Words: Brody Rossiter
A DANCE OF PORCELAIN AND STEEL
The fantastical writings of Den Patrick have embodied many forms since the author’s debut excursions into warring far-flung worlds. The promising writer’s first three titles published under science fiction purveyors Gollancz, arrived in the guise of deeply layered, blood-splattered ‘War-manuals’. Patrick provided vast yet intricate studies of the races commonly depicted throughout fantasy storytelling; Orcs, Elves, and Dwarves. The release of each guide was greeted with much fanfare by fantasy lovers, largely due to Patrick’s accomplished marriage of ancient lore, black humour, and rich cultural revisions of the beings that have run roughshod through many of history’s greatest literary imaginations.
Clearly the potent imagination possessed by Patrick has placed him on the front foot when it comes to fleshing out his debut novel, The Boy with the Porcelain Blade. A far more refined affair than his previous exploration of battling races, the novel follows Lucien De Fontain, a talented though inexperienced swordsman plagued by his own genetic makeup and the noble circles through which he must navigate.
Patrick’s prose bridges the gap between highly political fantasy fiction (George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series being the most notable example of the sub-genre of late) and a more classical form of high-fantasy categorized by unlikely beings such as Lucien himself; an eighteen-year-old member of the deformed ‘Orfano’, a race of individuals periodically dumped on the doorsteps of noble men and women.
The fact that Patrick’s lead protagonist considers himself an eternal outsider, ostracised due to his appearance, greatly aids the reader in exploring the dark, deceit filled kingdom of Landfall alongside our equally bewildered hero, before delving into the restless land which bathes in the shadow of its prosperous citadel demesne. The isolation Lucien experiences, and his discontent with being used as a political pawn, bubbles in his orphaned veins before finally boiling over and setting in motion a series of events that promise to alter the corrupt foundation of the kingdom forever.
The imagery Patrick serves up is ornate and vivid, presenting a distinctly gothic vision of Renaissance Italy which grows bolder and remains perfectly intact as the narrative leaps back and forth in time. As with his War-Manuals, the attention to detail extends to the smallest seemingly inconsequential observations – a factor which consistently enriches the readers experience as many highly evocative scenes are set throughout.
The Boy with the Porcelain blade introduces us to a mad king, a once prosperous land in decline, a unique protagonist, and several thrilling set pieces which will most likely force fantasy loving fingers to rifle through its pages at a rapid pace. Den Patrick has offered up bold and immersive introduction to his Landfall trilogy that deserves to duel its way onto the bookshelves of many readers.