PUBLISHER: Inspired Quill
RELEASE DATE: 20th Aug 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 259 pages
GENRE: Steampunk Fantasy
A Hero murdered. A Girl alone. A city of Villains. From the crumbling Belfry to the Citadel’s stained-glass eye, across acres of cobbles streets and knotted alleyways that never see daylight, Greaveburn is a city with darkness at its core. Gothic spires battle for height, overlapping each other until the skyline is a jagged mass of thorns. Archduke Choler sits on the throne, his black-sealed letters foretell death for the person named inside.
Abrasia, the rightful heir, lives as a recluse in order to stay alive. With her father murdered and her only ally lost, Abrasia is alone in a city where the crooked Palace Guard, a scientist’s assistant that is more beast than man, and a duo of body snatchers are all on her list of enemies. Under the cobbled streets lurk the Broken Folk, deformed rebels led by the hideously scarred Darrant, a man who once swore to protect the city. And in a darkened laboratory, the devious Professor Loosestrife builds a contraption known only as The Womb. With Greaveburn being torn apart around her, can Abrasia avenge her father’s murder before the Archduke’s letter spells her doom? (Goodreads)
Another book from new publishing house Inspired Quill, GREAVEBURN by Craig Hallam is a fantasy with a steampunk twist and a fight for supremacy in a town overrun with corruption.
The book begins with the assassination of Darrant, the captain of the archduke’s guard, by his second-in-command, Steadfast. Steadfast seems to genuinely regret having to kill his former mentor and friend, but he must follow the orders given to him by the archduke or he will be next. Just from this prologue we can see the level of corruption and betrayal present in the city of Greaveburn, and I thought this made a great introduction to the fantasy world. We are given just enough information to keep us interested in the characters and to wonder how they got into this situation.
Our story then jumps to Professor Loosestrife’s laboratory, and we are introduced to a character who appears to deal in some twisted experiments in the name of ‘science’. He is accompanied by his servant, Wheldrake, whom he distrusts and likes to keep an eye on at all times, as he is paranoid that Wheldrake will take over his lab. He is working on a contraption called ‘The Womb’, and although we are never given a full explanation it appears to hold the power to cure ailments such as disease and maintain human life within its glass walls. Although what Loosestrife is aiming to do with his machine is unclear, it is certain that it won’t be used for the purposes of good.
Elsewhere we meet Abrasia, the daughter of the deceased king and rightful heir to the throne of Greaveburn. She is fed up of the castle keep in which she is growing up, but has no desire to ascend the throne when she reaches eighteen. Abrasia has seen the state of Greaveburn and wants no part in it, and is desperate to separate herself from the state that has polluted her life. She wishes to find a life outside of the city, despite knowing that there are no other settlements for miles around.
As for the newly appointed Captain Steadfast, he is determined to protect Lady Abrasia at any cost, even if he has to use underhand means to do so. And he may not have seen the last of his old mentor, as Darrant finds himself surrounded in the underground sewer passages by the Broken Folk, those the town has forgotten. These forgotten poor folk aim to revolt against the rich of Greaveburn, who have never wanted for anything.
As I have tried my best to summarise, there are a lot of conflicting and interweaving storylines going on throughout this book. All of the characters have interactions with the others, and I wouldn’t say that there was a single main character for the reader to focus on. In places this made the reading a little confusing, as I started to think how everything was relevant and how it all tied together. However, just when I started to think that the stories were becoming too separate from one another, the author cleverly brings everything together to form a great ending.
Despite having such a wealth of characters to follow, I loved the detail that went into each one, as I found it easy to like all of them and can’t pick out any that I passionately disliked. As with all first books, there some characters that I’d love to know more about but I also found that I don’t mind waiting for the sequel. By this, I mean that there was enough detail revealed within the first book to keep me interested in the characters without having to know all about their pasts.
I loved the fantasy world of this book, as Craig Hallam has created a place that personifies both the desperation of the poor and the corruption of the rich. In places it may seem like a typical fantasy location, but there some steampunk twists (such as the professor’s mechanical arm) that add that little something extra to the scene. There are also some lovely comical moments to lighten the mood, so the book isn’t entirely as dark as it may appear.
“Now what can I do for Lady Glenhaven today? A foretelling of her future, the divination of a handsome dark stranger in her near future perhaps?”
“Would it be true?”
“Then I’ll skip it if it’s all the same to you.”
The plot is mainly structured around the conflicts of power in Greaveburn, and about getting the rightful heir onto the throne. However, I loved the corrupt lengths that some of the characters would go to in order to achieve their goals, and there are always those few moments where you’re never quite sure if someone is trustworthy or not. I found the ending to be quite shocking, as I had kind of anticipated one of the events but hoped it wouldn’t happen. However, just on a side note, the ending is very much left open for the sequel in how it ends, so if you really hate books that are open-ended then this probably isn’t for you.
Overall I thought that this was a great book, and am really excited to read the sequel. I would say that you can tell that this is a debut novel, as there are some plot elements that need to be ironed out, but the story really captures the imagination. Definitely a book that you won’t be able to put down until you’re finished!
This book made a great start to the series and really set up the world of Greaveburn. This desolate and desperate place made a great setting for a fantasy novel (albeit somewhat typical) but it was the depth of the characters that really gave me something to grab onto. There is corruption at every door and no-one is as they seem, thus making for a great read as you are never sure who to trust.
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