Catching up on more reviews this month…
Billy was settled in the mercenary lifestyle – a bit of danger, a lot of waiting around, camaraderie with his fellow Rowdies, and the hope of one day persuading Bess to marry him, although that seemed rather a longshot.
What he didn’t expect, was to be attacked by the captain of another mercenary band and have his hand maimed to the point where he could no longer hold a sword. Billy had to find another way to keep his band together and in work, even when he could no longer lead from the front.
And so begins the tale of how the inn, Billy’s Revenge, came about, and the town that built up around it, along with the strong community that came to live and thrive there.
Billy’s Revenge features in the novel ‘Huw, the Bard’, and this book fills out the background of the place and the people who became Huw’s adopted family. It is a steady paced literary fantasy with an underlying plot thread involving the captain who maimed Billy, and the nasty piece of work who orchestrated the whole thing. Much of the story is told in individual vignettes, in a similar style to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Some, especially those involving the mercenary company’s women—who are far deadlier than the males—are told with hilarious deadpan humour. One of my favourite quotes was about new recruit, Lucy:
“Now eighteen, she was a free woman, as the man who owned her had apparently slit his own throat while sleeping, which seemed a good reason to never sleep with your knives.”
These are women not to be trifled with! If you are squeamish, you might be rather alarmed by some of the things these ladies get up to, but for me, they were the undoubted highlight of a charming read.
If you are looking for a fast-paced fantasy adventure, you won’t find it here – much of the book is about the mundane issues of building the inn and town from scratch, along with the planning and fund raising needed to complete the project. If you are happy with a steadier pace filled with intriguing world building detail, plus Jasperson’s rich characterisation and dry humour, then I highly recommend this read.
See also my review of HUW THE BARD