by Richard Ford

5 stars

‘Welcome to Steelhaven’, says the blurb, and it’s the city that ties the characters together. 7 characters, 7 disparate stories – or so it seems at first. Gradually, these lives begin to mesh and weave together, as you know they must.
The characters are the bread, butter and jam of the thing and they are really good. Each character is so well drawn: there’s never any confusion as to who each is, even when in disguise, even when (I think) there’s supposed to be ambiguity and a touch of surprise – there’s really is no surprise because everyone is so like themselves. The characterisation is that good.
The story is not over-wrought or trying too hard to be ‘epic’. It has the usual fantasy setting, Medievalish in tone, but there’s a strong thread of realism, Steelhaven feels like a real place in a real time. There is magic, but it’s not high fantasy – in the sense there are no elves or dragons (thank goodness). This magic has mystery that is intricately woven into the plot, it’s not a device, a get out of jail card, the story is far more subtle than that.
In short, this is a very finely crafted, excellently written, old-fashioned adventure yarn set in a gritty, realistic, fantasy world, and the whole thing driven by the best set of characters I’ve read all year. Excellent stuff and highly recommended.