cover image The Sovereign Hand

The Sovereign Hand

Paul Gilbert. Steam (, $8.99 e-book (460p) ISBN 978-0-994-10891-3

Gilbert’s debut novel opens with a lovingly crafted description of his racially diverse city, Thorn, that quickly devolves into a series of disjointed vignettes with the introduction of too many characters. The most likable of the bunch are Alexa, the daughter of a wealthy family that wants her to devote her life to volunteer work, and Eamon Charcastle, a young priest. They are counterbalanced by Tanner, a fellow who has a permanent chip on his shoulder. The three of them are thrown together by circumstance to become the city’s destined heroes along with two others. After Tanner’s nonchalant attempted sexual assault on Alexa, readers will struggle with later attempts to redeem him. The relationships among humans, gobelkin, and other races provide an intriguing background, but they are not adequately integrated into the story. The novel doesn’t live up to its potential, but in future outings Gilbert’s skill might just catch up with his ambition. (Aug.)