Stranger of Tempest
Tom Lloyd
Gollancz, 472 pages
Reviewed by Ian Hunter

With ringing endorsements from the likes of Adrian Tchaikovsky, James Barclay and Edward Cox and a great cover by Jon McCoy, of a lone rifleman (actually our hero armed with a Mage Gun that fires elemental bullets) on the cover about to square off to something that looks more than slightly like the Balrog from Lord of the Rings, you know you are going to be in safe hands with the first instalment of Lloyd’s The God Fragments entitled Stranger of Tempest.

We are dropped straight into the action as we join Lynx, a mercenary and his? merry band who are about to rescue of a damsel in distress. Unfortunately, despite being naked and in some peril, this is no damsel and she’s more likely to cause distress to others. This is just the last thing that world-weary Lynx needs, although he could have probably picked less colourful mercenaries to join up with in the first place. This lot are led by Atanin, the Prince of Sun, and resemble a biker gang, some of whom get to wear a jacket depicting a card from a pokerish sort of card game. This results in gang members with names like Prince of Sun, Knight of Blood and Stranger of Tempest. Before we get to the aforementioned rescue of the damsel we helpfully get a table showing the mercenary deck of cards ranging from Sun, Stars, Blood, Snow and Tempest, and the face cards made up of Prince, Knight, Diviner, Stranger, Madman and Jester. In the gang Lynx has joined, some of these positions are empty, and unnamed. Whether or not any of them get filled will depend on how long the groupcan stay alive. They have rescued a female night mage who was held captive and are on the run from her captors – a bunch of religious fanatics called the Knights Charnel. The only way they can escape alive will be to travel through some abandoned tunnels – abandoned, for good reason.

Given that Lloyd has written eight previous novels, he is an old hand at world building. His creation is multilayered with its own rules and hierarchy and magical systems. There is the usual smattering of religious and political intrigue and since this is the first in a series we are on a need to know basis with reveals happening throughout the novel. We are given only tantalising mentions of the God Fragments and glimpses of creatures like the Elementals. Like some of the best books of this kind, Lloyd treats us to action, humour and lively banter between the mercenaries. Lynx has a few secrets of his own up his sleeve, or in what is left of his heart.

The book ends with some promo details about other Lloyd novels and an extract from his e-book only novella called Honour Under Moonlight! which takes place just a few weeks after Stranger of Tempest finishes and before the next novel Princess of Blood appears this summer. While Stranger of Tempest could be read as a stand alone novel, I suspect many readers will be dipping into that e-novella and joining that Princess in a few months time. I might too.

Originally published in Shoreline of Infinity issue 8.