Swords of Haven by Simon R. Green
|Book Name:||Swords of Haven|
|Author:||Simon R. Green|
|Formatt:||Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Mystery / Short Stories|
|Release Date:||June 6, 2006|
Swords of Haven introduces us to Hawk and Fisher; they’re husband and wife, the only truly honourable cops in Haven, a violent and corrupt city filled with monsters, wizards, thieves and politicians. This volume from 2006 collects the first three stories – Hawk & Fisher, Winner Take All, and The God Killer – published between 1990 and 1991. As well as this qualification for Classics Corner, I’d heard much about the author’s Deathstalker series and – the clincher – once took part in a Dungeons and Dragons scenario based on the first book.
Hawk & Fisher introduces our two protagonists, describing them in plenty of detail and showing them in action as the dynamic duo they are. Already, the class of their banter starts to show, a great mix of married couple and police partners that, while somewhat mismatched, complement each other. After this, they’re given the assignment that fills the rest of the story: they are ordered to guard a politician while he attends a party at a wizard’s house. Along with an ensemble of warriors, more politicians and magic-users, they find themselves having to solve a ‘locked room’ murder mystery, one that’s enhanced by magic and the supernatural. The outcome is clever, and could be seen as a little contrived, although all the clues are there. (If you’re interested, my Dungeons and Dragons party couldn’t solve it, either…)
The second story, Winner Takes All, sees our heroes being introduced in great detail again (they do look different to the couple on the cover, I have to say), then being given an assignment to guard a politician. So far, it’s all very similar to the first book, although this time the setting expands to encompass a big area of Haven itself, showing us the lowlifes, the wealthy, and the various factions that are vying for power. Sadly, the surprises in this story are few and far between, and it falls slightly flat after the ingenuity of the first. On the plus side, the characterisation is top-notch, and the author allows us into the heads of villains as well as heroes.
The God Killer ups the fantasy tenfold, dealing with more wizards and the multitude of gods that inhabit the realm, mostly on the Street of Gods in Haven itself. It borders on the surreal at times, but is sufficiently grounded by Hawk and Fisher, who find themselves initially as baffled as the reader. Thankfully, as the story progresses it coalesces into a tightly-knit whodunit, sufficiently different to what has gone before, with motives other than the power of politics. It’s much more heart-warming, too, touching on the nature of faith, in both deities and fellow human beings.
All of these stories are comparatively short – averaging at around 180 pages each, they’re an ideal read for a rainy afternoon – which means that the plots are kept tight, our heroes always moving from one clue to the next. It’s a format that admittedly works well, but extra length could have benefited each tale, adding in a few more red herrings and giving our main characters a chance to develop more; as it is, it feels we are merely scratching the surface of this world. That said, Hawk and Fisher shine; a duo that are intelligent and witty, yet can still handle themselves in a fight, of which there a plenty.
With regard to the fantasy element, there’s little new ground broken (a sign of the times from when they were written, perhaps?) but there doesn’t need to be; where Green captures the imagination is by mixing the genre with the police procedural drama that has dominated our TV screens for decades. A few times it can seem jarring – one character mentions Christianity as his religion while another is referred to as a ‘forensic magician’, making one wonder if Haven’s world is somehow tied in with our own – but for the most part, the author pulls it off very well.
Throughout all this, the characters and the situations in which they find themselves are always entertaining, ensuring that the reader is constantly having fun, while trying to second-guess the writer. Given the apparent success of genre TV at the moment, I can’t help thinking that these three refreshing and diverting stories would make excellent episodes of what would be a unique detective show, starring an engaging pair of heroes. Castle meets Game of Thrones, anyone?