The Lascar's Dagger

The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke, The Forsaken Lands #1

FAITH WON'T SAVE YOU.

Saker looks like a simple priest, but in truth he's a spy for the head of his faith. It's a dangerous job, and more lives than merely his own depend on his secrecy.

When Saker is injured by a foreigner's strange blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility that comes with it, Saker can only follow its lead.

It will put Saker on a path that reveals terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he serves, and likely lead to his own destruction. The Lascar's dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.


When I read about The Lascar's Dagger late last year in the Orbit catalog this book directly made it onto my to read list of 2014. The synopsis of The Lascar's Dagger promised a lot of cool things that only could turn into an adventure of epic proportions, the sense of the story for me was further aided by the front cover, men and women in hooded cloaks swinging weaponry always work for me. The Lascar's Dagger is written by Glenda Larke who is well known for her other works such as The Isle of Glory trilogy and the Watergivers trilogy. With The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke also kicks of her new fantasy series: The Forsaken Lands. I have heard a lot of good words about Glenda Larke's books so why not start with this latest addition. From start to finish Glenda Larke weaves an intricate epic story that goes into many direction that I hadn't forseen, it will keep you glued to the pages. 

The Lascar's Dagger opens up with an murder(plot) set back on year in the past before switching to the current events surrounding the main protagonist Saker Rampion, "jack-of-all-trades", priest, scholar, spy, warrior serving the Pontifect of the Va-Faith. Saker is tasked to investigate, well more spy on a certain business deal that is about to go down for the Pontifect, in this spying Saker stumbles upon an unwanted guest, a lascar named Ardhi, who is out for something for himself. Their encounters turns into a fight with a lot of consequences as a results, Saker gets wounded by the dagger of the lascar, catching him in the leg, Saker shows a bit of naivety here and just pulls it out and discards the dagger. This is only just the beginning as the story now start to split into multiple perspectives, one following closely the dealings of Saker and the other on Ardhi. As I already said, Saker throws the dagger away... but only it doesn't remain discarded, it has a mind of his own! For starting up the storyline is was actually laughing a lot as you see how Saker is part taken by surprise that when throwing the dagger away is magically appears again but Saker is also stunned by this fact and doesn't know what to do with it, he first futile attempts to understand this phenomenon leave his mind boggling and decides just to accept it. Meanwhile the Pontifect has another job for Saker, he is to act as the new adviser for the Prince and Princess of the Ardrone throne. Saker is in for a lot of courtly powerplays while serving as the new adviser, and sees his own life hanging in the balance when he is wrongly convicted of a crime. It's really hard to tell more about Saker's story as one event follows-up on the other nicely creating one great flowing story, all I can add on his part is that his storyline is full of transformation. As for Ardhi's part, there is a great focus on his intention in the beginning that alternates when Saker is in the beginning of starting his role as the Adviser, Ardhi is keen on getting his dagger back, as a read you now have read about what the dagger resembles, well the bigger picture that is, his attempts in getting the dagger back aren't paying off and he left with accepting it's faith, he'll never see it back... or will he...? This above explanation is just a small scope of the truly epic story that is being told in The Lascar's Dagger, I have completely left out all the dealing that happen when Saker is serving his time with the Prince and Princess but this is full of the courtly intrigue, backstabbing and betrayals that Epic Fantasy fan will want to read about. Glenda Larke has woven a very clever story.

The character cast of The Lascar's Dagger is put together in a very strong manner. It isn't a fully character driven book, Glenda Larke has a way of lying the emphasis on many different characters showing them in a lot of different color's, but not letting them pull the story into themselves too much. She alternates character development with worldbuilding and vice versa, hereby creating a great sense of wholeness around the story of The Lascar's Dagger. So for the characters I have already mentioned the protagonist Saker, he is a well fleshed out character that readily drives the story forward. Saker is also a complicated character and several dealings about his past are being told from the beginning, he hasn't had a very nice youth and his father would rather not acknowledge him, and this fact hunts him especially with a unavoidable confrontation. Besides this sort of internal struggle which Saker would like to see the truth off, he also shows sign of naivety, Saker isn't that old and though he is smart, strong, determined and has a lot of knowledge, he still has a certain young boyish air surrounding him. He makes mistakes, some pretty bad ones and still you can only love him, it's hard to see him fall ans he just tries to do the best for the people that demand things of him, it feels like a lot of people do take advantage of Saker being to nice. He's a great character to read about, you will be likewise rooting for him in the end. 

