How an author executes the opener to their book can leave the wretched soul all twisted up in knots. Seeking that elusive hook is oftentimes as much of a quest as the hero’s journey contained within. Refreshingly, The Lost War kicks things off by dropping an F-bomb as the first word. For me, a fellow abuser of expletives, this elicited a grumble of laughter (yes, I’m immature and cursing makes me laugh), and marvel at the courage of the author.
The Lost War gets things underway in a strong manner, introducing us to our main character, Aranok, as a war weary, and jaded envoy to the King, with magical abilities, marking him as a ‘Draoidh’. We are introduced to a world where individuals are born with magical powers, and such people are distrusted and abused by society.
The story takes on a tour of the kingdom, with a quickly assembled crew made up of veterans, a blacksmith, a priest, and a knight. The crew encounter demons, and the pseudo-zombies borne of a desperate plague sweeping the country. It is this plague, the Blackening, which serves as the main thrust of the story. The crew ultimately seek to uncover a means of halting, and curing the blackening, which propels them on a path of confrontation with the villain of the piece, the awesomely named Mynygogg.
The writing is clean, and tight, and the characters distinct and their dialogue alive, and believable. Yes, the general thrust of the plot is familiar, but the same can be said for many solid offerings in Fantasy - indeed, there is comfort in that, and Anderson executes it brilliantly. What really stood out for me was the way the author wove in hat tips to the Gaelic language and familiar parts of Scotland and indeed Edinburgh. Whilst to many readers, these little ‘easter eggs’ would be overlooked, for me they really made the book distinct, and stand out.
There is a twist at the end of The Lost War that I simply did not see coming, which sets things up nicely for the second book in the series.
On the whole, a comfortable, and enjoyable read, that explored familiar paths, but did so with considerable competence, and quality. Well worth your time to read. I’ll be keeping my eye out for the next instalment.