The Tale of Gurion Thricebound (cover)

Gurion is a long book. I need to get that out there right now. Definitely one of the longest I have ever read for the SPFBO, and I’ve been at this for three years. That’s…erm…90 books or so. I probably also need to say that the writing, the sentence structure, is smooth and easy to read. Unlike quite a few of this year’s books, I didn’t have to go back and re-read a sentence a few times just to get a handle on what was supposed to be going on. This is a huge plus for me and the author, Angela Holder, needs some deserved praise for this.

Gurion Thricebound is a wizard/mage/priest – the terms are interchangeable in this world. Raised above the common folk, the wizards live a life of luxury and health. Able to heal every wound with a modicum of power, never falling prey to disease and waited on hand and foot, life is good. At this point, if it weren’t for the first person and the prologue that sets up an event you wait a long time for, you would be hating the titular character. Here is a society based on the abuse of power, position and built around slavery. Not slavery in the Trade Triangle sense, but of servitude with no chance to rise to prominence. The more you read, the more the world begins to feel uncomfortable.

And that is the point. I don’t think it is an accident that the book is written this way. The author has a point to make about power and its abuse. She wants us to realise how wrong this all is. Gurion begins to see the world for what it is, and to fight against it. Not in any really active sense, and for me this is where the story starts to lose my interest. It takes so long for there to be much in the way of tension, of conflict and for anything to actually happen that my interest waned. There is so much potential, but I found myself wishing the character to actually do something, to get to the events mentioned in the prologue. The percentage on my Kindle hardly shifted as I read and read and read…

Now I’m getting negative and I don’t want to. This is a book full of charm and careful, considered, worldbuilding. The society is stratified and realistic. There is an economy and sense of history that rests on the shoulders of all the characters.

Then the “event” happens and Gurion’s world changes, but for me, and this was the reason I stopped reading, it is done without the urgency I expected, the change of pace I needed to really start to enthuse me. If you’re a lover of slow builds, of character and world over pace, of careful prose, of an almost literary fiction approach to the development of a story then you’ll really enjoy it. The fact that it kept me reading for so long is a testament to all those things.
And now I must handover to Julia as she read on.

– – –

So here we go…

I did really, really enjoy Gurion! Yes, it was a long and slow book – and usually I am one for fast paced action. But somehow this story kept me hooked all the way through! It’s by far the longest of our SPFBO batch, and yet I read it faster than some of the 300-page books.

I can’t even put a finger on what exactly it was that made it work for me, when most of our other judges didn’t make it to the end. The characters just somehow clicked with me – and even though the changes in how they see the world seem glacial at times, it also was what made them seem realistic to me. They didn’t wake up one day and just realize everything they’d done so far was wrong and needed to be changed, but their eyes got opened puzzle piece by puzzle piece. Also, the prose was a big plus for me. Very smooth, no editing issues I noticed, and just like Geoff already said it is easy to read.

I simply loved how the story progressed and what happened within the world and story. Sure, the book isn’t perfect – but no book is.

My gripes are few:

  • Some of the “good guys” were a bit too good for my personal taste, but overall, I did enjoy my time spent with Gurion and his family.
  • Some scenes could have been a bit tighter and the plot therefore progress faster.
  • The prologue already tells you where the story will end – you just don’t know the way to get there yet. That took away even more of the suspense in a book that already full of introspection.
  • Also, besides knowing the endpoint of the story, the last bit of the “way to the end” was too predictable.

But overall, if you like to see characters grow and learn, if you want to follow a civilization from a two-caste system through a rebellion into a new way of living, if you enjoy discovering a new world and lifestyle bit by bit, this is definitely worth checking out!

I for one will definitely pick up other books by the same author.

The Tale of Gurion Thricebound has now been eliminated from the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.


By Geoff Matthews

G. R. Matthews began reading in the cot. His mother, at her wits end with the constant noise and unceasing activity, would plop him down on the soft mattress with an encyclopaedia full of pictures then quietly slip from the room. Growing up, he spent Sunday afternoons on the sofa watching westerns and Bond movies after suffering the dual horror of the sounds of ABBA and the hoover (Vacuum cleaner) drifting up the stairs to wake him in the morning. When not watching the six-gun heroes or spies being out-acted by their own eyebrows he devoured books like a hungry wolf in the dead of winter. Beginning with Patrick Moore and Arthur C Clarke he soon moved on to Isaac Asimov. However, one wet afternoon in a book shop in his hometown, not far from the standing stones of Avebury, he picked up the Pawn of Prophecy and started to read - and now he writes fantasy! Seven Deaths of an Empire coming from Solaris Books, June 2021. Agent: Jamie Cowen, Ampersand Agency. You can follow him on twitter @G_R_Matthews or visit his website at

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