FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
From author Charles C. Dixon comes an all new sword and sorcery fantasy series called The Gates of Kastriel. First in the series is Gold for Steel, which introduces fantasy lovers to the adventure filled, dangerous, far-famed, and lastly, profitable lives of sellswords in a world shared with direful creatures such as griffins, gargoyles, and demons. The author offers many sensible bullet points about a sellsword’s life, dispersing them throughout the chapters so that readers can more easily grasp what being a sellsword is all about, and why a sellsword would prefer his life over that of a noble knight.
Sellswords Dalvin, Oremund, and Marco are famous. They slew a griffin, a magnificent accomplishment that has caught the attention of Lord Tarius of House Barrington, the Warden of the South. There is bad blood between House Barrington and House Scollick. Someone known to the famous Griffin Slayers is in trouble for providing secrets to an outlaw hired by Lord Adair Scollick, the Warden of the East, to attack Lord Tarius’s caravans. Heaven’s Gate is a city that has been standing since the Age of Gods, protected by the old magic and an entire legion of gargoyles. Lord Tarius wants the sellswords’ help in taking the city and castle before nightfall because then, the gargoyles wake up. Is the fortune offered worth a suicidal job?
We meet the three sellswords Dalvin, Marco, and Oremund as they try to slay a griffin in the Ember Forest. In an ensuing scene which I believe to be a few weeks after the three sellswords slew the griffin, a beautiful ebony woman named Imam has made her way to Unthar’s Keep with a child named Narissa and a demon, or rather, a goblin named Qoraag. Oremund and Marco are also there, and they get into a confrontation with Sir Illeum Palentfire, captain of Lord Tarius’s Onyx Guard. Later, Dalvin, accompanied by the orc Orrick, heads to Unthar’s Keep to meet with Sir Illeum who means to talk to him about the Heaven’s Gate job. Orrick is an intimidating orc with two dual-bladed battle-axes on his back, looking for none other than Iman and Narissa.
Trained to battle with sword and shield since he was seven, Dalvin Longsfeer had been a knight once upon a time in the Empire of Gallendale. Banished, he has become a sellsword. Marco, a pale faced rogue who is good with a dagger and a bow, is a character with secrets who only becomes more interesting as the layers of his character are peeled off. Having fought his way out of the Gladiator-like Honor Rings, Oremund is a great warrior who loves the freedom that comes with being a sellsword. He cheats death when the Ember Forest griffin takes him up into the air plummets back down to the ground, lifeless. Marco wants to get to the bottom of this mystery, but “Oremund the Immortal” remains a hard nut to crack.
Since Orrick’s confrontation with Iman is inevitable, Dalvin’s path is soon to cross with Iman and the child she protects as well. To me, Orrick is just one completely misunderstood, but extremely scary orc. He is a member of the Unbroken and in a world where the Unbroken exist, a child like Narissa must be vanquished. Orrick believes that he is no monster and, though his description leaves one with a nightmarish image, I actually believed it. When he first met Dalvin, Orrick could’ve killed him, but he didn’t. He remains a tricky kind of villain. One that cannot be disliked until he gives readers a good reason to. He does.
When we are first introduced to the sellsword trio, we see them working together to defeat a griffin. But keeping them together is not what the author has in mind, the reason being a child with unusual gifts. Narissa. “There are some things more important than coin.” Dalvin, being a sellsword and all, firmly believes in the three words “gold for steel,” but seeing Narissa using her gifts to deflect one of Orrick’s axes changes everything. The trio is thus divided. Marco and Oremund have to take on the Heaven’s Gate job without Dalvin, but Marco does something that could very well be the end of him being a friend to Oremund.
The author is a brilliant world builder and – next to giving readers enough background information about both his major and minor characters – I’d definitely call his world building abilities one of his biggest strengths. From utilizing the mouths of his characters, whether it be through simple remarks or entertaining warrior tales, to his pictorial setting descriptions, the author implores various methods to acquaint readers with a fantasy world that the author clearly has envisioned in full.
“She saw a trickle of blood and realized she had cut his throat by accident,” the author writes in an early scene in which readers get to catch a glimpse of just how dangerous Narissa can be if someone like Iman isn’t there to calm her down. The sentence I quoted could be reworded so as not to slow readers down as it did me. Perhaps this: “She saw a trickle of blood and was relieved when she realized she had made an insignificant (or slight) cut on his throat by accident.”
There’s no reason The Gates of Kastriel shouldn’t become a favorite series among fans of the sword and sorcery fantasy genre. Bagging readers’ interest straight from the onset, Gold for Steel offers everything these readers often look for: scheming lords, warriors both human and inhuman, unexpected betrayals, legendary characters, magical items, and heroes whose bravery prove sharper than any sword and stronger than any piece of armor. Developments at the end make you eager for the sequel. This book goes right up there with the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but boy do I want to smack it down hard on a library table in front of some fantasy geek and tell that person simply to read it. Five FF stars for Charles C. Dixon!
Date Published: September 26, 2017
Genre: Sword & Sorcery
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