Review: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade / Author: Den Patrick / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: March 20th
Fantasy novels tend to be pitched in terms of other authors as a way of enticing potential readers in with a touch of familiarity and an unwritten claim of quality. The promotional material for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade name checks the likes of Mervyn Peake, Robin Hobb, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Patrick Rothfuss. Though there are echoes of each of these great authors in the structure of this work, this debut novel by Den Patrick is not an imitation in any shape or form, rather a solid and brilliant book with a unique and engaging voice.
The novel is set in the kingdom of Landfall, a sprawling city-state that resembles a pseudo-Renaissance Italy, composed of various houses who are all attempting to gain power whilst an insane king stays in his tower issuing shadowy demands via his Majordomo. Patrick paints an oppressive and strange world, filled with many an unseen mystery. The tale focuses on the plight of Lucien de Fontein, a young man whose lack of ears marks him out as an orfano, one of the strangely formed foundlings who tend to possess great talents to compensate for their physical mutations. The narrative flips backwards and forwards through Lucien’s life; half the book gives us an idea what Lucien’s childhood has been like so far and the other half explores the boy's current troubles, which include impossible tests, exile and a mystery that runs through the core of the kingdom.
The main character is gloriously unlikeable. He’s sarcastic, vain and self-obsessed. This makes him very believable and the perfect protagonist for Patrick’s multi-layered story telling style. Den Patrick is an extremely talented author, creating a detailed and complex world that is effortless to read. A true page turner, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade is the first in a promised series called the Erebus Sequence, and it will be very interesting to see what happens next in the fascinating kingdom of Landfall.