The Relic Guild by Edward Cox
The Relic Guild by Edward Cox is the last of the Gollancz debut fantasy books that were discounted prior to their release and for the first week. I’ve already reviewed five others (for example The Boy with the Porcelain Sword) and while they were all good books, they didn’t manage to excite me. The Relic Guild doesn’t manage to break out of this dilemma. It’s a good book that can’t reach for higher spheres.
One thing that keeps the book right in the middle of the fantasy genre is the at times bland prose that’s unable to convey any greatness. The word “was” was used in abundance and that doesn’t make for exciting sentences. Just to give you some contrast, the word “was” was used more often in The Relic Guild than in The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan, a book double as long. The difference between the mastery of the prose between the newcomer and the veteran is painfully evident and that hampered my enjoyment of the story quite a bit.
That might have been easier to ignore if the story or the characters could have enthralled me, but they had their own problems.
The main character that gets thrown into the fight between the good and the bad guys about the Labyrinth, basically a hub for portals to millions of other reals, doesn’t seem to make any difference at all. She acts only a few times and most of her usefulness to the story comes from others acting through her. As such, she doesn’t make for a good character to bond with, something that will hopefully change in the next installments of the series. If she would only start using her magic powers, she could have been more than a hapless side character mostly useless for the whole book.
While the story about the Relic Guild defending the Labyrinth from superior mages is an underdog fight bound to make you root for our small team of outgunned heroes, the book itself doesn’t feel like the first part of a series, but rather the first part of a two-part book. Why? Because both the past and the present storylines don’t end anywhere. We get thrown out of the book before anything major happens. There is no real closure and even if with the interesting cliff-hanger ending, that’s not enough to fully quell the feeling that we’ve been cheated out of a real, a finished story. I’m all for series, but even the books of a series have their unique arcs that have some sort of an ending. That seems to be lacking here.
Lastly, the setting. It’s definitely interested, this Labyrinth with its portals to other realms, but as so much in this book, it’s nowhere near maxed out. Instead of using the Labyrinth as a playground for this war, we’re bound to a mundane city that’s not really different from all the other cities in other books. One thing that makes it different is the constant surveillance of the whole city through camera-like orbs. Some 1984 shit right there and no one seems to care. But getting back to the setting itself, it didn’t hold the promise the description and the cover make. The only remarkable thing about the whole setting was the headquarter of the Relic Guild, seemingly alive, but that’s only a marginal playground in the story.
Concluding: The above might make it seem like the book wasn’t good. It’s a lot of criticism, but in the end I finished the book and it wasn’t a bad experience. It’s a good book and better if you don’t expect too much from it. I’ll be continuing to read the series, but mainly because I’ve high hopes that the author can grow. Linked with a story that just seems to start with the second book after a rather long introduction, the series has the potential to become a stepping stone and fight for a rightful place on the shelf.