Titan Books are playing their cards close to their chest when, on the back cover of my review copy of A Demon in Silver, they claim that R.S. Ford’s new book is for readers of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie. On a genre level that’s probably true because the unwieldy machinations Ford’s heroine encounters could be likened (if you’re being very generous) to a toothless chapter in Martin’s Game of Thrones series, but whenever you compare the work of a lesser-ranked author to a phenomenon like George R.R. you run the risk of damning them with faint praise. Which is exactly what’s happened here.
At least the publisher’s tagline ‘In a world where magic has disappeared, rival nations vie for power in a continent devastated by war’ (can’t you just hear the gravelly voiceover as you read that?) prepares us for the fact that we need to keep our notebooks at the ready because this is going to be several hundred pages of indecipherable characters with silly names and that, ultimately, the author and his agent probably have their eyes set more on a movie deal than developing an original story with any genuine literary quality. Or maybe that’s unfair. But the fact is, whatever R.S. Ford’s intention behind his new War of the Archons series, he hasn’t just piled on everything we’ve already read/seen before, he’s also done it tediously. Exhibit A: his farm girl heroine Livia, who is seemingly the wheel around which this story turns but is dull as the proverbial dishwater.
You see, young Livia has suddenly demonstrated magical powers so rare that they’ve brought her to the attention of some extremely ruthless people. Why? Because magic disappeared a century ago, plunging the land into the warlike dark ages of superstition and ritual, and now that Livia’s powers have arisen everybody wants to get hold of them at whatever cost (and we all know what that means). Dukes, mercenaries and death cults are all in hot pursuit, and luckily for them Livia appears to have so little personality and agency that the chances of her not being captured are looking pretty slim. Livia will have to find a powerful ally quickly, and after a lot of leaping around between time and location (another overdone fantasy trope), maybe she’s in luck. But who are the Archons and what are they scheming?
There are too many disconnects in Book One – the characters are soulless archetypes and the pretty but vacuous heroine is just a leaf blowing in the wind, which makes her frustrating to root for. But, on the plus side, there is the possibility of an interesting universe buried deep under all this mulch if R.S. Ford could get his Steelhaven trilogy mojo back in time for Book Two.
A DEMON IN SILVER / AUTHOR: R.S. FORD / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 12TH