Author: Brock Deskins
Length: 399 Pages/ 13 hrs, 16 Mins
Release Date: November 30, 2014/ February 22, 2018 (Audio)
Publisher: Dingo Dog Publishing
Narrator: JS Arquin
After reading Brock Deskins Shrouds of Darkness and being hugely impressed by that, I was looking forward to see what else he had coming out. It turned out he had this antihero gem that just captivated me from the first page to the last. I was really impressed how quickly the book sunk the hooks in and kept me wanting to keep going.
Garran Holt lives in a small village in a kingdom with two factions vying for supremacy: The King versus the powerful Merchants guild that controls all commerce and goodly amount of the members of Parliament. In an effort to break the stranglehold on the economy the Guild has, the King, with some secret backers, is building a free trade road through the kingdom to open it up to outside competition. The guild decides to let him waste his treasure, and hopes to bankrupt and overthrow him by using mercenaries disguised as bandits to drive up the cost of building it. This is the setting in which we meet Garran Holt, the Miscreant.
Garran is his village's bad boy, the kind of kid that plays all the pranks, filches the moonshiner's liquor and is just kind of a rowdy slacker. After an assignation with the mayor's daughter goes comically wrong, Garran is hauled before the town counsel on rape charges. after proving his innocence, while also enraging the entire counsel as well as his mother and stepfather, which brings up what happens next. Garran is indentured into the King's Road building crew until he turns 18. Shockingly, he's not to happy with that, and starts to plot his escape.
The work camps are made up of teens like Garran and convicts released to the crews in exchange for reduced sentences. This includes a lot of thieves, rapists and murderers, which puts the boys ill at ease. After an encounter with a particularly nasty bruiser, Garran sets a trap that teaches the bruiser and his cronies he's not an easy mark. The crew settles in working the road, but Garran is injured severely falling from a tree when his safety equipment fails. While recovering, he discovers the wonders of laudnum. When the camp is finally attacked by the mercenaries, something in Garran breaks open. He discovers e has power he never knew about before. Time basically slows down for him, and he is flush with strength and vitality, as well as expanded senses. He goes from zero to death machine in no time at all, killing all the mercenaries in a blurry rush of air. The work camp leader sees this, and realizes what he is: a Transcended, one of those blessed with power who held the barbarian berserkers at bay in the last invasion of the kingdom.
Taking Garran to the Kingdom capital, Garran is enrolled in the Agents training program at the university, which trains the diplomats, spies and assassins. This is, of course, after Garran gets lost in the city using stolen credit papers to peruse the city's red light district and its casinos, where he runs afoul of the local mob. All these relationships he makes will come into play later. Needless to say, Garran, being a penniless commoner in a school full of noble and merchants sons, has to live by his wits, which are actually rapier sharp. I cant' go into huge amounts of detail about his time at school without spoilering it, but needless to say, if there was ever a character that could find a way to lie, cheat and steal his way through an entire education, Garran is it. His adventures in the school are spectacularly creative, and his successes and failure are all monumental in scale. Lets just say this isn't Harry Potter at Hogwarts. The next book deals with his life after his time in the program.
This is one of the most character driven stories I have ever read, with Garran very much the centerpiece. He's such an antihero he makes Deadpool look like a straight arrow in comparison. You never know what he's going to do next, but with his utter lack of respect for authority and his trust issues with women, you know its probably going to be out of this world crazy. The setting is well drawn out, from Garran's small village to the work camps and on to the capital. The actions scenes are fantastically laid out and executed, really giving the reader/listener a feeling of being right in the action, which is a gift this author shows in all his work. The secondary characters are fleshed out, and aren't just caricatures and stereotypes. The magic system is of a person, body magic type, and it is well described and detailed. Definitely a lot for fantasy fans to enjoy, especially if you enjoy flawed protagonists.
JS Arquin did an admirable job narrating. His narrative pace is smooth, with no lags or monotone. His voice work is excellent, gifting each character with their own voice, whether through pitch, tone, accent or intonation. He really brought the story to life.
I would recommend this book to any fantasy fans, most especially those looking for a more morally debatable, flawed main character. I can't wait to get into the second book, The Agent.