by Christina Lay
Ghosts, Fae, magic, Alchemy and a monster from out of the catacombs bringing death to the city. It's all here! The story reads like a very well written Fantasy novel and got my interest right away.
Remy is an Alchemist's apprentice and with the Alchemist away, he is left to discover what is coming out of the catacombs to kill people. He encounters ghosts and other creatures in the world of darkness, effectively an underworld journey.
Despite being treated like a lowly ratboy by the local hoity-toity, he gets on with the job and seeks to discover why one of their class got buried with commoners. Remy is a likeable character who lets the class insults roll off and applies his own wits and knowledge to untangling some confusing clues to what's really going on.
The story is fast moving and leads into a dark journey beneath the city that brings out some of our most primal fears. At times it reminded me of the surreal worlds of Roger Zelazny or The Deathgate Cycle by Weis and Hickman, though not in as much intricate detail. It was an interesting read and I think a new author to watch.
One of the very last Eberron novels published and in many ways the only true standalone novel, 'Lady Ruin' runs only 250 pages and does not make the best use of its brief time. 25 additional pages are given to the 'Abyssal Plague' prelude cross-over event, but as there's no sign of it having anything to do with Eberron I'm skipping it. Waggoner's 'Blade of the Flame' trilogy is strong writing, but I can't say the same here unfortunately.
A Karrnathi warlord sponsors a secret weapons-development scheme involving bonding soldiers with symbionts to create a powerful army. The problem is that symbionts are creations leftover from the Daelkyr War nine thousand years ago. Products of chaos, the symbionts are dangerous to their hosts and nearly-impossible to control.
Captain Lirra is second in command of the effort, working under her father and supervising her artificer uncle in his experiments to master these weapons. An experiment goes wrong...and Lirra is the only one strong enough to do what must be done to prevent A Daelkyr from crossing over into Eberron and remaking the world in its twisted vision.
Lirra is our primary viewpoint character with only the occasional visit to other officers in the Outland Guard and the baddies scheming to unleash chaos. The story make little attempt to follow a "party" structure, Lirra is mostly on her own, and Waggoner can't seem to carry the story without it. There was little time for development of character relations, so when we reach climactic fight scenes I didn't feel any attachment to the characters. The book's saving grace is the examination of how symbionts behave with hosts and several scenes of horror as people and monsters are molded like play-doh to suit the needs of the villain.
As of two years ago, I decided to challenge myself to read books that I normally wouldn't pick up, with the intention of broadening my horizons and maybe even finding something I liked in stories I didn't think I would like in the first place. This book was the first winner for me with this challenge.
Anti-heroes rub me the wrong way. I've felt like this for quite a few years. I've picked up books in the past that featured this kind of character and as enjoyable as the stories were they didn't captivate me. This book proved to me that maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. The writing style was awesome and the pacing, though slow at times, did great things for the overall story.
Eric was something alright. He came off as very menacing and angry in the beginning. I disliked all the violence but I enjoyed the moments when the heroine got the upper hand on a guy twice her size (even as improbable as it was). He ended up having a sweet and somewhat devious side that kind of redeemed him in some aspects. I'm not sure what to make of him but it was one heck of an entertaining story.
Anna was getting nowhere in her life because of an incident a year before that made her decide to switch careers to try and pursue some peace of mind. She was very skittish and overall unhappy with her life. The way her relationship developed does have stockholm syndrome written all over it but I'm still ok with it (if that makes any sense)? It was well developed within the story and she did try to rationalize it away if that helps.
The ending was kind of sweet! It's like Eric becomes a different version of himself with her by his side and it helped close out the story in a peaceful way just like how it all started.
My Favorite Quotes:
"Just because you can't relate doesn't mean they don't exist. You never know what hides beneath the façade of another human being."
"I live in a world where the monsters under the bed have all come to life."
"You gave me hope when there was none to be had."