The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel is the first part in a series of fantasy novellas by South East London writer Jennifer Williams, who is possibly better known by her Twitter name, @SennyDreadful. The other day she was flogging The Copper Promise on Twitter, and I dutifully followed the link to Amazon. What I found was quite a few very positive reviews, admittedly from a lot of familiar names, but I already liked the blurb, and I have read some her short stories in Hub Magazine (#143). Somewhere in all this I saw a comparison to Fritz Lieber's Gray Mouser, and the deal was sealed. After some begging, Jennifer Williams kindly provided me with a review copy of The Copper Promise. Time for some proper sword and sorcery.
Aaron Frith has enlisted the aid of two adventurers to take on the dangers of the Citadel, and find what he needs to take his revenge. They might have broken his body, but his will has been tempered in the furnace of pain. Pockets have been lined with gold to allow the group passage into the Citadel. His two companions are known for their skill with their blades, and the young lord is not entirely defenceless in spite of his crippled body. The Citadel will be forced to yield its secrets and allow him his vengeance.
I love dungeon crawlers. Brings me right back to my RPG days, when me and my friends sat huddled around a table late into the night dreaming up adventures. Straight away Jennifer Williams manages to create just the right setting for adventure. We have a nice little dungeon, full with the promise of riches and untold danger. She gives us a proper motivation for what is happening, revenge. Me and mates we only wanted to do heroic deeds, vengeance is always a good spice.
Now all we need is a group of adventurers, and this is where Jennifer Williams really shines. With only three characters she still covers a ranger of personalities. Sebastian Carverson is a big Knight, who in spite of his size and intimidating appearance is calm and reasonable. He might be a little of a goody boy paladin, but there is more to him to make him interesting. Wydrin is the feisty warrior lady who favours her twin daggers. She is the opposite of Sebastian, acts before she thinks, and is rude and threatening. Perhaps not as headless as she first seems though. Finally, we have my favourite, Aaron Frith. Consumed by thoughts of settling the score with those who took everything away for him. He is full of anger, selfish, and possibly as ruthless as his enemies. Anyone who underestimates him because of his crippled body will quickly learn a lesson, possibly their last. He really reminds me of Raistlin Majere, the Dragonlance character.
If there is a weakness it would be her description of fights. I thought the pace was lost with unnatural long pauses, where a character was free to act in spite of being in the thick of the melee. I felt she tried a little to hard with Wydrin, who seemed to be in a constant 'blur' with her knives.
In such a short space of time Jennifer Williams delivers on world building, plot and characters making The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel a hell of a read. I'm warning you though, the ending is a real daddy of a cliffhanger. You will be back for more. I really look forward to finding out more about the characters.
The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel weighs in at 54 pages and is self published by Jennifer Williams.