the more childish version in the other chapters.

I felt like it took until the second half of the book for the story to start living up to the promise of the first couple of chapters, with the intrigue and the challenge of a system finally coming out. That's where it really started to pick up for me and I felt far more engaged. Lucien's journey across the city, through the creepy sanatoria, the oubliette, and onwards, trying to rescue & save his friend before she is co-opted in to another gruesome experiment, kept me on the edge of my seat.

The other thing worth commenting on is that this is quite a creepy story. I'd almost class it as horror rather than fantasy. There are a lot of spiders, so I found myself picking my feet up from the floor while I read some parts! If I'd been watching this on tv, there are a lot of places where I think I would have been peeking around a cushion at the screen.

While it takes a little while to get to reach the potential set up by the first chapter and the blurb, 'The Boy With The Porcelain Blade' is a gripping fantasy story which will keep you up past your bedtime and probably sleeping with the light on. I look forward to the second book in the trilogy.

Overall, I give The Boy With The Porcelain Blade 7/10.

-Ailsa

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