As I started to read this, I commented that it is one of the most readable High Fantasy novels I have come across in quite some time. I revised that opinion very shortly thereafter.
I’m talking about Rob Howell’s A Lake Most Deep, which suffers from an odd cover, and the mention by another reviewer of an extensive glossary when I was first looking at it made me nervous, I will admit. That’s not normally the sign of a fun read.
I forged ahead and bought the book. I was both right and wrong with the High Fantasy descriptor. This is actually a Noir mystery wrapped in a High Fantasy, and it’s a terrifically fun read. The First Reader and I have both read it (and I bought it a week ago!) and we both like it a lot. Four thumbs up.
I really enjoyed the characters, they are well-rounded and act with plausible motivations. You slowly get to know the main character, who is drawn into a mysterious kidnapping almost against his will, but his honor binds him to investigate, even though it’s quickly clear that no-one wants him involved and they will go to great, even final, lengths to make sure he stays out of it. I was engaged in the story quickly, and although yes, there are a lot of non-English words sprinkled into the tale, I recognized them as having Norse roots and they didn’t throw me off my reading, but rather added flavor.
As a side-note, Amazon has this in the YA category, and it is very much not a YA book. Although there is no explicit sex, there is a lot of sexual content and allusions. There is graphic, gory violence. None of the characters are all that young (not the primary ones) so I have no idea why it’s in there.
The First Reader thought it was a fun ride, and although there were some historical inaccuracies, this was a Fantasy and it was easy to let it ride. He really liked the writing about food that is sprinkled through the story, he says he has no idea of accuracy to period but it didn’t matter, it was well done and matched the story.
I did something I don’t usually do, and bookmarked a couple of clever passages. There are two cats at the Inn where our hero winds up staying for the duration. Here’s one of his first encounters with the stable cat “The black and white cat celebrated my decision to stay by rolling over and switching to draping her left paw instead of the right over the railing. Her eyes never opened.” The other passage is longer, and describes gulyas from the viewpoint of someone who’d never eaten anything like it – it’s a lovely bit, and I was amused since it came on the heels of my experiment on those lines.
Anyway, if you haven’t gathered already, this one’s highly recommended and the author is now on our buy-on-sight list. Great fun, a different take on epic Fantasy and worth the price.