Stephen Deas‘s The Moonsteel Crown brings a unique touch of the unruly, satirical, and gripping into the epic fantasy genre. Thank you Angry Robot for the ARC!
|Series: Dominion #1||Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: February 9th, 2021||Trigger Warnings: Violence, torture, beatings, stoning, abuse|
|Page count: 384||Publisher: Angry Robot|
The Emperor of Aria is dead, and three junior members of a street gang are unwittingly caught up in the ensuing struggle for the throne, in the first epic adventure in a new fantasy world from a master of the genre.
The Emperor of Aria has been murdered, the Empire is in crisis, and Dead Men walk the streets…
But Myla, Fings, and Seth couldn’t care less. They’re too busy just trying to survive in the Sulk-struck city of Varr, committing petty violence and pettier crimes to earn their keep in the Unrulys, a motley gang led by Blackhand.
When the Unrulys are commissioned to steal a mysterious item to order, by an equally mysterious patron, the trio are thrust right into the bitter heart of a struggle for the Crown, where every faction is after what they have.
Forced to lie low in a city on lockdown, they will have to work together if they want to save their skins… and maybe just save the Empire as well.
“Most of all, he saw that even here in this great cathedral that held all the knowledge in the world, their stories were wrong.”
It’s not every day you finish a book and immediately set out to quest for the author’s bibliography. I’m glad Deas provided insight on that in the acknowledgements because that’s exactly what I did after finishing The Moonsteel Crown.
Deas is clearly a seasoned author which must be why this book is so freaking piquant. Despite the author’s impressive track record, this first installment of his latest series, Dominion, is the first of his work I ever picked up.
Dark magic, intriguing lore, brutal and gritty mayhem, backstabbing for days, found family with a spice, and a gripping kind of satirical humor that reminded me of Pratchett, no wonder I loved it entirely.
It hooked me with one simple premise: a morally gray group of gang members brings chaos to their forgotten river-side town when a heist sets in motion unforeseen events. This cast of thieves, liars, murderers, were truly the most amazing characters to behold. Deas mastered their characterization and infused it into the very soul of the story.
Set in the unforgiving cold landscape of Varr, the Unrulys and the Spicers reign like kings over a land where the only authority is someone’s guts on the snow. They reign freely and their feuds are relentless. So, The Moonsteel Crown remains faithful to its epic fantasy genre, but puts a spin on that epic by centering it mostly on its characters and how their entire being revolves the plot.
Not without its regicide, its sprawling royal cities, court conspiracies and conquests happening as lore retellings or in the foreground, this book is all about the ordinary people down on their luck who scrape by in the killing cold, the hopelessness, the filth, and do what they must to survive. And also about the murderers who just want to sit their ass on a throne, whether it be one of stone in a castle or a wooden chair in a pub.
Each of the POV characters has strengths that make them approachable to the reader in some way or another but are never without their defining, often fatal, flaws. These not only serve to make them feel real and thoroughly compelling, but also drive the entire plot forward in such a masterful, astounding way. It’s honestly mind-blowing how their flaws potentiate the plot and how every cracking twist stems from them.
Fings, master-thief, is innocent in his own way, kind, loyal, and a thoroughly compulsive liar with loose fingers. Seth, former monk-in-training, is faithful, clever, always on the hunt for knowledge, but often runs away from fights he himself starts. Myla, sword-monk and frankly terrifying badass, is empathic, righteous, caring but she tends to display her envy and ruthlessness.
Deas uses his characters like a scalpel, artistically sculpting a storyline like a bright piece of marble becomes a Greek dude with a nice butt. Uh, that was meant to sound fancier. What I mean is, the characters are truly the heart of this story which just keeps getting more interesting and never ceases that crescendo.
Ties after ties after ties, events all linked by mystery, longevity, and always an unexpected connection I never saw coming. There are razor-sharp plot twists, sword-monks, zombies with a flair, ancient forbidden cities, a long line of emperors and usurpers, telepathic magic crowns, and yeah, now I’m just name-dropping awesome things this book has. There’s (arguably) even a passing Sanderson reference in there for the most fanatical of readers.
A fun as hell adventure of betrayal filled with murdering bastards, dead men, and lots of chaotic stabbing, shrewdly disguised as a royal corruption story. With dry dark humor that cleverly analyses the grimness of class disparity, rival gangs, luring dark magic, and lots of unpredictability, you just can’t miss this one.
You know a book is good when by the end you give your entire household a fright with a vocalized “SHIT’S ABOUT TO GO DOOOWN!”. You know it amazed you when you already want to read it again or jump into the sequel straight away.
Alas, I have to eagerly wait for it.