I have had a confusing relationship with British fantasy novelist Tom Lloyd’s ‘The God Fragments’ series. I have loved both Stranger of Tempest and Princess of Blood – the first two books in the series – but have only rated them 7/ and 8/ out of 10 respectively.
As I wrote in the introduction to my review for Princess of Blood, “I will excuse minor issues with an author’s writing if the larger story, the world, and the action is such that I’m caught up and put on the edge of my seat until the wee-hours of the morning.” Meanwhile, in my review for the first book in the series, I said the “only negative I took away from this book was the writing – which might seem a big issue, but in the end was only mildly irritating.”
When Knight of Stars arrived on my doorstep, then, I was nevertheless stoked to read the next instalment following Anatin’s Mercenary Deck – the Cards. And, just as with the first two books in the series, I loved what I read and was simultaneously frustrated by the writing.
Lloyd’s ‘The God Fragments’ manages to hold on to my love and affection so strongly thanks in large part to the underlying premise which goes into making this story such a rollicking good time. I love a mercenary team story, with an eclectic cast of varying heroes and villains. Lloyd ensures his wildly eclectic mercenary horde interact with one another in ways that both drive the story forward and result in some laugh out loud good times. Further, Lloyd’s focus on a certain few characters ensures you are never left without some worthwhile character progression.
Add in the world’s use of magic – using fragments of the world’s now-dead gods to make magically various bullets with a range of effects – the conceit behind how Anatin’s Mercenary Deck is arrayed and organised, and the vibrant and curious world which we wander through, and I’m a long way towards forgiving a lot of minor inconsistencies.
But, after three books (and several novellas), I’m beginning to wish some of these inconsistencies were addressed, as they serve only to drag down an otherwise fantastic series.
For whatever reason, Lloyd’s writing remains foggy and unclear – the larger narrative and motivations are at times baffling, and occasionally downright contrived. For a group of mercenaries so regularly insistent upon doing things for the money, their motivations are at times unclear.
Unfortunately, Knight of Stars provided a perfect example of the writing inconsistencies and authorial contrivances that are becoming a hallmark of this series. Without spoiling things too much, the Cards get themselves into trouble, and as a result, the city where they are currently residing (and which they only arrived within days earlier). Great danger is about to befall the city, a direct result of the Cards’ actions, but Anatin is firm in keeping them out of the ensuing fight. Until, that is, he takes them all on an outing to get a good view of the ensuing fight, which inevitably leads to them having to run for their lives and, ultimately, participate in the fight they were so fiercely opposed to.
Which is then followed a few hours later by a complete about-face by Anatin, who decides to stay and continue the fight the following night.
I won’t get in to all the ways in which this scenario plays out, but suffice to say that Tom Lloyd should not be quite such an involved character in his own stories, contriving to arrive at the end goal he obviously prefers, but without any of the deft storytelling required for that end goal. By the time I finished this book, while I had had a lot of fun, I was also forced to remove entirely any critical thinking in order to enjoy the read. The moment I let my brain apply itself to the reading in front of it, the cracks and flaws in the story were immediately apparent, and severely frustrating.
That all being said, while the burdens of the author’s writing inconsistencies are growing, this is nevertheless a (relatively) fun read, with exciting action scenes and loveable (and hateable) characters. I am especially looking forward to where the story continues, as the series’ thematic undercurrent appears to be coming back to the fore in the next book.
So while I can’t unreservedly recommend Knight of Stars, I’m nevertheless enjoying myself enough with this series to continue reading.
Review by Joshua S Hill
6/10 from 1 reviews
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