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The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams
4.5
Book Name: The Iron Ghost
Author: Jen Williams
Publisher(s): Headline (UK)
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: February 26, 2015 (UK)

Jen Williams’ debut novel, The Copper Promise was one of my personal highlights of 2014. It came out last January, which seems a long time ago now, and The Iron Ghost is the not-long-awaited but eagerly anticipated follow-up, the middle book in the trilogy. Middle books in a series can be difficult; they have to stand alone and provide a satisfactory conclusion, while at the same time furthering the ongoing story arc. It’s not always easy to dodge the dread spectre of middle-book-sag. And the weight of expectation lays heavy across the shoulders of The Iron Ghost, as The Copper Promise was so well received and such an enjoyable read.

After their defeat of the dragon-god Y’Ruen, the trio of mercenaries who call themselves the Black Feather Three find that demand for their services as swords for hire is high, and it’s the lure of money (the copper promise) that entices them to the northern city of Skaldshollow, high in the mountains. They have been asked to retrieve a stolen artefact, but this relatively simple job takes on multiple levels of complication as our sellswords find themselves embroiled in a war between the stone-crafting Skalds and their neighbours and rivals, the cold-blooded Narhl. They are fighting an ideological war for the very soul of the mountains, in a land steeped in ancient magic, while below the surface of the earth something even more ancient, more magical, and more evil, is stirring…

The Copper Promise hinted at hidden depths to the Black Feather Three, and The Iron Ghost goes even deeper, exploring their tentative relationships, with each other, and even with the mountains that crowd around Skaldshollow. Wydrin’s relationship with her living-rock companion, the werken Mendrick, who she finds herself bonded to in an act of bravado is particularly affecting. It exposes a side of her only hinted at before, a soft core beneath the veneer of cynicism and mouthiness that she wears as an extension to her boiled-leather armour. Whatever her hidden depths reveal, Wydrin is the most courageous, the most obnoxious, the most lovable pirate-turned-sword-for-hire in the whole of Ede, and one of the best characters in fantasy in recent years. Long may she drink, fight and burp.

We also go deeper into the relationship between Sebastian and the Brood Sisters, born from his blood and that of the dragon-god Y’Ruen. They think of themselves as his daughters and now as they learn more of the world they have been born and abandoned into they are growing, stretching, to be human. There is conflict between them, these women who were once all the same, and it’s both fascinating and dreadful to witness them growing apart. Sebastian is a decent man, a fallen knight who has to live with the burden of the terrible mistakes he has made while trying to keep the Brood, and the people they encounter on the road, safe. He finds some happiness in Skaldshollow, but it’s not without its price.

Lord Aaron Frith, the new-forged mage, is gradually thawing, but he still walks the tightrope between his desire to act for good, and his desire for power which could lead to his doom. And his long-denied desire for Wydrin is also beginning to surface here. She could be his salvation, or she could lead him deeper into trouble than ever. This one could go either way.

It might have been difficult for Jen Williams to live up to the, errr, promise, of The Copper Promise, but The Iron Ghost is just as magical, just as action packed, just as clever and just as much fun as its predecessor. If you like sword fights, dragons, assassins, lost cities, quests, crazed mages, wandering statues, true love lost and found (and lost again), you’ll find a great deal to enjoy here. Jen Williams’ writing, for all that it deals with serious issues, has such an irrepressible sense of fun about it that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to love it.

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Rating: 9.8/10 (6 votes cast)
The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams, 9.8 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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6 Comments

  1. […] of Jen Williams rather splendid “The Iron Ghost” is up now for your reading pleasure on Fantasy Faction, and I’m hoping to be interviewing Jen on Making Things Up For A Living some time between now […]

  2. Do I have to read Copper Promise first? Because I have this book, but not Copper Promise…

    • Lucy Hounsom says:

      It would be a crime not to read The Copper Promise because you’d miss out on the way the characters so beautifully develop. But the books are unusual in that each is a contained adventure without an overbearing epic fantasy plotline. It’s why I compared them initially to D&D where each quest is a separate adventure, through which the characters grow and change. And of course events / sub-characters in The Copper Promise do make an appearance in The Iron Ghost so it’s preferable if you’re familiar with their backstory.

  3. […] author of her own excellent fantasy series and Bristolcon wizard, says very lovely things about The Iron Ghost: “The Iron Ghost is just as magical, just as action packed, just as clever and just as much […]

  4. […] On Making Things Up For A Living today I’m very happy to be interviewing Jen Williams. Jen is the author of “The Copper Promise”, which was one of my favourite new reads of 2014. Her latest novel, “The Iron Ghost” is released through Headline on February 26th – read my review of the novel for Fantasy Faction here. […]

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