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Web of Eyes by Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle

Web of Eyes by Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle
4.5
Book Name: Web of Eyes
Author: Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle
Publisher(s): Aethon Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: November 13, 2018

If 48 Hours was sword and sorcery.

As a writer in way too many fantasy author groups on Facebook, I saw an early cover for Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle’s Web of Eyes, and knew I wanted to eventually read it. While the new covers each feature one of the three main characters, the original had all three: a warrior, rogue or ranger, and elf mage, plus an ominous drider/Lolth figure (if you’re on this blog, you probably don’t need to be told that this is a centaur, only the lower body is a spider instead of a horse) looming in the background. It screamed heroic fantasy with a Dungeons and Dragons flair.

What I did not expect when reading it was a fantasy version of 48 Hours—the iconic comedy with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte as a cop and a criminal who are forced together, and mayhem and hilarity ensue. The stick-in-the-mud knight and mischievous rogue partnering together is nothing new to fantasy, but I cannot think of one where it is done with better flair.

Thornton is head of the king’s elite guards, Eeyore in his pessimistic disposition, Joan of Arc in his religious fervor, and Rasputin in his unflappable determination. Coming from a humble birth, he is utterly devoted to the king who rose him up out of poverty, and totally faithful to the state religion.

His foil is the thief, Whitney, who is something of a cross between Danny Ocean and Robin Hood: the titular figure of Oceans 11, because he comes up with outrageous plans where he is always two steps ahead, yet can improvise when plans inevitably go south; and Robin Hood in that he essentially has a heart of gold, motivated more by the challenge and the desire for infamy, than by wealth. With his flamboyance, drama, and snappy dialog, Whitney owns the pages to the point where the story doesn’t even matter.

But oh, what a story. The king is dying, and enemies are circling. His son is incompetent since being cursed by the foreign queen’s warlock brother. When the king dies and the prince falls comatose, it is up to Thornton to recover a doll which supposedly houses the prince’s soul. With no idea of where to start, he reluctantly recruits Whitney to help. What follows is twists and turns, where no mansion or fortress is safe from burning down; and it turns out there is more to the religion than the fervent Thornton wants to believe.

The middle of the tale, where the two go their separate ways for a time, it gets a bit muddled, and I do feel the pacing lost some of its momentum. Still, it moves the plot forward, with Whitney reuniting with his childhood friend, the elf magic-user, Sora. She’s a cutter; inasmuch she needs blood to funnel her magic in the vein (see what I did there?) of Aliette de Bodard’s magic system in Servant of the Underworld. They all reunite as the plot threads weave together into a web, for a creepy, yet explosive climax, worthy of these characters’ chemistry.

Where Web of Eyes really stood out to me was the distinct narrative voices. The authors capture Thornton’s dour inner monologue, and Whitney’s flamboyance. I hope Sora turns out to be just as unique if she turns out to be a POV character in books two and three.

Where Web of Eyes came up just a little short for me was the worldbuilding. It’s a prototypical medieval setting, with rebellions, plotting, and a pantheistic religion. The magic system doesn’t break new ground, at least not from what I could tell in book one.

Still, Web of Eyes was thoroughly enjoyable and made honorable mention in my Top 10 Fantasy Reads of 2018. I rate it a 9.0 on a scale of 10.

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