Moon's Artifice Hardcover
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Central to the world is the caste and House system the Empire lives by. The Imperial City is ruled by the house of the Emperor, House Sun. Each of the big houses in the Empire has their own district, in which their lesser houses are welcome. The population is also divided into the nobles and the peasants, and with civilization living tightly within this system and people being tattooed by law with their caste and house marks, escaping to a higher station seems impossible.
Narin is an Investigator, born to the lower caste and working to become a Lawbringer, the enforcers the Empire’s law on the populace. He does have a few secrets, the biggest one being an affair with a noblewoman, which is potentially life threatening to Narin, seeing as sleeping with someone elses wife is really not that a good idea, especially if said someone is noble born. You’d think Narin has enough to worry about, then the gods drop a huge problem at his feet, and it has Empire shattering consequences.
The Gods. The biggest secret that the Emperor’s family has is ascension. Mortals can become gods, if they are perfect in one part of their life. Lord Shield, Lawbringer, Pity, Duellist etc has proven their worth and been ascended to godhood. The fun thing about this pantheon is that they like to get their noses stuck into mortal affairs every now and then. And when a god notices you, it’s too late to run away. Along with the gods there are also demons who has influence on the world. I get the feeling that the gods and demons story has quite a lot more depth to it, and that should be fun exploring in later novels.
At least Narin isn’t alone in his struggles. His best friend, Enchei, supports him throughout the book. Enchei is not just there as support of filler, he has his own secret history and dark past. His immediate superior is Lawbringer Rhe, the most respected of his order with a strict sense of the law and right or wrong. I loved Rhe for his unblinking and uncompromising service to the law and empire he’s sworn to. It almost cost him his life, but he was willing to take that sacrifice to preserve the integrity of the Lawbringers, and that is heroic. Irato is a dark horse character, seeing as his actions influences the majority of the early parts in this book. He is a product of the poison, and shows clearly the dangers it poses to humanity and to the empire. Kesh is my favourite though. A girl who started out terrified, then mad, bent on revenge and at last she develops into a major player in the book. She is a damn great character, doing what she feels she must do to reach their goals. She is tenacious, bold and always ready for a brawl, even if the odds are stacked against her.
The world Lloyd built is intricate and brilliant. He has the ability to drag the gods and demons into the story, not as omnipotent beings, but more as troublemakers trying to get a head start on their fellows. Since the gods are ascended humans, seeing this human trait of selfishness in them makes them quite a lot more interesting than if they were a beard in the sky or hurling lightning at humanity.
Narin is always one step behind the conspiracy. He’s trying to catch up to a group of people who’ve had decades to plot and set things into motion. There is a sense of desperation throughout the novel as they try to unravel the mystery, and it’s mainly through hard work that they manage to get the breaks they need to bother the conspirators. No real lucky breaks are to be had to help them along, which I liked as realistic.
I loved this book. It’s fast paced, mysterious, interesting and the characters are brilliant. It’s an amazing start to a brilliant new series.
Narin was a good guy, sure he did not make the best of choices (one in particular), but that just made him human. And he really did love working as a Lawbringer and protecting the innocent. It was a true cat and mouse game. Luckily he had some help, very mysterious Enchei who was a tattoo artist. Kesh, a young woman on the run. Rhe, Narin's mentor, whom I really liked. And of course a strange assassin without any memories.
I think that what I liked most was that it was a world where some humans had found a way to ascend and become Gods. I would have loved to learn more. If they were really good at what they did, then they might just become the god of that, like the God Lawbringer. It was also a world that had known it's fair share of war and there empire was made up of powerful Houses who ruled.
And of course I must mention that it's gun powder fantasy. But yes some of the powerful are allowed to have guns. A world caught between the old and the new is always fascinating.
What I liked most was the end, do not get me wrong. There was a conclusion so I was all yay! But at the same time I now want more, so that was bad in a good way ;)
An interesting world, likable characters, and evil baddies ( I love evil baddies)! I look forward to reading more set in this world
Top international reviews
With 'Moon's Artifice' being currently a stand alone book, the scope is somewhat more limited and one will be able to follow the book even if reading a chapter every couple of days or dipping in only every second week. The fantasy element remains and the aspects of Godhood that the author so craftily designed for his 'Twilight Reign' is also maintained here, even if it is perhaps not so prominent. Added to this comes a crime-solving element, which makes for an interesting fantasy / crime thriller combo.
In spite of being simpler, it still takes the reader around 50 pages to get into both the world and the cast, so as to be able to fully enjoy the book. It centers around four diverse characters - investigator Narin in the lead, supported by Enchei (a mysterious, old man), Kesh (a young bereaved woman helping running a boarding house) and Irato (an assassin with a complete memory loss), who all hold puzzle pieces essential to solving the case.
The book also manages a good mix of action sequences and character development / background info to be both fast paced and yet completely understandable. While you will primarily learn about Investigator Narin's background this does not make the rest of the characters one dimensional.
In my opinion you will get sufficient fantasy to keep the book very interesting, a complex and intriguing enough plot, sufficient action and believable characters, so as to make an excellent fantasy novel. On top - as mentioned - it allows an easier (and much shorter) entry into the author's thinking and style than his equally excellent but much more complex 'Twilight Reign'.
However, I have to admit, having read the Twilight Reign Saga before... this book is not getting close to that story line. :-( Yet, it is still entertainment and great fun. I am looking forward to reading the second part.
However the reason I've given it a middling score (3.5*) was the characters and dialogue. The cast was very formulaic, with every check box ticked, and the dialogue was very staid with a lack of sparkle. In fact there was none of the wit and warmth found in other authors work.
The action was good, however, and was happy to read the novel but I'm unsure if this a stand alone novel as plenty of the premises weren't followed through and the ending was very abrupt with limited resolution.
In sum, good not great
Read this book. It features a wonderful and detailed setting and forms an introduction to some amazing new characters - I have a new favourite from the authors works after this one.
It has everything you want, well I want anyway, in a fantasy work; epic quest, unlikely heroes, humanity, a hint of grit and good old fashioned romance and lust.
If you like books, if you like fantasy, then this must go on your reading list.
Loved the blend of magic and gunpowder and the whole cast system.
Something different which kept me interested and gripped.
Moon's Artifice is set in a city called Imperial City. We seem to be getting quite a few books recently that are set primarily in cities. Narin is an Investigator for the Lawbringers under the tutelage of Lawbringer Rhe. The Lawbringers are guardians of the Emperor's laws and bastions of justice. A chance encounter one night brings Narin into contact with a Goshe or Assassin. Narin surprises this Assassin who falls from the roof of a building. But all is not what it seems. This chance encounter also brings Narin into a plot which concerns gods and one particular god called `Shield,' who gives Narin the task to find out the Assassin's last thought `Who is the moon?'
Narin takes the Assassin back to his lodging and with the help of his friend `Enchai' (who has a secret past all of his own) they begin to uncover a plot which goes straight to the heart of the Goshe - Assassins. This plot could bring in to play the Gods and the Hundred Houses - literally the hundred major noble families of Imperial city who are all vying for power.
Into this plot we also get Kesh who runs a guest house where the Assassin is staying, whose sister Emari inadvertently dies when handling the sea-chest of the Assassin called Irato. Unbeknown to Irato who has lost his memory due to a poison this becomes pivotal to the plot of the story.
The story is split into a number of characters: Narin, Enchai and Kesh are the main point of view characters with the focus mainly on Narin. Narin comes across as a young man still learning his job, especially after saving a prominent nobleman's life and having to cope with the rise in his reputation and he doesn't deserve this rise in fame. Narin is also completely out of his depth but continues to learn as the story progresses. His character develops along with the plot.
Enchai is a (Astaren) a character with a secret past and one that we only get teasing glimpses of. Kesh is the main female lead and one who I wanted to discover more about. We understand what motivates her and why but she appears to be more than what she is. I'm hoping we learn more about Kesh and Enchai in the next book. I enjoyed discovering the motivations of all three characters and there is enough development to keep the plot going.
Lawbringer Rhe is the tutor to Narin and a character we only see in a few chapters. Ayel Sorote is another minor character but with more to reveal in the next book I'm sure. The keen eyed will notice that the chapter headings called `From a History' are all written by Ayel Sorote.
Jeqh and Synter are Leaders of Goshe Assassins - who are in league with the gods. Jeqh and Synter are minor characters as the story and plot progresses we understand their motivations.
The world building is just enough to give you a glimpse into how the city is made up politically, whilst at the same time leaving you with many questions. Just like the `Twilight Reign' series `Moon's Artifice' requires your full attention and it is definitely an immersive type of book. On the plus side for those who found `Twilight Reign' hard to follow, this new series is more accessible. There is no map which I always feel diverts your attention from the story by looking for place names. Also there are fewer characters and thus no character list which again you really don't need.
Moon's Artifice by Tom Lloyd is an immensely enjoyable read with some interesting characters who you want to know more about. The Fantasy world is intriguing and I hope we see more of the cusp of the Industrial age in the next book `Old Man's Ghost.'