As several nations rebuild themselves after simultaneous invasion by two races of giants, a bard relates stories of people’s experiences during the times of strife to a field of refugee survivors, while a historian becomes increasingly entangled in a web of intrigue and espionage.
After mercilessly plundering various mythologies for his Iron Druid Chronicles, Kevin Hearne takes a crack at creating his own with the first in a new series called Seven Kennings, and makes a damn good job of it.
Each of the featured tales begins by relating interesting but relatively minor details of its protagonists’ life, but when taken together they gradually weave into a history of the circumstances that lead up to the wars with the giants, all the while expanding into an overview of the world itself. Some terminology is initially a little vague as context doesn’t make its meaning immediately apparent, but early concentration soon pays off as specific details become clearer, and prevents people from having to speak in unnatural expository ways.
The world is comprised of varied cultures and peoples that, like in David Gemmell’s novels, are historical nations given a fantasy spin. Each society is based around an elemental force (the kennings of the series title) that certain people can wield as magic at the cost of burning away their lifespan, giving the setup the combined feel of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera novels.
The tone is far less flippant than that of Iron Druid, and all the more engaging for it. That’s not to say it’s entirely devoid of humour – a band of young people who become the first to acquire animal affinity have a lot of fun coming up with impressive titles for themselves – but the seriousness with which the book treats its subject matter results in you perceiving its events as being as historic as its characters do.
A Plague of Giants is epic in scope, heavy in construction, meticulous in detail and primed in possibilities. A full story in its own right and a superb jumping off point for a new fantasy series, the surface has only been scratched of where it will develop, and the secrets and mysteries yet to be revealed have the potential to grow into something uniquely compelling.
A PLAGUE OF GIANTS / AUTHOR: KEVIN HEARNE / PUBLISHER: ORBIT / RELEASE DATE: 19TH OCTOBER