Ghosts of the Citadel is the first of a four-part serialised collection of novellas. This harkens back to serialised fiction of old. There are more and more rumblings around the interwebs of how this is the future of short-form fiction on eReaders. After reading this, I can say for certain I hope that is true.
There used to be a time when reading was about having fun, exploring new worlds and being enchanted by massive freakin’ fantasy creatures. We still have that to some degree, but things are so much more serious now. (See Game of Thrones as an example of this ‘serious fantasy’ — my eyebrows are knitted together and my voice is low like Brian Blessed when I say that. Grrr, serious.) This is all fine and dandy. I, too, like a good Grrr, serious fantasy novel every now and then, but it’s nice to contrast that with pure unadulterated fun.
Of the story itself, we follow a trio of adventurers into the aforementioned Citadel. Jennifer Williams starts the story with a little bit of a prologue in chapter 1 to set up a bit of the world and lay down a few story lines. I was gripped from the very first page. Despite this novella following pulp traditions, there is no lack of skill in the prose, imagery or craft. In Lord Frith, Jennifer expertly creates a character with a multitude of motivations and goals (Can’t say too much about the beginning as it would spoil the story), so that when he pops up later in the story, it all ties together perfectly.
We are then taken into a vignette scene of true dungeon-crawling wonderfulness with two comic characters, Chednit and Gallo who get into a spot of bother in the eerie gloom. From this scene onwards we get tons of marvellous atmosphere, tension, and quite often, hilarity.
We then zoom to a frothy, swill laden tavern where we meet the two cornerstones of the story, and the main character in which the series is named after: The Copper Cat, aka Wydrin. She is a spiky, charming, dagger-wielding go-getter who has burned her way into my subconscious along with her disgraced Knight, Sebastian. The dialogue throughout between these adventurers is witty, snappy and a joy to read. Jennifer clearly knew her characters well when she wrote this, as they leap off the page with fully formed three dimensions. Wydrin will soon be a classic fantasy character and one of my favourites and probably yours, too.
Ghosts of the Citadel, being a novella, is a short read. I completed it in two sessions and loved every minute of it. There’s great pay off at the end, plenty of daring-do, and wondrous adventure throughout. The pacing of the story is perfect. We have great fight scenes with frenetic energy, then calmer scenes that are no less enjoyable. Jennifer proudly claims some classic tropes in this dungeon-crawler and twists them in her own style which makes for an incredibly enjoyable and believable world. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next instalment; these novellas are going to make a wonderful collection, and I heartily recommend you check this one out.