Ray Gun Reviews
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The Ragged Man by Tom Lloyd

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The Ragged Man by Tom Lloyd
Pyr, 2010, 548pp.

Lord Isak, the young white eyes leader of the nation of Farlan, is dead, sent directly to the deepest level of the underworld by Lord Styrax for killing his son. The armies of Farlan are in retreat, facing the very real chance of civil war at home. Styrax lingers in the Circle City, revealing to those with eyes to see that his true goal is more than mere conquest. King Emin has to continue his war against the shadow Azaer on his own. Hope seems lost. Yet Isak’s servant and failed bodyguard Mihn is about to undertake a dangerous journey that could change everything — a journey to the depths of hell to bring back Lord Isak.

The Ragged Man is the fourth volume in Tom Lloyd’s series, “The Twilight Reign.” The other three volumes, The Stormcaller, The Twilight Herald, and The Grave Thief, have already been reviewed here. In my review of The Grave Thief, I expressed by concerns that Lloyd may have been over-ambitious in his work, setting to many plots and subplots in motion. I am very glad to report that The Ragged Man has restored my faith in Mr. Lloyd.

The novel displays Lloyd’s usual multiple viewpoints, here used with even greater skill as the cast of characters has grown. Many old friends are back, including Count Vesna, Legana, the mortal-aspect of the deceased goddess of Luck, and Doranei, paramour of the vampire Zhia Vukotic — one of my personal favorite characters. There are surprises aplenty for heroes and villains alike, some that hit the reader with a heartbreaking intensity. We find out more and more about the major powers and what they really one.

One of the most interesting things for me in reading The Ragged Man is finding out more about the theology of Lloyd’s world. From previous novels in the series, we know that the pantheon is not fixed. Gods rise and fall. Gods can die. But the fourth novel suggests how the relationship between god and god-aspect works, as well as how the gods relate to the structure of the universe as a whole. The resulting theology gives Lloyd’s pantheon a rather Hindu feel, at least to my mind — a welcome departure from a cookie-cutter fantasy pantheon.

There still is a lot of story left to tell about The Twilight Reign. The stage is set for a major battle of the gods. While I expect the final volume of the series, The Dusk Watchman, to be very ambitious — it must be, to bring the series to a satisfying resolution — The Ragged Man assures me that Lloyd will be able to pull it off. I wait with anticipation for the final volume of this engaging theomachy.

(Reviewed by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt)

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