Gosh it’s been a while since I dabbled in reading fantasy. I’m so wary of books that have stories that span over 14 books (Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson I’m looking at you) or where you have to wait so long for the next installment to be published that you completely forget what was going on and have to start from the beginning (George R. R. Martin). With that in mind it might be a bit surprising that I’ve chosen to read The Palace Job which is the first installment in the Rogues of the Republic series by Patrick Weekes.
This looked right up my street. Patrick Weekes has some serious fantasy writing credentials on his CV; he’s a writer at the video game developer Bioware and has been a member of both the Mass Effect franchise and Dragon Age franchise writing teams. Those happen to be two of my favourite game series. Furthermore he apparently wrote the best in game parody song lyrics I’ve heard. They’ve become quite famous in their own right. Hang on, here’s a link. I’ll wait.
Youtube – Mordin Solus – Scientist Salarian
Right, back to the book review. After all this build up I was expecting quite a lot from this book, so much so that I bought the second and third in the series too.
Basic premise of the first novel: a disgraced captain and her scout escape their magical prison under the floating city of the elites and set out to assemble a motley crew of criminals to pull off the magical heist of the century. There are obstacles, they overcome the obstacles, everyone is happy and goes for a pint down the pub.
There are quite a few main characters here:
The former captain, Loch – a formidable fighter and mastermind of the operation. She’s one of the dark-skinned Urujar who are often looked down upon by the elite.
Loch’s friend and former scout, Kail – spends a lot of time insulting enemies’ mothers.
A safecracker, Tern – an unassuming woman with a dry sense of humour and a lot of very sensible pockets.
A skilled fighter, Icy (Indomitable Courteous Fist) – resident Buddhist equivalent. Refuses to harm a living thing.
A shapeshifting unicorn, Ululenia – why not?
A love priestess turned death priestess, Desidora – easy to tell when she’s irritated because she starts looking gothic.
Desidora’s hammer, Ghylspwr – last in line when the vowels were handed out. Is an actual sentient warhammer.
A wizard specialising in illusion magic, Hessler – kicked out of college for selling all their stuff.
A suspiciously simple rural bumpkin, Dairy – brought up on a dairy farm, funnily enough. Has a mystical birthmark.
So far, so Oceans Eleven. My main problem here is that there are so many heroes given “main-character” time, along with so many villains, who are similarly given “main-character” time that the story just chops back and forth and I’m left with the result that I couldn’t give two figs for most of them. My two favourite characters were Tern, who I think had some of the most amusing lines of the book and was also somewhat more relatable and showed her intelligence more, and the sentient warhammer.
The story takes our ragtag bunch of rogues across the land and finally back up to the city of the elites, where they plan to steal an item from the titular palace and restore Loch’s estate and/or get revenge or something. Honestly I’d kind of stopped caring. The obstacles to getting that item are all insurmountable but, you’ll be glad to hear, eventually get surmounted.
Members of the party die, come back to life, never died in the first place because of something or other and there’s a brief comic interlude in the form of a rather cheerful zombie. I’d have had him as a main character to be quite honest.
So now I’m left with a difficult decision – should I read the other two books? I’ve read that The Palace Job is the weakest of the three books as Weekes is having to spend time making introductions, making attempts at back story etc and that matters pick up in the second book. It’s just a debut book problem, right?