Follow me once again into the smog-choked streets of Guerdon, as I review the third instalment in Gareth Hanrahan’s Black Iron Legacy series, The Broken God! This fair and unbiased review was conducted with gratitude for the free electronic copy of the book which I received from the publisher, Orbit.
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Guerdon has been carved up in order to staunch its wounds. Tenaciously surviving invasion thanks to an armistice balanced on the threat of mutually assured destruction, the city and its occupying forces find themselves struggling to either maintain it or exploit the situation for their own ends. Meanwhile, across the sea, Carillon Thay contends with her growing legend and her difficult destiny as she attempts to help one of the few friends she has left. But with enemies both mortal and divine hungering for vengeance, it will take all her cunning and grit to evade her pursuers and get the answers she seeks.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading either of the preceding two books (click here for my review of The Shadow Saint) will be well aware by now of just how good Gareth Hanrahan is at injecting a setting with personality. Guerdon feels like a living, breathing – well, possibly wheezing, with all those fumes – place, with subways, corpse shafts and ghoul tunnels crisscrossing it like veins and arteries, clogged with socially stratified humanity and eldritch horrors alike. It’s an unalloyed joy to return to its twisting streets.
This time around, however, there’s even more of the world map to be fleshed out, and it’s every bit as entertaining to find out about more of the wider world outside Guerdon as it was to discover the eery lands of Haith in The Shadow Saint. The God-touched land of Ilbarin gets plenty of time in the spotlight here, allowing us to see the fallout from the Godswar not just in terms of the miracle-wracked landscape and seas but also in the unexpected consequences of a holy war being waged; namely, the opportunistic Ghierdana moving into the area to further their criminal enterprises.
The Ghierdana are undoubtedly the key players in this volume of the story, and they are yet another well-rounded and wholly distinct faction. Not for them the fervent devotion to the mad gods of the Ishmeric pantheon or the stolid endurance of the undying of Haith; no, they are all action and scheming, a no-nonsense criminal enterprise of fire and vengeance. Much of that fire, in a very literal sense, comes from that which gives them their edge, of course. The Ghierdana are a dragon mafia, essentially, and are every bit as exciting and dangerous as that implies. Their dragons have helped ensure the armistice in Guerdon holds, with their home nation of Lyrix uneasily allied to the criminal empire and the “final say” that the scaly horrors have over the other occupying forces of Haith and Ishmere.
The ambitious Rasce is ready to upset this delicate balance, however, as he seeks to tighten the Ghierdana’s hold on Guerdon. Rasce is an extremely entertaining character to get to know, with the kind of swaggering confidence that comes with flying into battle astride a massive dragon. Rasce’s character development is excellent too, as he desperately seeks to please the dragon that chose him by allying with the remnants of the Brotherhood to take on the Alchemists. Thanks to events elsewhere, we see plenty more about how the Ghierdana function and get a strong sense of exactly the kind of people they are, which gives plenty of context to Rasce’s actions and personality.
Cari, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not the biggest fan of the Ghierdana. Having come up against them in her role as divine backstreet vigilante the Saint of Knives, she’s wary of crossing them again without her formidable powers to back her up. Unfortunately for her, her travels bring her to Ilbarin, where the Ghierdana now rule over what’s left of the island nation in the aftermath of the Godswar wracking it. How her plans intersect with those of the Ghierdana, as well as their role in the armistice of the city she wants to protect, makes for very satisfying reading. This is extremely well plotted stuff, with characters being pulled this way and that by obligations to family, friends, honour and nation in ways that feel totally and believably human, despite the fantastical nature of much of the world.
The Black Iron Legacy impressed from the off, and this third instalment is no different. Hanrahan continues to build on the impressive foundations laid by the two excellent previous books, expanding on a world which once again surprises and delights with its dark wonders and disturbing creatures. The Broken God is another triumph, and the next book in this series can’t come soon enough.
The Broken God is published by Orbit, and releases on the 20th of May. You can order your own copy through this affiliate link.