Reviewed by Stuart Douglas
Emma Barnes at Snowbooks has something of a reputation for launching first-class but relatively unknown fantasy writers into the literary firmament. She – and they – published Mark Hodder’s first novel, George Mann’s initial Newbury and Hobbes work, Philip Purser-Hallard’s original debut and will shortly be releasing script-writer Eddie Robson’s first novel length prose. It’s an impressive roster – but one which is only improved by the presence of Mike Wild.
Wild is living proof – I hope – of the maxim that perseverance pays off. Thirty years writing top quality prose as a jobbing author for Abaddon, the BBC, World Distributors and many others, his work has always been intelligent, innovative and packed with ideas, but most of all written with a casual elegance which many far more well-known writers would do well to emulate. His writing rolls across the page with a smoothness which is, I suspect, impossible to teach or learn, but which comes straight from talent, and ‘Seven Cities of Old’ is no exception.
In some ways, it begins much as Wild’s last series (‘Twilight of Kerebos’) did, with a feisty female hero in a land which has regressed technologically from that of mysterious, half-forgotten forebears – but anyone therefore expecting a replay of ‘The Clockwork King of Orl’ would be in for a shock, as this tale of mutated cowboys and injuns unfolds. Leavened with a frequent dash of humour (the whole scene in which three literal rednecks try to decide if a half burned corpse is human or chicken had me howling with laughter), but built on a double sided base of solid characters and wild imagination, this first volume in a new ongoing series is both a splendid adventure story and a fabulous work of fantasy, which left me keen to read more.