Fantasy Review: The Blackbird And The Ghost by Hûw Steer

Indiana Jones meets Locke Lamora by way of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in a rollicking adventure yarn, complete with boiling seas, sunken palaces, and more than just a little magic.

I tell you right now, were I reading again for this year's SPFBO, The Blackbird And The Ghost would be stiff competition indeed for the likes of Chasing Graves (Ben Galley) and Seraphina’s Lament (Sarah Chorn) as my top choice. It's a fun adventure novel, full of imagination, with some fantastic historical and archaeological aspects. Hûw Steer hits that perfect mix of history, world-building, setting, characters, and action in a book that is over far too soon.

The story opens with a bit of tomb raiding that is as intense as it is exciting. There are traps, puzzles, and dangerous miscues for Tal Wenlock to face, and he does it with charm and humor. It leaves the reader hanging on the threat of blood and betrayal, but finding out how he got there is so enjoyable you almost resent having to come back around and resolve the cliffhanger.

As for getting there, it involves a steelship journey across the boiling seas, which could be a story all on its own, through the massive gates of the Corpus Isles. It takes us across a familiar sort of fantasy village, deep into the mines, and high atop a scholarly tower. We meet Tal's arch-nemesis, who is menacing enough as a man and ever more chilling with his unusual magical talents. We also meet a senior healer in the tower who comes to be Tal's mentor/accomplice, and the friendly banter between the two of them keeps much of the story moving.

While the promise of its blurb seemed too good to be true, The Blackbird And The Ghost delivered on everything I wanted and left me wanting more. If, like me, you're the kind of reader who roots for the thieves and the adventurers, putting treasure and quests above saving the world, then you're going to enjoy this.

ebook, 252 pages
Published June 5th 2019 by Kindle Direct Publishing

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.