Sent to me by Penguin Michael Joseph in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 13/07/17
Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph
Format: Hardback, 352pp
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Summed up in a word: Relentless
I haven’t had the opportunity to read a Conn Iggulden novel before but when I saw Darien I knew I was ready to give him a go. Darien is a spectacular epic fantasy novel that encompasses plenty of bold stories and badass characters. I enjoyed all three of the prominent story arcs included in this novel as well as where CF Iggulden might be taking this trilogy in the future. I am starting to cultivate an addiction for epic fantasy and Darien has kicked it into overdrive. Full review below.
TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE
The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.
Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.
As the sun sets, their arrival inside the walls will spark a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, six destinies will have been made – and lost – in Darien.
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Darien was a fantastic start to the Empire of Salt series and I am already desperately awaiting the sequel. I could not get enough of Iggulden’s cast of rough, gritty and powerful charaters. I enjoyed the fact that even though the format covers multiple characters in various storylines, each tale got adaquate attention and it felt cohesive and compelling. All the characters got their time in the spotlight and each has their own brilliant story to tell.
There are three distinct story arcs featured in this novel that build up the anticipation to grander and more explosive plot reveals. All the stories are set around the city of Darian. It is a huge city that is separated amongst twelve families (or factions would be a more appropriate word). The overall plot is fairly familiar, a slow burning war between key factions for power, but it is the foundations for something spectacular.
First we follow hunter Elias Post and his quest for medicine. Desperate to save his family, Elias gambles his meagre savings in a local tavern. A skilled gunslinger named Vic Deeds takes a disliking to Elias and attempts to kill him. Elias walks away unharmed, moving out of the way of his bullets, as though he knew where to avoid. Vic catches up to Elias and offers him a deal he can’t afford to refuse.
Thief and treasure hunter Daw Threefold meets a girl called Nancy who might be his ticket to the biggest score he has ever witnessed. A treaure desired by all but still untouched. Their journey reveals the truth about Nancy’s abilities and the magnitude of her power. She now understands and she wants revenge.
Tellius protects the young and neglected. He feeds them, trains them and gives them purpose. One day a 10 year old boy arrives at his door and their meeting changes everything. Arthur does not speak but he is strong, loyal and fearless. Tellius uses his abilities for his own benefit and it backfires putting them both in the sights of royalty.
Each story was drastically different but they all organically meshed together. Iggulden uses his vast knowledge of history to layout a tale of civil war, power struggles and military strength but it is in the fantasy that I felt CI really shined. CI writing style is surprisingly stripped down and focused on driving the plot and characters forward agaisnt unspeakable odds. His management of all the indviduals in this story was impressive, making sure each of them gets involved. My favourite element to his writing in Darien has to be the magical imagery and technicality.
The magical abilities, the relics and the creatures are all superbly crafted and the imagery was top notch. I especially loved the time spent with Nancy as she is without a doubt the most powerful character in the book so far. CI filled her story with anger, ferocity and bold imagery. My favourite character has to be Elias as his story is both captivating and badass. He is an honest man who does not exploit his power for evil. He is a man who just wants to provide for his own but is forced to fight for his family’s lives and in the end he becomes unrecognisable to himself.
There are strong themes of war, disease, poverty and violence but they are nicely linked with other more humble elements. There is honour, family, triumph and loyalty woven through the narrative and that is reflected in those who occupy the story. The characters all have meaningful causes to what they are doing but none of them are wholly good.
I having given Darien a 5/5 star rating because it was a great read, filled with compelling characters, that has left me wanting so much more. I highly recommend this novel to all readers.
About C. F. Iggulden
C. F. Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today. He has written three previous bestselling historical series, including the recent Wars of the Roses quartet. Darien is the first in his epic new fantasy series, The Empire of Salt.