Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Black Guard The Black Guard
by A. J. Smith
Head Of Zeus

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

A J Smith is a first time author whose debut work is The Black Guard, which is the starting piece to the Long War chronicles; the world, history and characters the frontispiece of the book notes he has been devising for more than a decade.

The story concerns Lord Bromvy, and his sister Lady Bronwyn, of Canarn, who have been declared traitors or black guards to the kingdom throne of Ro Tiris. They have escaped the army that has captured their home and are seeking to regain their home. Meanwhile a wider confrontation is afoot between the followers of the three living gods that the people of the world recognise and worship.

But the The Black Guard is not so simple. This is a novel of two "books" each of two parts and each part, with one exception, of five chapters and that exception was six chapters. Unfortunately for the reader, the first eight chapters were told from eight separate viewpoints of a chapter each. This made the first half of the novel very episodic and disjointed and sapped this reader’s engagement with the story. However, by midway through the second "book" a lot of the characters were co-located – some had even died, but new characters had sprung up to carry their point of view forward – so the continuity of action was much improved. And this is a book that depends on the action to carry the story. Subtle story telling innovations, such as character and dialogue as opposed to the call and response talking that the identikit story actors exhibit, have passed the author by. Which is a shame as The Black Guard is at heart an interesting story that could easily appeal to a wide audience.

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