Stranger Of Tempest by Tom Lloyd
|Book Name:||Stranger Of Tempest|
|Release Date:||June 2016|
If you could judge a book by its cover then Tom Lloyd’s Stranger of Tempest would be one of the finest books of the year, unquestionably. However, we all know that doing this – judging a book by its cover – is a sin. So, instead, you need to read the thousands upon thousands of words inside in order to make your mind up and just hope… really hope… that the humongous demon standing before the dude with the gun on the front cover (left) does make an appearance (spoiler: he does… and YES, he is about as bad as he looks!).
I’ve never considered a career as a mercenary, but, should I ever go down that route, I’d not trust the man/woman who hires me with the promise that ‘this will be an easy job’. I mean, if a job was easy you’d not need me, right? Well, when our protagonist Lynx, a soldier with a regrettable past, runs into a band of mercenaries who promise him said easy job, Lynx knows it is too good to be true and is ready to tell them where to go. However, there’s this girl, a wild, feisty, beautiful girl named Kas who sweetens the deal and has him drop his guard for just a few moments too long. After a night of sex and the realisation that – having just been let out of prison – he could do with some money, company and adventure (maybe some more sex too), Lynx signs up with the crew… just until this mission is complete, anyway.
As for why Lynx is in demand… In addition to years working as a solider (a plus for any mercenary band looking to hire), he owns a mage-gun. A mage-gun is weapon that you load with magic bullets that are made from what is said to be the fragments of broken Gods. The type of gun you own will determine the kind of bullets you can load it with, but the majority will fire elements that will freeze, puncture or explode things. The magical technology that powers the gun (as opposed to mechanical) means that Lloyd is able to insert guns into an epic fantasy setting and equip his heroes with firearms as opposed to swords. This creates an interesting and rare dynamic in a fantasy novel that we should probably see more of. It also means that our heroes have a chance against even the largest monsters and demons, such as the Golantha you see on the front cover.
So, Mage-Gun armed, mercenary crew by his side, Lynx sets of on a mission to rescue a damsel who has apparently been kidnapped. However, upon arrival:
For a damsel in distress, she was rather more spattered with someone else’s blood than Lynx had expected. And naked. Very naked.
‘Well?’ she demanded.
Lynx could only gape a while longer. Finally his words spilled out in an abashed mumble.
‘Um – come to rescue you, Miss’
‘You’ll have to wait,’ she snapped at the knot of mercenaries crowding the doorway. ‘I’m busy.’
And so, it turns out that perhaps there is more to this mission than first appeared (dammit). This woman is far less damsel in distress and more secret agent who has been working undercover. To say much more than that would spoil a couple of the reveals, but I can say that her tongue is as sharp as any of the mercenaries and her abilities and willingness to kill is probably in excess. Did I mention she was beautiful? Anyway, lied to or not, the mercenaries need to get this woman, named Toil, to the person who hired them to save her.
All the answers to the many questions that the book begins to raise are told in a Then and Now set of narratives. If you’ve read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora then it is, essentially, the opposite to that (which was Now and Then).
The Then chapters tell the tale of Lynx coming out of prison and reintegrating back into society. This is a man who has spent a long time behind bars and went away feeling very disillusioned with the world. Very early on in this Then narrative, Lynx and the mercenaries run into a group of knights who are transporting a young girl. The girl cries out to Lynx and the mercenaries for help. With no money in it and a potentially sticky situation with a powerful order should they get involved, the mercenaries are keen to move along. However, Lynx has this pesky sense of honour that means he can’t simply walk away. When Lynx quizzes the knights about where they are taking her and why, they threaten him. Before Lynx knows it he has taken the girl from them and convinced the mercenaries to allow her to travel with them to safety. Who is this girl though? Why were the knights carrying her away? Will the mercenaries protect Lynx and the girl should the knights show up looking to take her back?
The Now chapters, which initially are less frequent, feature the story of Toil, the damsel *cough* agent *cough* who ends up leading Lynx and the mercenaries in a Tolken-esque adventure through some caves where we meet a whole host of interesting and dangerous creatures. Along the way we learn more about the young girl who the mercenaries reluctantly rescued and witness the dysfunctional mercenaries try to work together in order to survive the dangers that await. Although he doesn’t initially trust the people he ends up with, Lynx’s relationship with the flirtatious Kas and the risking of his life to protect the young girl are the beginnings of re-building his life and re-crafting himself as a person.
Tom Lloyd has always been a fantastic writer. However, I feel that Tom’s books have always been a little off trend. This is actually a strength for bloggers such as myself and avid readers who are always on the look out for something new and a little bit different. However, for bookshops and casual readers, who tend to look for ‘a book that is very much like x’, you could argue that this has held him back from reaching the same sales figures as other authors in the genre (which is a shame). With Stranger Of Tempest though, Tom has written a book that is dead on trend and should do very, very well. You’ve got the Mercenary banter that is Abercrombie-esque, you’ve got the Mage-Guns that would fit well in a Sanderson novel, you’ve got huge demons that Peter V. Brett would be proud of and you’ve got an adventure through a strange would that, as I’ve said, feels very Tolkien-esque.
Overall, this is a book I have no trouble in recommending. For those who like their books fast, fun and full of action Stranger Of Tempest has everything you want. For those who like a little more depth, this book has it too; if you want to spend a little more time investing in the history, reflecting on the internal struggles of Lynx, then Lloyd provides more than enough material for you to do so. For me, the characters, their interactions, the relentless battles and constant surprising/exciting reveals meant this is one the best books I’ve read this year. I really hope this is the book that has the more casual SFF readers learning about Tom’s work and picking up his back catalogue (which is equally brilliant).