Review of The Copper Promise by Jen Williams


This is a really good swords and sorcery fantasy, with all the necessary ingredients to make it a fast-paced, thoroughly entertaining read…

thecopperpromiseThere are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel: some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths. For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him… and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done. But sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes it pays to listen. Soon this reckless trio will become the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

If the blurb sounds like this is a rip-roaring adventure with plenty of swash-buckling action, fuelled with oodles of blood, guts, nasty villains and big nasties crashing around. Yep. All of that. Along with three interesting heroes. Well, three and a half, really… and this isn’t so much grimdark as gleedark. There is a boisterous energy that doesn’t diminish the danger or unpleasantness or threat facing the world, but I put the book down with a grin on my face.

Williams has managed to pull off a really tricky feat – and make it look easy while doing so. Her trio are an odd bunch – and for my money, Wydrin, the copper cat, is by far the most compelling. She is a greedy adrenaline-junkie with a tongue on her sharp enough to slice and dice the villains confronting her before they are even aware they are being properly insulted. Great fun.

Her companions are no light-weights, either. Lord Frith spends the book reeling from the action that opens the book, while Sir Sebastian has his own particular issues – which only get more complicated as he becomes an unlikely father… The narrative is mostly powered through the third person viewpoint of these protagonists, though occasionally we get slices in the point of view of one of the host of antagonists they find themselves facing.

The pace doesn’t let up as the trio find themselves bouncing from one tricky situation to another as they slide towards the main confrontation, which brings the book to a triumphant conclusion. I read this offering in three greedy gulps, unable to put it down until I’d discovered what had happened – something that hardly ever happens with fantasy featuring sharp pointy weapons. Or hardly ever used to…

If you haven’t yet encountered it, get hold of a copy. It’s an enjoyable feast of a book.

15 responses »

  1. And commenting on the review: sounds like fun book, I added it to my Goodreads too. I like interesting characters with personalities, who aren’t oozing with good and world-saving purpose.

  2. Catching up with your very old review as I finally read the book.
    I have to say, I was disappointed with it. You read my rant about not finishing books: it was sparked by “Copper Promise”. The book wasn’t horrible (quite to the contrary, there were some good parts and brilliant ideas in it), and that’s why I ultimately read it all, but there were huge let downs along the way.
    The most important one was the characters doing “stupid” things just to forward the plot, or acting inconsistently: being either reasonable or emotional, depending on what the plot needed. In the end, I couldn’t care for them at all. And the villains fell flat too. There were also pacing problems that made me want to skip entire passages and disconnected me with the book (I’m guessing this comes from making 4 novellas into a book), and the ending felt very rushed.
    What I liked? Definitely some of the ideas. The last goddess who have eaten the others (but the certain hermit’s identity wasn’t a surprise). The brood daughters discovering the words (too bad it’s just a minor part of the book). Bezcavar – a bit of cliche, but nicely played, with the armor and all.
    I think I just might have had too high expectations, so my readerly experience ended falling flat.

    • I’m really sorry you didn’t like it, Joanna. I think I know far more reckless fools than you did – because I could really believe in the ‘stupid’ things they did. I’ve known folks wired like that so it didn’t seem too much of a stretch and I also rather fell in love with the Copper Cat, even though there were times I wanted to shake her till her teeth rattled… A close family member has those self destructive tendencies, and I love her, too.

      I’ll give you the pacing issues – that said, it was Jen Williams’ debut and she is a more accomplished writer now. Still, I do feel a bit responsible for your miserable reading experience:(.

      • No need to feel sorry. I think it might have been my own expectations that were my downfall.
        I’ve know reckless people too, but this is not something I admire. It was also somewhat against their characters: they thoughtlessly opened one jar after another even though all there was inside were dead bodies. One, I understand, second – too, but the third and the fourth – not so much, especially after they’ve already had scraps of information from the little men that should have made them worried or concerned. But if they were, the plot wouldn’t go forward.
        That contrasted with the wits the characters were supposed to have (even the reckless Copper Cat was smart to come up with good plans, etc.) and made it difficult for me to love them.
        But, it’s just one book. I’ve found many other recommendations on your blog that were great (or at least good 😉 ) reads :). I just thought since we talked about this one several times, I owed you sharing my impressions.

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