THE GAUNTLET AND THE BURNING BLADE by Ian Green.
Head of Zeus Ltd. h/b. £20.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Janos, the Salt-Man, is dead, slain at the hand of Verratim’s deputy. She has taken his place and has old scores of her own to settle. Yselda and cadet Cuss, like others, survived the journey to the Blue Wolf Mountains with much of the tale written on their bodies. Anshuka had been saved, Ashbringer the Orubor slaying the demon that tried to end a god. Now she is tasked with destroying the skein-mage.
Elsewhere, horrifying realities abound. The dagger that they say can kill a god is missing, fallen into the wrong hands. Whitestaffs are becoming a terrifying rarity, and there are rumours that Tullen One-Eye is alive. Children with the ability to touch the skein are being taken for torture, death or worse, corruption. Floré’s own daughter is no exception. Will she be able to find a cure, or is it too late for them all?
The Gauntlet and the Burning Blade, the second in Green’s Rotstorm series, opens with an invaluable recap covering the events of book one, cleverly written in that it immediately immerses the reader back into this world of goblins, sinister magic and looming danger. There are slight echoes here of Chris Wooding’s The Braided Path – the unwavering deeds and desires of Floré’s foes have a similar level of menace and lack of morality.
This second book expands the world we encountered in the first. Along with this, the cast of point-of-view characters is larger. For this reader, it felt very much as it is – the middle of a trilogy. It has a lot of ground to cover, questions to answer and an awful lot of staging to set up for the finale. It delivers a solid fantasy with classic creatures, magic users and warriors and can be praised for placing female characters so strongly on the page.
Action and urgency kick in from the start; however, the relentless pace does, at times, compromise on the emotional connection between characters. The relationships are understood but not quite felt by the reader. Some more time spent building in details of the characters’ more distant pasts would perhaps be desirable for some, though those who enjoy an action-crammed page-turner will be satisfied.