cover image The Black Guard: Chronicles of the Long War

The Black Guard: Chronicles of the Long War

A.J. Smith. Head of Zeus, $14.95 trade paper (608p) ISBN 978-1-78185-564-5

As war brews in the human world, a deeper, more sinister game is afoot in the lands of the gods. Told from the viewpoints of a variety of characters on all sides of the conflict, Smith’s decidedly epic debut, which layers a plethora of religious overtones onto fascinating worldbuilding, entices and entertains despite some flaws in execution. Duke Hector of Canarn planned to break away from the Kingdom of Ro, but a traitor reveals his plans and the king’s elite church knights reclaim his lands. Hector’s children are declared traitors to the crown and must flee, aided only by a handful of friends. They and others attempt to figure out exactly what role the Seven Sisters, feared enchantresses, play in these political plots, even as their gods make demands in what appears to be a celestial chess match. With flowing action and a plot that is varied and enticing, the novel stands as a testament to careful, effective characterization. However, frequent repetition stands merely to lengthen an already robustly detailed tome, and the constant switches in perspective make it hard to reconcile all the different threads of story. Agency: Diane Banks Associates (U.K.). (Oct.)