*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A young heir to the throne, Prince Hector flees in an attempt to gather 108 righteous heroes to save the country from the usurping general.
Wagers of Fate is a stylistically unusual fantasy tale, constructed as something between an old-fashioned fairytale and a historical treatise.
The reader is whisked through battles, political intrigue and a far-reaching hero quest, but all presented in a summary form rather than in ‘real-time’ narrative. This creates an impression of factual account rather than fiction (except of course that the story also contains elves, dwarfs, orcs and a hippogriff!), and the third-person narrative is quite detached and almost impartial.
There is little descriptive writing in either setting or characterisation, and only a little (quite stylised) dialogue, as most of the focus is on the action. Even the action is truncated and entire battles pass in a few sentences. The plot as a whole covered the same ground that other novelists would spread across a trilogy!
This is not to say that the story was not enjoyable. Once you adjust to the brisk pace and sparse narrative style the story reads very much like an old folk story or fairytale, or maybe a history textbook from an alternate realm, and I found myself interested in what would become of Hector’s band of heroes, and the all-too-clever Casper.
The book ends on a somewhat abrupt note, advising the reader that the remainder of the story will be presented in further volumes, which was a little frustrating, and personally I would have enjoyed more detail about the 108 stars and their individual skills and traits.
This is an unusual, fairly quick read, and fans of history will particularly appreciate the notes at the end which relate the characters and events to their real-life counterparts and explain a bit of the factual context.
Thanks to the reputation that he built for himself during the War of the Seven Moons against the Empire of the Seven Moon, General Casper was nicknamed the Tiger of the North. The nickname suited him perfectly – a man of action, a leader of men and, most importantly, a cunning strategist, always a step ahead of his enemies. Casper decided to bring with him a guard of only a hundred men from the heavy cavalry, so as not to arouse any suspicion regarding his real intentions. The hundred men were actually some of his best men and all fine swordsmen – each one worth five of the capital’s imperial guards.
The journey from Highcliff in the North to the capital, Soliris, further south, would take the heavy cavalry eight days. Everything he was doing was a diversion to hide his real plans.
– Noureddine Hifad, Wagers of Fate: the 108 stars