The God Tattoo: For the fans, not the newcomer

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe God Tattoo by Tom Lloyd fantasy book reviewsThe God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign by Tom Lloyd

Tom Lloyd shares stories from before his TWILIGHT REIGN series in this collection, The God Tattoo: Untold Tales from the Twilight Reign. I read it because I thought you didn’t have to have read any of the TWILIGHT REIGN books in order to understand what was going on. I would say that’s not strictly true. My ignorance of the series definitely hampered my enjoyment of these pieces.

These eleven stories follow various characters in the city and nation of Narkang in a land called The Land. Several seem to take place at or near the site of an epic battle in the past, which the last elf king Aryn Bwr (“Aaron Burr?”) lost badly, and which seems to be cursed now. Lloyd’s writing is reminiscent at times of a number of dark fantasy writers from the 1980s, most notably Karl Edward Wagner. Once in a while he nearly channels H.P. Lovecraft. This makes half-a-handful of the stories successful as stand-alone efforts.

Apparently, all of these are set in a time period before THE TWILIGHT REIGN. My favorite story in the collection is “A Man Gathering Spirits;” in which Morghien, a wanderer with strange abilities, comes to a town that is less than welcoming, meets a witch, and goes wading in the nearby river. The magic here is complete and plausible and the story has a nice touch of wit.

“A Beast in Velvet” and “The Marshall’s Reflection” both start as mystery stories with a fantastical or demonic element. They’re a bit like Tanith Lee’s Cyrion stories although they lack Lee’s elegant prose. “The Marshall’s Reflection” is echoed later on in “The Pictures of Darayen Crin.” “A Beast in Velvet” introduces Nimer, a close associate of King Emin, who functions a bit like Sherlock Holmes. Nimer is a great character and the revelation of his real role in the story is quite well done. The weakness in the mystery tales is that, before they can be satisfactorily “solved,” the king or the government swoops in and hides all the evidence, to avoid panicking the populace. I was waiting for someone to say, “Someone’s been murdered — quick, round up the usual suspects.”

In “A Man From Thistledell,” a character from “The Marshall’s Reflection” plays a major role. The story is tragic and frightening but has no real tension, since it is quite clear what’s going to happen as soon as the man is identified as being from, in fact, Thistledell. This story also went on far too long, spending time with a secondary character who seemed to be there for comic relief. In “Velere’s Fell,” the townspeople suffer a fate not unlike the horrible things that happened in Thistledell. “Velere’s Fell” probably is the most Lovecraftian of the collection.

“The Man Who Collected Spirits,” “The God Tattoo,” and “Afraid of the Dark” were the most accessible, even though I thought the last two were predictable. In “Dawn” a young man leaves his home village and has an encounter with a goddess. He is shown two possible destinies, and at the end of the story, he chooses one. Since I went and looked on the Internet and read who he was, I now understand the significance of the story, but the story itself provides no clue, since we don’t even learn what his choice was. As a retroactive origin story, it might be successful, and would probably do better incorporated into one of the series novels as a flashback.

Even though, once again, I had no idea what the thing menacing Coren Derenin in “Dark of the Moor” was, this story was probably one of the most consistent in tone and tension, as Derenin and his family are systematically terrorized by strange events at the ancestral home, where they have returned after the death of Derenin’s mother. The writing here is solidly atmospheric.

In my least favorite story in the book, “Shadows in the Library,” Emin makes an appearance, this time as a young man who is not yet a king. Gennay, Emin’s sister is setting up a library for the city, a place in which children of the poor will be given an education. She is also collecting scrolls from all over the kingdom, and it’s clear that this is going to go bad almost immediately. Gennay, who is alone in various rooms of the library most of the time, talks out loud to herself, so that Lloyd can show us what she is thinking. The mercenary in “The God Tattoo” did the same thing, and it was equally irritating there. Unlike “Dark of the Moor” where the tension slowly, steadily ratchets up, things drift along at the same rate of discomfort for many, many pages in “Shadows in the Library” before finally getting scary. Emin, when he appears, is a callow, self-centered youth who is remarkably un-heroic.

Having done a tiny bit of reading about THE TWILIGHT REIGN, and reading Greg’s review, I do not think this is the series for me. It looks more like a video game than a series of books. These stories would be great for the fans, who want to know more about some of their favorite characters, but they do not welcome a newcomer.

Twilight Reign — (2006-2013) Publisher: Isak is a white-eye, feared and despised in equal measure. Trapped in a life of poverty, hated and abused by his father, Isak dreams of escape, but when his chance comes, it isn’t to a place in the army as he’d expected. Instead, the Gods have marked him out as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Farlan. Lord Bahl is also a white-eye, a genetic rarity that produces men stronger, more savage and more charismatic than their normal counterparts. Their magnetic charm and brute strength both inspires and oppresses others. Now is the time for revenge, and the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice, the men who would themselves be king watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that are encircling him like scavenger birds. The various factions jostle for the upper hand, and that means violence, but the Gods have been silent for too long and that violence is about to spill over and paint the world the colour of spilled blood and guts and pain and anguish…

Tom Lloyd fantasy book reviews. Twilight Reign: 1. The Stormcaller 2. The Twilight Herald 3. The Grave ThiefTom Lloyd fantasy book reviews. Twilight Reign: 1. The Stormcaller 2. The Twilight Herald 3. The Grave ThiefTom Lloyd fantasy book reviews. Twilight Reign: 1. The Stormcaller 2. The Twilight Herald 3. The Grave Thief 4. The Ragged ManTom Lloyd fantasy book reviews. Twilight Reign: 1. The Stormcaller 2. The Twilight Herald 3. The Grave Thief 4. The Ragged Man 5. The Dusk WatchmanTom Lloyd fantasy book reviews. Twilight Reign: 1. The Stormcaller 2. The Twilight Herald 3. The Grave Thief 4. The Ragged Man 5. The Dusk Watchmanfantasy and science fiction book reviews


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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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