Review: Moon's Artifice / Author: Tom Lloyd / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Civil war looms in the Empire of a Hundred Houses, each of its noble factions poised for a conflict that threatens the rule of the warrior caste. Investigator Narin finds himself dragged into a plot of intrigue and betrayal, as he and his small group discover a conspiracy that has the potential to bring the Empire to its knees. Add to this mix the presence of gods and demons, each with their own agendas, and it quickly becomes clear there’s a lot more going on than Narin initially suspects.
Moon’s Artifice kicks off a new series by Twilight Reign author Tom Lloyd, who drops the reader straight into the thick of it, setting his stall early so we can know what to expect. When a god appears barely a dozen pages into the book, alarm bells begin to ring, but thankfully it’s the human characters who take centre stage, able to perform without too much of a divine guiding hand. Of these characters, it’s the most down to earth – not the assassin or the magically-gifted warrior, but the woman seeking justice for a family member – who comes across as the most heroic and, as such, the most well-realised of the bunch. That’s not to say the others fall flat; each has their distinctive personalities and the flaws that go with them, and it’s pleasing to see that Narin is still learning his job – and therefore out of his depth – rather than being the best investigator in the city who can take it all in his stride.
Tom Lloyd has created a rich and multi-layered society, one that is revealed slowly to the reader, never dumped onto the page in huge chunks; in fact, we’re still learning new things close to the end of the novel. The mythology of the world is well-crafted, too – the gods are humans whose perfection has enabled them to ascend to the stars, while the demons are fittingly bestial and scheming. Each page oozes plot, so much so that at times this can be daunting and confusing, with too much going on. Similarly, conversations sometimes feel like little more than exposition, the characters who are speaking made to sound somewhat soulless.
Moon’s Artifice is a book that demands the full attention of the reader, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s sometimes frustrating, can be a challenging read, but is ultimately rewarding, working well as a standalone story, while leaving anyone who has invested their time looking forward eagerly to the next volume of what promises to be a fascinating series.