I want to preface this review with the admission that I’ve never read any Flintlock Fantasy before now, a subgenre to which Ghosts of the Scattered Kingdoms belongs. It’s the first book in Wade Garret’s Where Shadows Reign Series, and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of the book for the sole purpose of writing this honest review.
Epic Publishing is set to release the book on November 23rd, and the blurb for the novel on Amazon starts by stating that the story would be “perfect for fans of Steven Erikson and Brian McClellan.” I’m not familiar with either author, but having read Ghosts of the Scattered Kingdoms, I’d have to say that this comparison only serves them greatly. They should be proud to be connected to such a strong piece of work.
The novel opens with the gruesome view of a broken land, scarred and tattered–like broken, bleached bones left out in the sun. A man in black rides on an injured horse, heading to a safe haven in a land surrounded by many dark, and dangerous secrets. He is Arium Black, a rebel, an assassin, and in some ways a soldier of fortune. He is a cold and calculating man, armed to the teeth and seemingly ready for all dangers he might meet.
A dangerous man in a tricorn hat and duster, he has dedicated his life to hunting down the Enemy, the Father of Lies, and his network of minions that make up the Sabbat. A mission that serves more then his own hunger for vengeance, the fragile balance of peace in the Scattered Kingdoms hangs in the balance.
Arriving at the Two Sisters, a tavern and inn at the heart of Pehats Berg, he learns that the Enemy’s reach had grown further than he once previously believed. The well deserved rest that he sought in the safety of the Two Sisters would have to wait as he learns that members of the Sabbat might very well be in the vicinity, cooking up a plan of treachery and betrayal.
What follows is a fast and intricate tale both fascinating and enthralling, filled with diverse and unique characters. These include two young sisters that act as spies for him, a Gangster Queen, a priest, and numerous others that help to paint this colorful world. Each character, no matter how big or small, are stretched out and examined, each of their fears and hopes put on display for all readers to see.
More impressive, however, is the unique world in which the story is placed. The landscape of the Scattered Kingdoms is lush with rich history and cultures that mingle with one another. Garret has little difficulty with describing the breadth of his world in a casual fashion, avoiding the treacherous boobytrap one typically finds in similar fantasy–the info dump. The passion that Garret has for his world is apparent, as is the hard work he put into crafting a world as dark and fascinating as this.
The world, past an age of technology and on to magic, filled with political intrigue and the struggle of those in power to hold onto that power at all cost. Technology remains, though it seems it’s a broken art in a land torn between faith and science. And Arium Black walks through it to deliver the world out of the clasping talons of the Sabbat.
Garret navigates the story with well placed narrative and action that’s as sharp as the knives that so many people slash out with throughout the book. Clashes with members of the Sabbat and even more gruesome battles against monsters of all types litter the pages, keeping this a page turner. The pace of the action isn’t too fast, but a perfect pace that allows the reader to savor each slash of a sword and each flashing blast of a Flintlock pistol.
Between the world building–which Garret obviously handled with delicate and careful hands–and the rich landscape of characters, the Scattered Kingdom is primed to host many future stories for Wade Garret. I look forward to reading the further adventures of Arium Black and those of all his friends and foes. Certainly, for fans of Flintlock Fantasy, Ghosts of the Scattered Kingdoms would be an excellent addition to your library. For readers that simply enjoy a well-crafted fantasy, I would say this is a book that should not be missed.
Ghosts of the Scattered Kingdoms is set to be released on November 23rd, and is available here for pre-order now!