Thursday, 1 June 2023

Renia by Karl Forshaw


 "The Halls of Venn are the seat of both knowledge and power in the great continent of Luna Ruinam. Renia, a scribe with a tragic past, spends her days expertly copying books that do little to satiate her desire for knowledge.
When a fateful commission lands on her desk, she finds herself tasked with transcribing a book coveted by assassins from the southern continent. Its theft throws the scribing halls into chaos and threatens to destroy the fragile peace that exists between their nations.
Haunted by dreams of her past, Renia must learn to master her impulses and awaken her long dormant magical abilities if she is to prevent war.
Fate, it would seem, is eager to grant her wishes. Yet she must risk everything to pursue it, and pay the bloody price it demands."

 Well, this was more than a bit special!

 I'll start by saying, with good reason, my attention was drawn to this book by the cover art. I mean, look at it, that is gorgeous. If the story inside was as good as the cover art I knew I would be in for a treat. It was!

 The general gist of the story revolves around the theft of a book but there is so much more to it than that. History, Politics, Crime Fiction - they all have something to offer here but for all its mashing of genres the story doesn't get bogged down, far from it.

 Forshaw certainly has a way with characters too. Two stood out for me;

                       Master Petor starts the book in charge of the library, it's contents and all who work in it.                                    When we first meet him he is a nasty piece of work but after (*events*) his character does a                        complete about face, becoming almost a comedy figure but it actually feels believable, not                            just something done solely for comic effect.

                      Bandack the Reaper - now, when you get to hear about the Reapers, who are basically                                  'bringers of death' who terrify everyone you know more or less what to expect. Except what 
                      you get in Bandack is not what you expect at all. Don't get me wrong, she is definitely a killing                        machine but also kinda cute and fun. Reminded me a bit of Queenie from the second series                         of  Blackadder.

With this being the first book in a new series the location was pretty much static (apart from Renia's 'Origin Story' at the beginning) but Forshaw makes good use of the surroundings giving each area its own feel. And this works especially well for me because as a very visual reader it takes a good bit of skill for an author to transport me to their world, to give me the feeling of being there and this guy has got it in spades.

Magic system - OH YEAH!!! The magic here can be very unforgiving - it gives, it takes back. Not something to be taken lightly.

And finally, the creatures/monsters. Again Forshaw's imagination comes good, from the humanoid slug Mohruscans who act as the guards to the Trull in the final battle all come across as believable.

I came across Renia purely by chance and I am glad I did or it may have slipped by me - don't let that happen to you. For a first novel this is an exceptional piece of work, no debut novel should expect to be this good. I certainly cannot wait for book 2 to come along and to spend more time in Luna Ruinam.

I don't know if this will be my Book of the Year for 2023 but if it isn't it will be very, very near it. 

6/5* Take a bow Karl Forshaw, you've done good my friend

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