Book Review: 'The Nightbound Land: Roil' by Trent Jamieson

PrintE-mail Written by Neil Buchanan

A boiling, seething darkness known as the Roil feeds upon the world of Shale. Where once twelve proud cities stood, bastions of life, now only four remain. Humans fight back with endothermic weaponry, semi-organic sky-ships and vast, lumbering cannons. But nothing can stop the Roil’s relentless advance.

A young drug-addict, an orphaned woman hell-bent on revenge, and a man who has lived four-thousand years set out to find the Engine of the World and destroy the Roil before it can consume all life on the planet.

Roil is a well-visualised monster romp through a shattered world of insanity and shadows.

Trent Jamieson’s clear and easy style is a pleasure to read, and while the characters suffer from a lack of originality they remain likable enough as they struggle through a nightmare landscape of horror and human misery.

Unfortunately, Roil is burdened with a slow start, but hang in there because Roil becomes so much better than your standard genre fiction, catapulting the reader on a roller-coaster ride of tense-action scenes, gore, and monsters by the bucket load.

Oh yes! The Roil has monsters and not the wishy-washy, sparkling kind, but the far more deadly - tear your limbs off as soon as look at you – variety. They are vomited from the Roil in their multitudes: from the relentless quarg hounds to the hideous garment flutes - there’s a roiling for every occasion.

But it’s the Roil itself that steals the show.

A monster in its own right: the Roil is a seething mass of billowing energy that crawls across the world of Shale subverting and corrupting anything that gets in its way.

Roil is very much a book at odds with itself. The decadent world of Shale facing the obsidian curtain is at once a unique and terrifying vista for this character drama to play upon, but it’s tempered by a sense of missed opportunities: battles take place off-scene, the POV shifts without warning, and both the beginning and ending are weak and without substance.

That’s not to say Roil is a bad book, because it’s not. It’s great fun, and in the main, written with clarity and talent. It just has to be forgiven for the occasional stumbling step.

Move through those sections, and you will be rewarded with the former. Dig past the caricatures and the irrelevance, and you’ll find nuggets of pure genius.

Ultimately, Roil flounders when it should shine, offers glimpses of brilliance before crawling to a predictable conclusion.

The sequel, Night’s Engines, is due out late next spring, and a small sample of the Roil can be found for free on Angry Robot’s website here.

Roil is out now from Angry Robot publishing.

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