Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: The Horns of Ruin

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers

The Horns of Ruin is a steampunk second world fantasy that is worth checking out.  The novel is set in a massive city of Ash, the seat of the Fraterdom.

The Fraterdom was established a few hundred years ago by three human brothers who became gods: Alexander, Morgan, and Amon.  This is a world where technology, magic, and religion are really indistinguishable, but it definitely has a steampunk feel.

The protagonist is Eva Forge, last Paladin of the cult of the dead god Morgan.  She's the highest warrior of a cult dedicated to a warrior god.  Unfortunately the cult has fallen on hard times and is mostly irrelevant.  But an attack on their leader sends Eva searching for answers through multiple layers of conspiracy.

This is a very well written book.  Although it really throws you into this world with very little explanation, the narrative will eventually get around to explaining everything.  There's a lot of action throughout the novel, and it never bored me or confused me, which is a feat because reading action scenes is not typically my favorite thing.  The characters are well drawn without a lot of time spent explaining who they are.

I have to say one of my favorite things about this book is the character of Eva.  Mostly because she's that rare female character who could just as easily be male and nothing would need to be changed.  She's an incredible warrior, she's not all that bright (the characters around her are frequently smarter than her), she's bitter and angry and not at all friendly.  I really, really like when writers allow female characters to be flawed in ways that aren't gender stereotypes.  But for all her flaws, Eva is likable for her dogged pursuit of truth and her loyalty to her friends and her god.

The steampunk feel of this novel comes from the technology and the environment.  The city of Ash feels simultaneously like a city of crumbling relics and brand new shining technology.  The magic that Eva uses comes from her faith and training, but also from her sword and it's articulated sheath, which I just want to SEE realized.   There's not anything particularly Victorian about this world, but it feels steampunk anyway.  It's a grimy world of steel and crumbling brick, with a lot of swashbuckling action.

As a fantasy novel, this reminds me of some of the best modern fantasy I've read.  In particular I can't help being reminded of N.K. Jemison's work, especially since there is so much focus on gods and the nature of godhood.

In short I highly recommend this book to fans of intricately plotted fantasy with a unique take on magic, religion, and technology.

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