Realmgolds – The Gryphon Clerks #1 – Mike Reeves-McMillan
The Human Purity movement is growing in power and influence in Denning, attacking dwarf businesses and caravans and inciting popular rebellion, with the passive or active support of many of the ruling Golds.
Opposing them almost alone is the Realmgold, a young man named Determined. His problem is that, even though the Realmgold is meant to be in charge, nobody is paying much attention to him.
Victory, who rules neighbouring Koskant, would love to support Determined, but an ancient magical treaty between their realms means she can’t send in her troops, her skyboats or her pressure guns. What she can do, though, is share a new magical communications technology – and her elite corps of Gryphon Clerks…
The best way to describe this book is that it is a secondary-world political Fantasy, with steampunk elements and magic. A world populated by not only humans but dwarves, goblins, beastheads and centaurs too. I like secondary-world Fantasy and I love steampunk. Political intrigue has also been one of my favorite topics to read about. I was a bit curious how all these different things would blend together in this book and I have to say it worked out pretty good. I was never bothered by the multitude of ‘genres’ mixed together and all was equally and rightly balanced.
‘Realmgolds’ has a great political concept. I really liked the way the author has created these different countries, how they are being ruled and what their different problems are. Every country is ruled by a Realmgold, under him there are Provincegolds who have under them the Countygolds. Lastly there are the Localgolds. The middleclass is called the ‘Silvers’ and the everyday people are the ‘Coppers’. Like I said before we get a multicultural population in these countries with Dwarves, Goblins, Centaurs and Humans. The story starts with Determined, our main character and the Realmgold of Denning, who hears that his ally Victory, the Realmgold of Koskant, wants to ban slavery of Goblins. He’s in awe with her courage and sees an opportunity to become a better leader and maybe follow in Victory’s footsteps. Koskant is quite prosperous and lives mostly in peace, but in Denning the Human Purity movement is starting a rebellion. They want ‘purity’ and hate everyone that’s not human or supports non-human beings. It’s up to Determined to quench this rebellion and get his country back in line.
Political situations in a fantasy book are common, but it’s not easy to describe them in such a way that it doesn’t seem like you’re giving a theoretical lecture and still make it understandable. McMillan succeeded in both, integrating the finer details of his political system into the story without it being tedious. Understanding comes with reading the story, as you keep reading everything falls into place and it’s easy to follow everything that’s going on.
I also thought the names were pretty original. Instead of the usual names or the sometimes overcomplicated fantasy names, the author chose here to name his characters after a trait. A few examples: Determined, Reliable, Victory, Admirable, … At first I wasn’t quite sure if I would like this, but turns out I enjoyed reading about these characters and their names gave it that bit of extra originality.
There were, however, a few minor points too. In the middle of the novel there were some jumps in the storyline, leaving out bits where I, as a reader, wanted to hear more about. This made the book seem a bit rushed sometimes, which is a shame because most of the things the author left out would have made great reading. An example of something I wanted to know more about: the Mages. McMillan mentions the Mages and their school of magic, but we never learn anything more about them, they are just there. I wanted to know more about this school of magic and the Mages and what their magic is all about.
What troubled me too was the fact that the whole middle part of the book, aside from the occasional battles who were really great, seemed like a hotchpotch of problems where our Realmgolds needed to find a solution for. And one of them always does find the exact right solution. This is fun for a while, but if you get a succession of problems and your main characters find a way to solve them everytime I get a bit suspicious, thinking: ‘this is going a bit too well’. Especially because I thought some of these problems didn’t seem to contribute to the story at all. They are mentioned and then you never hear about them again. I understand leaders of realms like these get to deal with trouble like this every day, but personally I didn’t need to read about every single problem.
I also didn’t really get invested in the relationships between the characters, though I liked our main character and his entourage, the interaction with other characters didn’t touch me at all. That’s why the last chapter wasn’t necessary for me, I thought the last sentence of the penultimate chapter was a perfect end for this story.
Mind you, I did like the rest of the ending. The author found a really interesting solution for the war situation, one I thought was pretty imaginative and fun to read. I mentioned before that I liked the battles, they were really exhilarating and fast paced, keeping you flipping the pages without paying much attention to your surroundings.
‘Realmgolds’ was a fast read and one I enjoyed moderately. It had some really great ideas and some parts that really got me into the story, but I did miss some elements and thought some parts were a bit tedious.