Darien – CF Iggulden


Stars: starstarstarstarstar

The first in the Empire of Salt series of fantasy novels by Conn Iggulden, who, like Ian Banks before him,  has adopted a new literary persona – “CF Iggulden” – for this venture into a different genre.

Just as Banks showed another aspect to his talents with his SF novels, Iggulden demonstrates that he’s just as good (if not better)  at writing fantasy as he is at producing first-class historical novels.

The series is being marketed as for “Teens and Young Adults” by Penguin UK, but this is easily as adult as any of Brandon Sanderson’s mainstream fantasy work – and, in my less-than-humble opinion, just as good.

Three are three deftly interwoven plot-lines featuring paired characters –

  • the magic-drinking Nancy and Daw
  • the Fagin-like old swordsman Tellius and the boy-golem Arthur
  • the assassin Deeds coupled with the prescient Elias

These all converge in the city of Darien in the midst of a military take-over.

The protagonists engage the reader and are solidly believable, and the setting – a late Renaissance-type city-state with touches of steampunk and large doses of magic – is vividly rendered.

The episodic sections of the story-line combine in a very satisfying manner, which is both logical and yet not so predictable as to let the reader put the book down.

Comparison, as they say, is odious, but I’ll force myself enough to say that if you like Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series or, as noted above, any of the multifarious works of Brandon Sanderson, then you’re probably going to love this.

The second book in the series, Shiang, is already out. It’s just as good, and more are promised. So, prepare yourself for a long and satisfying literary journey in Iggulden’s company.


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