Next to Saker there are many secondary characters that you get introduced to all along the way in The Lascar's Dagger. For starters there is Ardhi, who comes from the Summer Isle known as the Chenderawasi. Ardhi brought along with him the dagger that no trustfully resides at Saker's side, from the beginning Arhi's character has gotten me intrigued, you can glimpse a bit of it form the prologue and the fighting scene between him and Saker, but what power the dagger truly holds remains obscure right until the ending when you see everything revealed about Ardhi's intent. I liked how Glenda Larke used Ardhi character letting him pop up at certain point in the story, showing that he is still sticking around to reach his goals, but never letting you, as a reader, getting too much information about him, this kept me hooked to find out more about him. Another solid addition to the character cast is Sorrel Redwing, like the above mentioned character her introduction was just a interesting, although when I read it I couldn't quite place her character in the overall promise of the story. Sorrel is a complicated character that is struggling with herself, she "broke" free of the reign of her husband in a violent way that left her with more power than she could have guessed (ill get to the magic part asap). Sorrel adopts a role as handmaiden to the Princess Mathilda and features as her eyes and ears with her special newely acquired powers. Perhaps aided by her past, Sorrel has a great duality in herself that make her an intrigueing character because when the handsome young Saker appears in her and Mathilda's life, she all of a sudden has a lot of things rekindled in her and one of those could just be jealousy... Sorrel plays an crucial role in the story for both the sake of Princess Mathilda as well as when Saker gets wrongly convicted. 

Besides these three there are also the Prince Ryce and Princess Mathilda, Ryce start of the story strong and Saker befriends him, but there is a lot of pressure on the heir's shoulders and when things start to go bad he partly succumbs to his father pressure. I did find that Ryce's role in the story went more to the background as the story progressed, I hope to see more of him in the sequels. As for Princess Mathilda, she makes up for of the story than her sibling, it's by her character, with her proposed wedding to the Regal of Lowmeer, that we learn more of the plot and the power behind many objects, actions and events. Mathilda's character reflects clearly as a young Princess who knows only partly how the world revolves, she is stubborn in her own way and is also drawn to the young Saker. I could glimpse that Sorrel knew this as well... Nearing the ending of the book Mathilda is confronted by some desicions and consequences of things she has done to herself and having to part with something like that really changed her character for me, the oppression put on her by the Regal of Lowmeer and though desicions she had to make gave her clear spark of humanity. All in all the characterization of every character be it secondary or primary is top stuff. 

Now comes the magic. I like when authors create an interesting magic system. The magic in The Lascar's Dagger is no exception. Glenda Larke introduces some called "witchery" and everyone can be granted these kind of power, or actually I should say develop. The nature of these powers are only singular as one person can do only one or a few combinations with power. Furthermore these powers are based on the person's personality and the whole event in which these power came forward, yes I know pretty cryptic description. Just imagine that if your life would hang in the balance and the only thing possible to survive would to lets say turn invisible that could happen, of course there are many more different variations! Also I liked how Glenda Larke balanced her magic system, witchery is granted by the god Va, and doing evil stuff will make you loose your power as you will be signing up with the devil A'Va. 

And this brings me directly to the worldbuilding of The Lascar's Dagger. The feeling of the world is one without possibilities, there is of course the mainland, but also the exotic Chenderawasi Island and much more, only accesible by ship. This taken together with the emphasis on spice trade really opened up a lot of my imagination. In describing the events and places visited it inspired a part European setting that blended greatly with an Oriental one. In telling about the surroundings and explaining several dynamics that occur in the world, Glenda Larke really takes her time to let everything come over natural instead of dumping a bucketload on your lap just to find it out for yourself, she nicely layers each part of her story to buildup one natural flow. This fact wasn't only notable with the worldbuilding but also with setting up the plot, halfway through the book certain parts become clear but Glenda Larke never reveals too much at one go instead she spreads it out forcing you to keep reading.

The Lascar's Dagger is one of those book that grows on you and will stick with you for some time to come. The synopsis of the book tells only the tip of the iceberg of the immensely rich story that is present in The Lascar's Dagger, it only justifies the beginning as Glenda Larke throws a lot of twists and turns along the way to keep the story interesting and engaging. The first part really established the different characters and when you pass the halfway mark, the plot slowly start to unfold for the better, when you think you would have seen it all, think again! Glenda Larke executed a clever story into the fine details of it all, and The Forsaken Lands series couldn't have gotten a better kick-off with what now has been told in The Lascar's Dagger. The beginning might lend a few things in the existing Epic Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery tropes but Glenda Larke weaves the threads in her direction to completely transform her story. Definitely recommended!

Comments

  1. I just finished this one up last night myself, and for the most part agree with you. I am still gathering my thoughts but I am finding they are mostly positive. I am usually hesitant about what I call 'x-men magic,' in which people seem to randomly gain different powers. But Larke's use of it has a bit of an explanation building (though still hidden in ways) that makes me feel it works better than normal.

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  2. Hi Nathan! It's definitely a book to gather your thoughts about, there is a lot of stuff going on especially later that for me transformed the early proposed promise with the synopsis but looking at the story from the beginning and where it went in the end does hold a great new promise for it's sequel. And yes that was the word I was looking for x-men magic, Glenda Larke uses this with a tight restraint, luckily, and not letting the magic run rampant! Ill be looking forward to reading your thoughts.

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