Gedlund by William Ray (Tales of the Verin Empire #1)

8/10 High-fantasy flintlock, with immaculate moustaches, ancient elven empires, and men with guns marching to glorious, imperial victory!

Gedlund is a big, flintlock epic with guns and goblins, ancient empires, and cannons blasting the walking dead. In many ways I felt immersed in a world much like the Warhammer universe, with the (British) Empire of man battling vampire counts and greenskins. This is a good thing, and basically I just really enjoyed it.

High-fantasy flintlock, with immaculate moustaches, ancient elven empires, and men with guns marching to glorious, imperial victory! Well, hopefully. At least when they're not getting splattered by lighting-spewing, regenerating golems, or torn apart by warping vampires, or drained by ghostly spectres, or enthralled by evil pipers, or...well, I could go on. 

It's a rough life for the infantry of Verin. They may have a parliament now, with new-found industrial wealth and trains and steamboats and artillery, but magic remains a mighty foe. If it's not obvious I had a lot of fun with the setting, and for me it was probably the strongest aspect of the book - a great mix of myth and real historical knowledge and detail.

As an added bonus, every chapter has a sort of 'post-war' reference that really added to the feeling that this was a real world that existed far outside the characters and plot. These were really well done and I found myself looking forward to reading them.

A newly minted soldier of the Verin empire is sent to war, first against goblins, and then against an ancient undead king. Mostly he tries not to get killed at first, but the plot thickens, and our hero gets more useful and important as he goes. Overall it's a simple plot that tugs along as a military adventure, without straying far away from its purpose. 

Tammen Gilmot is an overly educated soldier who wants to see the world. He's quickly unsure of this decision, but nonetheless perseveres through a wide variety of mortal dangers. Basically, I liked Tammen quite a bit. He's relatable, he's not an idiot, he's human. I'd have a beer with the guy at the very least. And I was rooting for him to end up not dead.

Attempting to keep him alive (sort of) is Captain Valdemar - a famous warrior, originally from the undead enemy's land of Gedlund, and 'frozen' as a sort of statue with magic. He comes equipped with a magic sword and a healthy dollop of testicular fortitude, both of which come in rather handy.

There's also the gruff, efficient Corporal Glynn, and a couple joke-cracking sergeants. I liked all these characters, too, save for one complaint of a POV switch fairly late in the book that knocked me out of the story a bit. I understand why it was included (the characters split up), but might have worked better if we'd seen a different POV sooner. 

Very detailed, and very smooth. It's a readable book that carries you forward without much effort, which is much harder to do than it sounds. My only complaint is that it plodded on a bit, and with a fairly simple plot I feel the word count could have dropped pretty easily. But this is often a matter of taste, depending on how you like to consume your stories.

Final thoughts
I'll be reading the sequel(s?). It's actually not easy to find good flintlock fantasy, probably because it involves some of the difficulty of research like a historical novel, but I really enjoyed this. Easy recommend for flintlock or military fantasy fans, even epic fans. Oh, and, while it is quite long, it's also a stand-alone, with the next book(s) taking place in the same world but with different characters. 

I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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William Ray's Tales of the Verin Empire series


Tales of the Verin Empire #1

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