Scar Night - Alan Campbell
Naughty, naughty... this is an even less ethically-sound review than the one of Ben's book, as I actually did some editing and critiquing of this one a couple of years ago. Nobody else has posted a review on Amazon yet though, so I thought I'd set the ball rolling and hopefully give Alan's sales a boost, with a review that was good-but-not-too-good, to prevent my being rumbled as an interested party... pain in the arse to write, I can tell you! Nobly resisting the temptation to just praise the bits I'd thought of ("Dill! What a great name! And what fantastic punctuation!"), this is what I wrote:
A city in chains hanging over an abyss; a dark, gaslit warren of streets; the ancient, brooding temple of an arcane death-cult... the first thing that strikes you about Scar Night is the setting. This is not your average steam-punk slush; the background descriptions are as beautifully written as anything by Mervyn Peake or Gene Wolfe. Neither is it just a pretty travelogue, however - the second thing you notice is the mounting piles of bodies and copious amounts of blood. And that's before you even get to the end of the second page.
For a debut author, this is astonishingly good. You can almost smell the burning tar and the filthy kitchens as the story rattles through the city of Deepgate, following the cast of monsters and misfits in their quests for vengeance, glory, catharsis or just a nice creamy pastry...
The plot is well-paced, though it does stray dangerously close to cliche on occasion. The characters, however, for all that they have fantasy archetypes at their core, are properly developed and have motivations that you can care about; there's some good dialogue, too. This is one author whose next book I will be eagerly awaiting.
9/10 - yes, really!