A few years ago, pirates beset the worlds of fantasy fiction. Not the online kind, but the ocean-going type that seemed firmly inspired by certain Disney movies featuring pirates. Alas, many of these lacked both character and world building, and the interest in all sorts of swashbuckling shenanigans seemed lost at sea. The Guns of Ivrea looks set to buck this fishy trend, by being a cracking piece of salty fun.
Clifford Beal is best known for his ability to twist history into intriguing fantasy, and this time he’s chosen the Renaissance and created a pseudo Mediterranean Europe, filled with fantastic beasts, mermen and of course, pirates. The plot follows the misfortune of four lucky heroes. Captain Nico Danamis is a dashing young sea captain who has inherited an Admiral’s commission, though really he’s nothing more than a smuggler and privateer. The equally dashingly named mercenary captain Julianus Strykar, who seems to have a ready supply of heroes for hire at his beck and call, aids him. They’re both drawn into a series of bad life choices, when a humble thief turned monk, Acquelonius Galenus, crosses their paths. The monk is carrying a terrible burden and secret, one that sees him hunted by the Church. Meanwhile, Citala, a beautiful Mermaid Princess, has other plans for Nico.
Though fantasy takes on Renaissance Europe are nothing new, Beal moves everything along at such a quick pace that the book feels cinematic and interesting. There’s little innovation or invention here, rather the author calls upon old myths and gives them a shiny gloss, that lets you enjoy old-fashioned monsters and heroes in fresh ways.
The book does have some rather clunky moments. For example, a scene designed to show the villainy and horror of a key antagonist is rather too graphic and unpleasant, in a disturbing rather than gory way. Luckily these elements are few and far between.
If you're a fan of Michael Moorcock and Fritz Lieber, you will most likely love Clifford Beal; The Guns of Ivrea proves that Beal can deliver addictive, page turning, pulp which also happens to have fun characters and nifty world building.
THE GUNS OF IVREA / AUTHOR: CLIFFORD BEAL / PUBLISHER: SOLARIS BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW