John R. Fultz‘s debut novel, Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper: Volume 1, is a slightly strange fantasy. It is a tapestry of fantasies, each thread of influence enhancing and possibly celebrating the others as they are woven together. The first in a series, this is a self-contained novel leading one to expect other books with the same characters that could possibly be read as stand-alone novels but which share a world.
Seven Princes is a rip-roaring adventure with plenty of action, heroics and a deeper history. Using a large cast, he creates an ensemble of characters who provide depth and vitality to a developing land which we are yet to fully discover. Fultz does provide a sense of a land which has forgotten its own history and is slowly recovering it and coming back together again. This forgetfulness provides many threads which might well be explored in future books but also gives the world far more potential. As it remembers, the reader discovers.
In part this book reads like a love story to the fantasies of Robert E Howard or the Zothique stories of Clark Ashton Smith with a seasoning of HP Lovecraft. In the main the book is an epic sword and sorcery novel which fully enjoys itself and is aware of the genre’s history. Fultz writes with a verve that is refreshing, but layers in a back story which gives the world some substance. The book’s pace though suggests that Mr Fultz is also familiar modern writers as he delivers what is a ripping yarn.
Rather than this series becoming a set of tales about the same cast continuing their adventures, there is a hint that the we will see some characters but Fultz is happy to kill some of the cast and to move on rather than keep the world cast in amber. Instead of sticking to one style, Fultz is canny enough to put in a range and changes the tone of the novel. His mixture of styles and attention to genre history gives this novel an edge as its shows somebody who loves the genre. He has taken the adage about reading widely to heart and provides much of this reading within the novel but with a lighter touch that one might imagine.
Whilst the novel make not break new ground in itself and its take on the genre, it is a full on read and one that I shall be recommending to friends who read epic fantasy.
Seven Princes: Books of the Shaper
John R Fultz, Orbit, £7.99
Update: There is an author blog post on the book on the Orbit site.