Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Devlin's Luck is a solid, enjoyable fantasy novel - nothing particularly unique, but a good read set in a believable fantasy world. You do see the grit (in the "dirt" sense, not the "modern angst" sense) that would be realistic for the period in a way many other fantasy novels miss.
I understood those people who found the book hard to read. The prose is ponderous and workmanlike - it serves its purpose, but there are few flourishes and the emotional pitch remains fairly steady ... but to me, part of the latter makes sense, because in many ways, Devlin is a very repressed, controlled character. You don't expect him to burst out or break down. I would maybe have liked to see more of a change of tone for the scenes in Stephen's POV.
That brings me to a personal pet peeve: mixed in amongst the invented or more obscure names are names that are instantly recognizable either a) as contemporary Earth names or b) blatant mythology reference. This kind of thing drives me nuts.
I found the book entertaining - you know in advance that Devlin is going to resign himself to life and his position, but the progression is still well-done. Also of note is Stephen's journey from wide-eyed minstrel and general annoyance to maturing (if not quite "mature" yet), level-headed friend. (If other characters aren't as well-sketched, it's forgiveable in this kind of a book. To all appearances, it's heading towards a "war story" in sequels, more of an action feel.)
However, while the pacing of Devlin's evolution seems about right, to me it felt as if there was a huge jump in it. His gradual growth from deathseeker to solo hero is well-done; his somewhat more accelerated growth from reluctant commander to true leader is similarly well-executed ... but that step between, from hero to commander, gets summarized in maybe eight pages.
Overall, though, the book kept me coming back for more, and I will pick up the sequel if I get a chance.
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