Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd

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The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd
Pyr, 2009, 491 pages
ISBN 978-1591027805

The Land is in chaos after the destruction of the city of Scree. The anger of the Gods has not diminished but boils in the blood of their priests and penitents. Lord Isak of Farlan returns to a homeland threatened by civil war, as well as the forces of Lord Styrax of Menin and the more obscure machinations of the shadow Azaer. While agonizing over his course of action, Isak dreams of his own death, dreams that become more insistent and more terrifying.

The Grave Thief is the third volume in author Tom Lloyd’s series “The Twilight Reign.” It follows The Stormcaller, which recounts Isak’s rise to power in Farlan, and The Twilight Herald, which tells of the fall of Scree (see the reviews of both in RGR 53). The series is projected to run to five volumes, so with The Grave Thief, we’ve reached the halfway point.

Unfortunately, The Grave Thief feels like a middle book. Most of the characters are still reeling from the events in the second book. The action here is more subdued, without the same taut intrigue of The Twilight Herald. There are further developments, yes, but save for the final chapter, it feels as if much of the story is in a holding pattern.

Many times in reading the novel, I felt as if I were watching a juggler in the middle of his act. Lloyd has a lot of characters in play, and I’m starting to really worry whether he’s going to be able to do justice to everyone’s story. He’s done well so far, but I worry that the tale might become too diffused. I still hope he’s going to pull it off, but I grow more concerned.

The Grave Thief does display the strengths seen in the previous novels. The characters are still interesting, though the great number of points of view adds to the sense of diffusion. The political intrigue is good, though it takes a different shape than in The Twilight Herald. And I still have read few novelists with a better hand at describing battles than Lloyd. The final chapter of the novel is truly excellent, and adds a twist that will greatly impact everything that is to come.

There are a few things that I think would have made my reading more enjoyable. Lloyd’s dramatis personae list is helpful, especially in coming back to the story after some time. But I really wish it was categorized by nation and faction rather than simply alphabetically. And the map included in the volume really should have more detail, in my opinion.

I still have high hopes for the “Twilight Reign” series, but I approach the forthcoming books with more anxiety. I want Lloyd to succeed, and look forward to seeing that my concerns were all for nothing.

(Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt)

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