BROKEN BLADE, the first in McCullough's new fantasy series "Fallen Blade", seemed to me the perfect answer to my assassin/thief/fantasy blues. I haven't really found anything to replace Brent Week's "Night Angel" trilogy yet, and this sounded perfect. Fallen Goddess, assassin on the run, complex fantasy society--seemed to fit the bill.
In some ways it was diverting and intriguing, but the problem was more in the execution. McCullough relies a bit too much on coincidence and unspoken rules. He doesn't ever spell out Triss' powers so each time Aral ran into some sort of problem he couldn't talk, kill or escape his way out of, Triss had the answer. She had a near unlimited bag of tricks it seemed and that ruined the suspense for me.
The world McCullough sets up was certainly the highlight of the book for me. I enjoy fantasy world politics and dark humor, both of which are in abundance here. The world is populated by the ruthless, god and mortal alike, who manipulate and scheme to oust one and other. Aral, by his current and former occupations, finds himself stuck in the middle of these machinations more often than not, which leads to some hairy situations.
This is in many ways set up like a mystery, the fantasy elements incidental and sometimes a distraction from the plot. You have beautiful woman, shady deal, murder and deceit--I kind of expected Sam Spade to jump out or Matlock to ring a peal over the culprits' heads. McCullough tried to combine too many genres at once, not really meshing them together in a coherent fashion hat didn't have one trying to dominate.
As I said though this was diverting and did keep me interested throughout. I didn't feel a pressing need to finish it right away, nor did I miss any sleep over it, but it kept me entertained consistently.
Once a fabled Blade of Namara, Aral Kingslayer fought for justice and his goddess alongside his familiar, a living shadow called Triss. Now with their goddess murdered and her temple destroyed, they are among the last of their kind. Surviving on the fringes of society, Aral becomes a drunken, broken, and wanted man, working whatever shadowy deal comes his way. Until a mysterious woman hires him to deliver a secret message-one that can either redeem him or doom him.