Fantasy, paranormal, necromancers, wizards, mystery, action, some romance
Nicholas Valiarde is both a nobleman and a thief, perhaps the greatest thief in the kingdom of Ile-Rien, where magic is a part of everyday life. Around him he has gathered an unparalleled band of criminals, including a well-known actress, an ex-military officer, a hardened killer, and a sorcerer with a bad drug habit. Valiarde, in the guise of criminal overlord Donatien, is amassing a small fortune in gold and jewels with one purpose in mind: to take his revenge on Count Montesq, the man who leveled false charges of necromancy against Nicholas's beloved godfather Edouard, leading to Edouard's execution. But Nicholas's band of ne'er-do-wells isn't the only force stalking the dark streets of Vienne, and Nicholas is about to face a real necromancer in a battle whose outcome will affect all of Ile-Rien.
This book is brilliant. There is almost nothing in it that I didn't like or that I skipped over. In fact, this may well just be one of my favorite books ever. Yes, it was that good.
First of all is the plot. It never got boring and it never stalled. From chapter one the ride takes off and it doesn't stop until the very end. As the book opens we find ourselves in one of the most lavished mansions where a ball is taking place. Unbeknownst to the attendants, not one but two robberies are occurring simultaneously in that very house. As luck would have it, Nicholas and his friends have a rather nasty run in with a ghoul sent by a powerful necromancer and they barely manage to escape.
From that moment on their lives are complicated beyond belief as they try to put their well thought out plan to bring down the ruthless man who is responsible for Nicholas father’s execution as well as trying to escape the clutches of the mad wizard who is after them.
The other thing I loved about this book were the characters. Nicholas is one of the most genuine heroes I’ve come across in a very long time. Ever since his father was executed he has spent his life building a double persona. One is of a respectable nobleman whom everyone knows as Nicholas Valiarde, son of the late scientist Edouard Viller. The other is Ile-Rien’s infamous underworld crime-lord Donatien. He is very adept at keeping the two personalities separated to everyone but his closest friends and allies: Madeleine and Reynard. Only they can see how his vendetta is slowly consuming him and the lines between his two personalities are beginning to blur.
Nicholas comes across effectively as a tortured hero without going over the top. His is a quiet manner yet you never have a doubt that he is anything but a doomed man because of his obsession with revenge. I loved the way that Wells portrays him. Not once does the author trying to convince you the man is tortured or that he is the very best at what he does overwhelm you. It’s there in the way he acts or thinks or the way others see him.
Another treat was Madeleine who quickly became one of my favorite heroines. The woman doesn’t have one TSTL moment. Ever. Not once does she make a rash and stupid decision. Not once does she falter and wait for everyone to come to her rescue because she got into trouble. She actually thinks before she acts, she is good under pressure and she doesn not doubt the Nicholas' abilities. At the same time you feel the love and the bond she shares with him even without having to read pages of the two declaring their love for one another. I thought this was one of the best things about the novel.
The secondary characters are all brilliant as well. From Nicholas opium addicted wizard friend to his seemingly debauched allied Reynard to even his bodyguards. They all fit their roles perfectly without fading in the background.
The villains are amazing as well. Wells doesn’t shy away from showing you just how evil these people really are and that’s what makes the danger to our heroes all the more believable.
The one thing I found somewhat lacking is the way in which one of the two villains meets his end. We are lead on a wild chase and the suspense builds up only to be over and done with in the blink of an eye. I would have liked to see exactly what happened but I was satisfied with the way the other, and more important villain, met his demise.
One last thing to note is the setting in which the story takes place. I am a sucker for steampunk type stories where the settings are reminiscence of Victorian, Edwardian or turn of the century Europe. Ile-Rien reminds you of an 18th century alternate France where wizards and magic are a common sight. I absolutely loved it and Wells does a helluva job painting each scene so vividly you feel you are practically there.
This book is damn near perfect and I dare say anyone that enjoys a good story will be glued to the book until the very end. A wonderful, wonderful ride.
I give it a solid 5 out of 5!