I’ve been waiting so very patiently (mostly……) for this book. I quite enjoyed my time with Black Cross, as you can probably tell from my review of it.
So, when an ARC of Black Guild snuck its way into my email inbox, it went right onto the kindle and then as soon as I was done the book I was reading, immediately into my eyeholes with MAXIMUM EFFORT.
With sufficient scheming & force of will, the unthinkable becomes the inevitable.
Marked for death by the Black Guild, King Barrison’s lords scramble to see him protected. But what repercussions come from a master assassin acting behind another’s back? What comes from said master involving another guild altogether?
War, plain and simple, although the resulting conflict is anything but.
From gargantuan scale-suspended land-masses to leagues of caravan paths across plateaus and passes, Brisance crumbles into disarray and a single name is whispered on the lips of many: Dignaaln, emissary.
“They don’t have a big wooden door in a fancy old building in Guild District with a brass knocker on and a sign saying ‘to book assassinations, knock here’ do they?”
Well then. The first thing that happened here was a Dramatis Personae detailing who shows up here. Longoss, check; Coppin, check… aaand wait… where is Errolas? Where are Sears and Biviano? Where’s Falchion? Sav?
I had a vague sort of knowledge from a social media of some sort I think of the sequel being split into two separate volumes, but I didn’t realize that the narrative itself had been split into two separate storylines and then into two separate volumes, one of which had all my favorite characters from Black Cross, and the other, the one I’m actually reading… did not. Don’t get me wrong, I will entirely agree that the overall massive, massive monster that is this world absolutely benefits from being split into smaller, more manageable bits, but this volume more or less excludes at least half of the major characters from the first book without even mentioning them or indicating in any way (aside from a very short excerpt from book three involving two characters only) that their story is continued in a different volume. As much as I have and will joke about how this made me feel, it was actually kind of disappointing for realsies. I mean, I still think this was a good book…. but it wasn’t the book I’ve been excited to read for the last year. That one is after this one. My princes are all in another castle. *the smallest, saddest sounding violin plays*
But whatever, it’s not my book and not my place to tell it which volume of the series to be, let’s move on to the actual story of this particular volume.
In terms of writing, I liked it quite a bit. It’s engaging, and it’s well written. I found it seemed better written than Black Cross was. The author’s ideas came across a bit more clearly here, I think. The writing felt stronger. It just seemed to flow off the page better. It was edited a lot more thoroughly than the first. It’s also much shorter and follows fewer differing plot lines, which I know is entirely the reason that my dudes are all missing (no, you get over it already!). The plot had legit twists and turns that I didn’t see coming at all. The ending was satisfying and (mostly) wrapped things up.
This one follows several characters, most of which are new or newish to the story. The first of them that we get to meet is Cheung, who is an assassin. He’s not from the titular Black Guild though. He’s from a different country altogether. He’s disguised himself as a priest in order to travel with a caravan of nomadic travelers to Altoln, as that is where the King is, who is his mark. Cheung finds himself becoming friendly with the caravaneers, and when things go awry, he feels sorry for them getting mixed up with him. I liked Cheung, and I thought that his journey with the caravaneers was an interesting one.
We also eventually catch up with Coppin and Longoss, who are busy making hardships for the Black Guild in their own way. When Severun (my favorite plaguey mage) and his witchhunter companion Egan come looking for the Black Guild to stop the assassination attempt on the king, they find Longoss and Coppin, in an admittedly humorous and well thought out way. Shenanigans ensue.
There’s a ship full of goblins (mostly), being gobliney (…mostly). I wasn’t sure at first if I liked this particular group of characters, but Bosun kind of grew on me. This storyline also, as you’d imagine, has ties to the Black Guild. One of the Black Guild’s leaders, Alden-Fenn is out on the sea, doing… assassin things… at sea. Sea assassinating. You know.
We get a better look at the Black Guild in this one, obviously. It is ruled by 3 different people, and Master Son and Mistress Bronwen, the two of them actually at home in Wesson and not floating around the sea being a crazy assassin… aren’t really getting along. Not at all.
Then we have the mysterious character of Dignaaln, who shows up in the middle of things and… stirs things up. He is the emissary. The emissary of what though? DUN DUN… DUNNNNN!
The Caravaneers and Cheung take up most of the first half of the book, and that was good because it gave me time to get acquainted with everyone in that part. These guys all have names, relatives, occasional bare knuckles boxing opponents, mannerisms, likes and dislikes, etc, and there are a lot of them to remember. I think I did mostly okay at remembering who was who, but as soon as was pretty sure I had everyone’s name down, we switched POVs, lol. Oh well. At least the next POV had characters I remember from book one so I didn’t have to try as hard to memorize them all. Too bad it was Longoss, a character that I have never liked. Admittedly, I think he got a little better in this one, so I suppose I’m warming up to him a little. And we’ve got Coppin to balance it out, I guess. Severun and the effects of the scroll that started off most of the plot of Black Cross was more explained here too, and I liked that.
This is a book full of characters and it uses them and their experiences all as a group to bring the story to its end. It tends to leave some of the side characters hanging along the way though, and that’s my only real complaint about it. At least two of the storylines in this one are ended rather abruptly and their non-essential characters just sort of… never returned to the main plotline. So, I have questions. I have many questions, and I worry that the answers to those questions are going to be skipped in book three as it is about different characters. At the same time, I need book three to answer all the questions I still have about book one.
SO MANY GODDAMNED QUESTIONS. Not… like in a bad way though?
Anyway, JP Ashman writes interesting characters. It’s a shame I don’t always love them, but I can’t always love everyone, amirite? 😀 My favorite character in this entire book though… isn’t a major one and isn’t human. It’s Dignaaln’s goddamn awesome palomino. He’s probably the only character in this book without a name. He’s just the golden palomino. Fuckin’ horse high-five (hoof bump!) over here for this steed just being awesome, though. I have motherfucking questions about this horse. I hope he returns in sequels.
All told? It was good. I liked it. I liked it quite a lot, in the end. But, I didn’t love it, like I loved Black Cross. Perhaps it is because the characters made it fun and exciting even where it was dark and scary, and I did not find that same fun and excitement here, because I didn’t really latch on to any of these characters the way I latched on in the first book. I did like them… but not quite as enthusiastically.
I’m pretty sure that I’m going to like the next book in the series a lot though. I have a feeling. An inkling, even.