In the past, I have read and reviewed The Ascendants duology, by James Barclay. As of last week, I've returned to Barclay and enjoined his Raven series. As of minutes ago, I finished the Raven series premiere: Dawnthief.
The Bad: The dialogue, as pertaining to plot development, in the initial phase of the book. Without using quotes or spoilers, there were times when I, as the reader, wanted to smack either Hirad, Sirendor, Ilkar or Talan for stating something that was, partially, incongruous. That is to say that I understood precisely what the conversation was meant to achieve, but was shaking my head at a nonsensical statement or a painfully obvious observation.
Advancement of the plot, at times in the early phase, felt forced or artificial. The dialogue problems previously mentioned, are symptomatic of this condition. Thankfully, for both author and reader, it is brief and temporary.
The Good: Primarily, the characters. Specifically the characters who make up the mercenary company, The Raven. It is at this point, one might suspect that Barclay was influenced by David Gemmell. It is no surprise to learn that a rapport existed between the two.
While all the characters within The Raven had some troubling realities to accept, the Unknown and Thraun affected me acutely, by comparison to the others. Truly, each of the members of The Raven had some genuinely difficult moments of introspection. A sense of loss is something with which every human I have ever met, over the age of 5, can identify with. Barclay does this well with the members of the company.
There were good battles with surprises and twists that were unexpected, though not all. Lending an intriguing twist to the conflict was the various Colleges of magic, and their internecine political intrigues.
As far as debut novels go, this one was better than average. Where it really gets points is in it's ambition. Dawnthief attempts to weave whole cloth with threads from epic fantasy, heroic fantasy and some military fantasy. Now that's a degree of difficulty. Word to the wise, stick through it past p.150. The impatient reader (i.e. read 50p, render verdict and toss/continue book) might miss out here.
Next up: Barclay's Noonshade and, eventually, some pictures of the newly minted child, DominicWilliam (affectionately known as, Milk-Beard the Pirate).