First-time novelist Christopher Walsh has penned a formidable fantasy novel in Fierce as Steel (2016), the first instalment in the Gold & Steel saga set in the country of Illiastra where revolution is brewing against the wealthy and all-controlling Elite Merchant Party (EMP) and the Triarchists, the sole ‘official’ state-sanctioned religion. The principal revolutionaries are the Thieves, led by the elusive Lady Orangecloak, whose mission is to “steal back freedom” for the oppressed. However, many of the Thieves are captured in a raid and imprisoned. Soon thereafter, Lady Orangecloak is captured by a bounty hunter and brought to Grenjin Howland, the leader of the EMP. Tryst Reine, the hired Master of Blades who is employed by Howland, defects from Howland’s service and effects Orangecloak’s escape from prison and convinces her to use her political leadership and combat skills to mount attacks against EMP-held territories.
That’s the story in a (very small) nutshell, but with under 700 pages to its credit, the story has many twists and turns and multiple threads of intrigue running through it. You can learn more about the characters and read an excerpt at https://thegoldandsteelsaga.com/.
Fierce as Steel has no wizardry, magic or dragons in its storyline. It is more like the “fantastical realism” style of Ian H. McKinley; it is set in mythical places, in a time when swords were the weapon of choice, but some guns (non-automatic) exist as well. There is also electricity, trains (coal-powered) and warships, but of the wood and sail variety. The action, when it occurs, is based on the skillset of the combatants, using stealth and disabling their foes rather than outright dispatching them, since the Thieves refrain from using violence if at all possible. Character development takes place through well-written (and well-worded) dialogues as well as each character’s thoughts and actions. While it took me some time to get through the book, it wasn’t due in any way to its size or pacing (I had other, shorter titles to read and review). Indeed, it is well paced, intriguing and easy to follow. The storyline of Fierce as Steel doesn’t confuse one with extraneous details about every little place person or thing. It would have been nice to have some maps of the countries Mr Walsh has created, but that is a minor point. I was also dismayed to learn that the F-bomb and other expletives also exist in this make-believe world, however, they are only employed by the basest of characters. Fierce as Steel is quite an admirable work of writing for a first-time novelist, and it is with great eagerness I anticipate its sequel, The Worth of Gold. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
Note: Fierce as Steel is available as hardcover or softcover, but for only $3.89, you can purchase the Kindle edition below.
Christopher Walsh was born in rural Newfoundland in 1985, a place he still calls home. The Gold & Steel series, which he has been crafting since 2009, is his first foray into the literary world.