THE SONG OF THE SYCAMORE / AUTHOR: EDWARD COX / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The Song of the Sycamore is a fantasy novel that blends body horror, high fantasy and post-apocalyptic survival into one fun and engaging read. It’s the story of Wendal Finn, a man who has survived the war-torn wastelands only to become the host of a vengeful spirit, Sycamore, a creature that can see the ghosts of the murdered and is compelled to enact vengeance on their behalf.
Edward Cox’s previous fantasy trilogy, The Relic Guild series, was a very skilled exercise in world-building. Though slow and cinematic, it was a compelling read simply because the world was so fascinating. The Song of the Sycamore is the first book in Cox’s next fantasy series, and is a huge step forward in every possible way. It builds on Cox’s previous skill for world-building and adds a more compelling tale into the mix.
The novel takes place on the world of Urdezha. Back in its past, magic was brought to the land by beings beyond mankind’s understanding. Some sort of man-made disaster has caused the world to become mostly barren. Humanity huddles in cities, each powered by a crop of magical crystals. Barbarians and ghosts stalk the wasteland and humanity is at constant war with the clansfolk beyond the city walls. Magic and Science compete within the cities; this is a place with mystically-powered suits of armour and enchanted ray guns.
Finn’s home is Old Castle, a city defended by magical force fields and filled with gutter-snipe runners, street scum, strange drugs, filth, weird cults and horrific magic. It’s that lovely blend of magic, technology and human despair that makes for a compelling setting. Finn himself is more a character that the world happens to, but that’s fine, it’s a fantastic fantasy world.
At its core, The Song of the Sycamore is an unconventional murder mystery about someone looking for the person who killed their spouse. Part horror, part mystery and part magi-tech fantasy, this is a great ride. As this is an Edward Cox book, the core story is filled with colourful set-dressing, intriguing side characters, delicious exposition and plenty of bluffs, deceptions and a whole host of well-balanced and compelling action scenes.
Cox is powerful fantasy talent, and The Song of the Sycamore is a great addition to the “To Be Read” shelf of any fantasy fan.