On the Matter of the Red Hand by Irrational Worlds (REVIEW)

Not really having any expectations going in, I was pleasantly surprised by On the Matter of the Red Hand (Judicar's Oath). This was a gritty, intriguing fantasy that managed to establish the rough boundaries of a new fantasy world, while telling a self-contained tale within it. Clearly, there is far more to the story than is being told in this slender volume, but it certainly serves to whet the reader's appetite for more.

Thom is a fantastic character, part fantasy hero, and part pulp/noir detective. Actually, I liked the whole idea of the Judicars, their role in society, and their subterfuge in blurring the lines between magic and madness. We don't get to 'see' a lot of Teredon, but what we are told about the city - and its criminal element - is intriguing, and more than enough to orient us within the tale. As for the mystery behind the tale, Thom's search for a missing woman, that was played out extraordinarily well, keeping me on my toes with a few twists that I didn't see coming, but which didn't feel at all forced.

If I were to have one complaint about the book, it's that the narrative could have benefited from a bit more description. There were several places where I got lost in either the dialogue or the narrative itself, not quite sure who was speaking to whom. That's a minor quibble, though, and one that bothered me less and less as I settled into the story.

Overall, this was a quick, fast-paced read, and one that gives the reader credit for some intelligence. There's no spoon feeding of facts and terminology, no detailed glossaries or appendices. Instead, the story is told within the context of the world in which its set, by a narrator who assumes we'll either catch on or get out of his way.