I have to admit to some trouble with the first half, however, plagued as I was by doubts as to the intentions behind it. Was it a bad parody of old school fantasy, or was it a wink-and-nod homage to the same?
Seriously, it felt as if Adrian Tchaikovsky pulled out his old roleplaying books, rolled himself a few characters, pulled up a few monsters, and then let his inner dungeon master run free with the mayhem. These aren't just characters, they're character classes - wizard, cleric, warrior, rogue - with spells cast and weapons wielded according to the rules of the game. There were so many echoes of Weis and Hickman, Salvatore, Greenwood, Nile, and Knaak that it actually became distracting.
Where I finally got past that, and was able to settle in and enjoy the tale, was through the character of Nth. Here we have one of those vintage monsters, a giant spider, whom the party wizard arrogantly transforms into something vaguely human. He opens so many moral and ethical dilemmas, making us question our stock assumptions of good versus evil, that you don't realize how cleverly you've been duped until the story's almost over. Suddenly, in those last few chapters, it all comes together, and the truth behind those intentions I doubted at the start are revealed.
Yes, it's horribly cliched in its construction, incredibly awkward in its humor, and almost painful in some of its dialogue - but all deliberately so. It takes some patience, and requires some trust that there is indeed a method to Tchaikovsky's madness, but it all pays off in the end.
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Expected publication: August 2nd 2016 by Tor.com
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.