Charles Raptor is a White Shield, a professional soldier paid by a corrupt regime to fight its forever wars. But after years of watching good men die for nothing and evil triumph, he wishes only to retire to a life of peace with a new wife in the country of his birth.
But war isn’t finished with Charles Raptor. Falsely convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, torn from his family, sold into slavery to a tribe of man-hating dwarves, he is condemned to a life of servitude and humiliation in the dread Mines of Trollheim, from which no man has ever escaped.
Can Charles pull together a ragtag team of misfits who hate each other almost as much as their halfman captors? Can he lead a daring escape across a thousand miles of frozen wilderness? Can he become the REBEL SLAVE that will give birth to a legend?
Davis blends contemporary epic fantasy of the gritty, proudly foul-mouthed variety with parodic elements, especially when it comes to the vicious politics of his realm. But the story’s heart is in classic adventure, as Raptor and an amusingly ragtag band of slaves endeavor to escape their dwarven captors, hatching a plot involving tunnels, skis, a boat, and well-executed surprises. Davis proves adept at imagining the rough world of the mines, the brutality of imprisonment, and the slightly goofy camaraderie of the prisoners undertaking a desperate, impossible mission.
The dialogue has a crackling, sometimes comic rhythm, which lightens the pulpy material yet occasionally proves distracting from the reality of this grim world, as characters indulge in patter routines. (The names, too, can inspire incredulity: Turd, Goldprick, Sir Fartus the Clown.) But the worldbuilding is clear and inviting, classic fantasy with some welcome surprises, and the story of Raptor losing everything yet still fighting on is compelling, and the crisp, inventive action will please adventure fans.
Takeaway: A fantasy epic offering compelling classic adventure storytelling—and some wild humor.
Great for fans of: Joe Abercrombie, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A