So The Guns of Ivrea is set in a small watery section of a fantasy world where the one faith (very like Christianity in many ways) has seen the old gods all but extinguished, and has sold prejudice against merfolk to the masses. The book follows Acquel, trainee monk with a side helping of bland; Danamis, once-a-pirate made governor of his own town; and Lucinda, evil witch type person pretending to be all religious and stuff. It kicks off as Acquel discovers the long dead prophet of the very faith he serves was actually half mer, and then goes on the run from the priests trying to kill him. At the same time, Danamis is quite rudely mutinied by his uncle and goes on the run… or sail.
This one is a fairly difficult book to review because… It’s not bad. It might actually be quite a good book. I just didn’t like it. The premise is good with humans and merfolk once living together, but long since separated by the propaganda of the church and now living in fear and animosity of each other. The snippets of the old world the author throws at us were quite interesting, with mantichores and satyrs and a messed up tree sprouting baby heads. But I struggled through it.
So I’ll admit I may have miss-sold the book to myself. The cover screams pirate and there is a single mention of the word on the back. I jumped to conclusions. Bad Rob. There is no piracy in this book. The closest it gets is the reader being told that Danamis is a pirate, despite being anything but.
The truth is I really did not get on with the style. For a start the point of view hops heads at a dizzying pace. One moment we’re riding along with Danamis, hearing his thoughts on the matter, and then we’re in Acquel’s head, with barely even time to breath. Sometimes I actually had to re-read a paragraph to figure out who was thinking what. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it is not a style of writing I get on with at all. Then we have the Pride and Prejudice style of dialogue… honestly the characters speak as though they are right out of a period drama. As someone who reads a lot of grimdark, this made me want to crawl into the pages and give the characters a hard slap before screaming “TALK LIKE A REAL PERSON” at them.
From the ‘Praise’ section at the front of the book it seems Clifford Beal is a historical fiction writer for the most part and it certainly shows in The Guns of Ivrea. I lost count of the number of outfits that were described (often in great detail). There’s also the way the action scenes are often over described, which is something else I’ve come to expect from historical fiction. Again this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and some people love that style… but not me.
What it boils down to is The Guns of Ivrea isn’t a bad book. The story is interesting enough that I’m honestly tempted to pick up the 2nd one, but the style of writing is really not my cup of tea. I think I’d recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction, but wants a bit more fantasy in their world. But if you’re thinking of reading it because you want some pirates in your fiction… well I’ll happily recommend some other reading instead.
The Guns of Ivrea gets 3 stars from me. It’s a decent book, but I didn’t like the style.