Review: The Copper Promise / Author: Jen Williams / Publisher: Headline / Release Date: Out Now
The publishing industry, much like any media outlet, is prone to jumping on a bandwagon filled with new trends. At the time of writing, the recent surge of interest in the already very influential Game of Thrones novels has lead to a glut of dark, gritty tomes in which everybody has a headache and where all the best characters get killed just as they get interesting. Luckily for those of us looking for something different, The Copper Promise bucks this trend by being a good old-fashioned fantasy adventure romp.
Two adventurers, a disgraced knight and a canny thief, are hired by a down-on-his-luck lord to enter the Citadel, a place that apparently holds unimaginable wealth and power but also has a firm reputation for being certain death. What the party discovers in that ancient ruin has far-reaching consequences for the world and much of the novel deals with cleaning up the mess caused by this incautious trio. It’s a clever blend of fantasy pulp, balanced world building and sharp wit. Do you remember those spin-off fantasy novels of the eighties that had huge ideas, neat concepts for characters and never quite hit the mark? The Copper Promise is much like those odd little books, but in this case it hits the reader directly in their fantasy-loving heart and drags them into a rich fantasy world.
It is rather a thick book, but then that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from fantasy novels; the sort of paperback that could realistically be used as a doorstep or in order to stun a burglar. The Copper Promise was originally released as four separate novellas and this really is to it’s advantage - the serialised nature of the story gives the work a naturalistic flow and provides a handy stopping off point for those of us who don’t have the time to read a book in one sitting.
Jen Williams has a highly addictive storytelling style. This means that it’s very hard to stop reading and when you aren’t reading it, you’re trying to work out when you can get your next fix. This is because she writes each character in an honest and entertaining way and pulls no punches; she’s not afraid to have a main character who is utterly unlikeable or another protagonist who is a danger to all around them. Between Sir Sebastian, Lord Frith and the Copper Cat we have an adventuring party that we should find dull and irksome, but instead we love them for their flaws as much as their exploits. The Copper Promise is near-perfect fantasy adventure fun and a breath of fresh air in a genre choking on its own grittiness. Read it and remind yourself what made you fall in love with fantasy books.