Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys

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Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This, the first in a series of a post-apocalyptic future fantasy with a medieval feel, begins as a choice of style over excitement. But hang on in there: it gets so much better and, personally, I'm now eagerly awaiting volume 2.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 249 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Roundfire
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780996257

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Streetwise young thief Jeniche wakes up to find her prison cell's walls collapsing around her. This is no natural disaster but an invasion by the Occassans, mercilessly brandishing 'moskets', weapons that fire death rendering the native Makamban cudgels futile. Whilst scouring the streets and avoiding the marauding army, Jeniche visits old haunts, checking on her friends and wondering what to do next. This last part is solved for her: a band of Tunduri monks and nuns, including their young God-King himself, want a guide to take them home to Tundur, the land of winter beyond the desert. The journey may be hazardous but nothing's safe anymore, and so, accompanied by the muscular, slow-witted stable owner, Trag and mysterious swordsman Alltud, their journey begins.

Author and English teacher Graeme K Talboys has a back catalogue of 12 novels, not all of which have made it into print (as he himself points out). However, Stealing into Winter (for short) has arrived on the shelves and is an interesting prospect.

This seems very much a book of two halves, or two-thirds and one-third to be precise. The first part of the novel feels as if it was written by a totally different person to the last third. Perhaps it was first-book-in-a-series syndrome and once the introductions were out the way, the author relaxed more into it, but the first 60% seems almost as if he's so busy creating the literary flow (and the language is often very beautiful) that he sometimes loses the feeling of pace.

It's a world where things certainly happen. From the beginning we're thrown straight into the mayhem of a city escaping an advancing army however, although we can read excitement into it, we can't always feel it. Also the style is a little choppy in places with characters disappearing from view as if forgotten. (A few times I flicked back and forth to check if I'd missed something.) Once we get to the final third though, it bristles with a pace and menace that would have lifted the story into a category of excellence if it had been there from the beginning.

The characters also take a while to warm up as the urchin-like Jeniche seems to be the only one fleshed out for most of the novel. However, eventually others like the hulking, simple but kindly Trag and mysterious swordsman Alltud blossom beyond their stereotypes and, again, just over half way in the magic starts. Graeme K Talboys starts to display a gift for witty dialogue, transforming Alltud, for instance, into a man of substance with a pronounced sense of humour and irony. The Dalai-Lamaesque God-King, Gyan Mi also develops a more substantial form in the imagination the nearer he gets to home and will certainly be someone to watch out for in the next volume.

The medieval-type world is alive with hints of higher technology in the hands of the Occassans and there are hints, questions and, no doubt, red herrings liberally sprinkled throughout. Why are the Occassans interested in a mere street thief like Jeniche? Is Alltud all he purports to be? What's the bracelet about? If this is a post-apocalyptic future, what have we done in order to get there?

This is a novel alive with promise for those of us willing to invest a little patience and it looks as though, if the series continues as it left off, the second volume will be our ultimate reward.

A special thank you to Roundfire for sending us a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and are a lover of ripping fantasy adventure, we thoroughly recommend Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan. However, if you prefer fantasy mixed with mellifluous language, then off to the classic The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien.

Buy Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Stealing Into Winter: being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antar by Graeme K Talboys at Amazon.com.

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