Moon’s Artifice by Tom Lloyd
Published by Gollancz on November 21st 2013
Source: Gollancz Geeks
In a quiet corner of the Imperial City, Investigator Narin discovers the result of his first potentially lethal mistake. Minutes later he makes a second.
After an unremarkable career Narin finally has the chance of promotion to the hallowed ranks of the Lawbringers - guardians of the Emperor's laws and bastions for justice in a world of brutal expediency. Joining that honoured body would be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it couldn't possibly have come at a worse time. A chance encounter drags Narin into a plot of gods and monsters, spies and assassins, accompanied by a grief-stricken young woman, an old man haunted by the ghosts of his past and an assassin with no past.
On the cusp of an industrial age that threatens the warrior caste's rule, the Empire of a Hundred Houses awaits civil war between noble factions. Centuries of conquest has made the empire a brittle and bloated monster; constrained by tradition and crying out for change. To save his own life and those of untold thousands Narin must understand the key to it all - Moon's Artifice, the poison that could destroy an empire.
Tom Lloyd’s Moon’s Artifice may very well be the least talked about book from the last 6 months that people really should be talking about. At least of the books I have read. Earlier this year I deemed a new release over-hyped. This one is the opposite. It’s under-hyped. After reading it, I decided that I have not heard nearly enough people recommend or review it based the quality of writing and the enjoyability of the story. I have not read anything else by Lloyd, so really did not know what to expect.
One thing that this book did very well was hooked me in early. We are dropped into the middle of “something”, but pretty much have to read the book to figure out exactly what it was that happened. And from there, I stayed hooked. There is mystery, assassins, Gods, Demons, conspiracy, secret sects, in other words, there is plenty going on here to keep the reader going.
Our protagonist, Narin, is an Inspector who by some chance sequence of events happens to knock an unknown man unconscious. From here, the story starts to unfold. A God appears and asks Narin a question, “Who is the Moon?” Narin decides that, rather than expose where he was that night or why, or explain how or why a God may be involved, he decides to quietly handle this mysterious stranger on his own. Feeling responsible, he takes him.
I like Narin, he is not a powerful protagonist. He has no magical ability, no unusual propensity for some skill or capability. He is just a regular guy who has achieved his position through hard work, and perhaps a bit of luck and timing.
The secondary characters are all well done as well. I really like Narin’s friend Enchei, an older tattooist from a lower class with a flippant attitude. Lloyd definitely intrigues the reader into wanting to know more about this mysterious stranger who seems to be more than the man he is currently presenting himself to be. There is also Kesh, a strong female character, who by some a very tragic turn of events finds herself in the middle of this dangerous mystery.
Lloyd’s writing creates a very good picture of the city’s social structure between not just the various Houses but also the castes and organizations within them. Oh, and the Gods as well, who can evidently interject themselves when it amuses them. And don’t forget about the Demons. They play a role in this story as well.
Pretty much, this story is very well done, and I just enjoyed reading it. There are battles and fight scenes that I feel in general are done really quite well, though a couple of them went on just a tad longer than I would have preferred. But, that is a very minor comment. Narin and his companions are in a race against time to both figure out what is happening, and put a stop to it. Intrigue, suspense, action, yeah, Lloyd delivers on all accounts.
The story works well as a standalone, but I have heard there is to be another book. Something to keep your eye out for after you finish reading this, because if you are like me, you’ll be wanting more.
Many thanks to Gollancz for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.