Mini-Review: MOON’S ARTIFICE by Tom Lloyd (Gollancz)

LloydT-1-MoonsArtificePBThe start of an interesting new fantasy series

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.

This is the first novel by Tom Lloyd that I’ve read. I picked it up after I received Old Man’s Ghost for review and wanted to get caught up. Lloyd’s prose is very good — I’m not sure if I’ve read another author who writes so precisely. The novel starts very well, and Lloyd quickly gets us situated in the world. The characters are very well-drawn and varied. The East Asian-flavours of the world and society are well incorporated and tweaked for the author’s needs, multi-layered, rich, and don’t feel like appropriation. There’s plenty of politics and action to keep readers reading.

I had one major niggle, though, which did affect my experience with feelings for the novel: Lloyd front-loads the novel with a lot of what felt like info-dumping, over-explaining and over-describing. It’s good description and world-building, but it made the novel quite slow to begin with and I struggled to sink in to it to begin with. Perhaps this is a symptom of moving on to a whole new series after ending a larger, established five-book epic (The Twilight Reign). Those who persevere will be rewarded.

If you’re after an interesting new fantasy series set in an atypical (for Western authors) setting, then Moon’s Artifice will probably be for you. The sequel, Old Man’s Ghost is out now, too.

Also on CR: Interview with Tom Lloyd (2012); Catch-Up Interview (2013); Guest Post on Terry Pratchett

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