Monday, March 17, 2014

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade

by Den Patrick

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade is a successful adventurous addition to Fantasy cannon, carving out its own niche. Written at a breezy pace, alternating between past and present(but not quite successfully as Mark Lawrence did with his Broken Empire series), following the self-centered protagonist, Lucien de Fontein, the novel tells the story of the people of Landfall. An origin myth is recounted, ripe with science fictional elements, of travelers landing on Landfall Island after a long cryo-sleep. The people of Landfall apparently use English to communicate but also Italian/Latin names and phrases, so it appears they must be from our Earth. Quite a few untranslated Italian phrases are liberally sprinkled throughout. Mentions of Greek/Roman myths reinforce this Earthly origin.

The folk of Landfall Island are split between humans and a handful of Orfani the Witchlings. The humans universally detest Orfani, somewhat monstrous creatures that are given a special class above humans, greatly at odds with their privileges and gilded imprisionment. We learn little about Landfall, other than its main feature, the Castle of Demesne. A castle divided into competitive Houses that specialize in farming, soldiering, etc. quite like in the Harry Potter books.
Much about Landfall and Demesne remains untold, perhaps fodder for future installments. What is this Old Tongue, if English/Italian are the main languages? What lies beyond the borders of Demesne and Landfall Island? Are there native creatures to this land? Why is there a military force if Landfall is the only Kingdom? Why are the Orfani called Witchlings? Why are they forbidden to use steel weapons?

The cover blurb mentions Locke Lamora and Gormenghast but I found it like neither book. The arrogant, yet still likable, Lucien is far from the charms of Locke Lamora and the novel lacks the filigreed prose of Peake. If comparable to any book, I'd call out again Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire or better yet, the mad scientistishness of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau. While The Boy With the Porcelain Blade does not quite reach the same heights as Lawrence does, it is a fun, entertaining read with a smashing finale and I look forward to its sequel, The Boy Who Wept Blood, due out next January.  This book clocks in at a reasonable 300 pages. I wish more Fantasy novels employed the same economy. Highly recommended.

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