Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kell's Legend

Andy Remic successfully blends steampunk and high fantasy in Kell's Legend(Book 1 of The Clockwork Vampire Trilogy). Upon first entering the world the sense is much like that of any other fantasy novel. It is only as the novel evolves that the reader learns the true nature of the setting. This adds something of a mystery esthetic to the novel as well.

Kell, the titular character, is an old bear of a man. At the start of the novel Kell is living in a city basically incognito in order to be near his granddaughter. Suddenly the city is attacked by a merciless army of albinos, aided by creatures straight out of a horror novel. Kell manages to escape with his granddaughter and two other unlikely companions and flees in an attempt to warn the king in time to avert disaster.

As the story unfolds other monsters are unveiled. In fact this leads to one of the novel's weak points. Near the middle of the novel Remic has a tendency to put the characters in mortal danger, only to have them “rescued” by the arrival of some bigger badder monster who is subsequently distracted by the other monster. This tactic has been overused for many years, it may work once, but definitely not twice as is the case in this novel.

Along with Kell we get the viewpoint of Anu, a vachine (vampire machine), who is hiding her “impurity” in order to maintain her status in society (and her life). It is through Anu that we learn most about the vachine. These are a hybrid of human with clockwork machinery, and require “blood-oil” a magical distillation of human blood in order to keep their clockwork ticking. The vachine also have a strict religious society based heavily on fear and power.

As the story develops we learn much more about Kell’s past, and his “bloodbonded” weapon Ilanna. At the same time we are learning about the real reasons behind the invasion, and the political intrigue and machinations both within the vachine society and in Kell’s land. Further history and magic within the world are hinted at as the story develops rapidly.

Despite the fact that on the surface this is a hero adventure story not much different from the early days of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, Kell’s Legend manages to be relevant and enjoyable today. The Kell storyline is very high fantasy, it is the larger picture of the world that is important here. The idea of the vachine are a brilliant reimagining of both steampunk ideas and vampires. With these creatures set in a world that Remic obviously has so much as yet unrevealed history for there is nowhere to go but up.

Kell’s Legend is a fast paced read. There are multiple points of view and unlike some cases, each time you return to each POV you are happy to be coming back. There are no “filler” POV’s, each is relevant and brings important information to the table. Even though I had an issue with Remic’s use of salvation by introducing a new big baddie I very much enjoyed this novel. I give it a 4/5.

Kell's Legend is published by Angry Robot Books and is currently available in the UK and Australia. It will be available in the US and Canada in May 2010.

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