In the world of fantasy fiction, a realm dominated by wordsmiths such as George R. R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie, it is a brave author who takes on said behemoths, promoting a brand-new world populated by magic and swordplay. And yet, thankfully, there are still courageous souls taking on the challenge, and in the case of Adam Steiner and his debut novel The Censor’s Hand, it is a challenge well met.
Set in a largely medieval world where magic is both revered and misunderstood, Daniel Millar is training to become a Censor. Part detective, part executioner, the Censors walk a fine diplomatic line in Steiner’s creation, and when one of their kind is murdered during an investigation, Daniel is charged with proving his worth.
A problem with entering the fantasy fiction world is that, for the most part, it’s all been done before. What Steiner does is temper the usual, potentially tedious exposition – things are called what they are because, well, that’s what they are – and centres his story in the political and financial aspects of this world. Magic is present, and in use, but at what cost? This gives The Censor’s Hand a more relatable, real worldly feel, and allows the reader to wallow in the intriguing complexity of the story, rather than being forced to retain reams of largely unnecessary information.
As the first part in a proposed trilogy, The Censor’s Hand delivers a balanced central story, but the primary focus is on the characters of Daniel, his brother Jon and aspiring magic-master Miranda. While the three follow their own trajectories, there is a growing sense of mystery to their ultimate connection and path, and this leaves you hungry for the next book.
So then, an assured, confident and undoubtedly impressive debut from Steiner. If he can maintain the high standards he has set through story expansion and continue the depth of characterisation that proves both refreshing and welcome, this is set to be an impressive new series.
THE CENSOR’S HAND / AUTHOR: ADAM STEINER / PUBLISHER: PTOLEMY PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW