Book Review: The Relic Guild

The Relic Guild by Edward Cox

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.


Another cracking debut brought to you by Gollancz. They have published some very exciting debuts so far with The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick, The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs and this month with The Relic Guild from Edward Cox. The thing that got my attention piqued was the mentioning of of course magic but also the reference of Thaumaturgy, this directly reminded me of China Mievelle and another great debut, Unwrapped Sky that I read earlier this year. All highly enjoyable reads. As I already mentioned The Relic Guild is the debut of Edward Cox, prior to writing The Relic Guild he wrote various short stories. 

The Relic Guild picks up with the story of Clara Peppercorn, a girl who is on the run for escape. Clara has a special ability that you learn later on, she is marked as a very valuable asset, she gets rescued by persons from the Relic Guild. But with this rescue do come a whole lot of other things and that is becoming part of the Relic Guild. After this point the story splits into two separate narrations one that takes place in the current time line and the other takes you back 40 years prior and shows what just what happened and how and why magic got banned in the world. The war was fought between Fabian Moor one of the most powerful Thaumaturges that wanted to pick a fight with the Timewatcher. Early on you did learn that Fabian Moor was defeated by the Relic Guild and banned for good. Well if only. as in the present story line you learn that not everything that you think you locked away for good remains locked away. Troubles are brewing in Labrys Town as, yes, Fabian Moor is making a reintroduction with only one, no, two goals in mind. First: destroy the Relic Guild and second: free his master Lord Spiral. 

I really enjoyed reading the story of The Relic Guild, this is far from your ordinary fantasy story. Edward Cox has created a very unique setting. Too be completely honest when I first read about The Relic Guild I thought it would play part in a more earthy urban environment instead of a completely self envisioned world, don't know how I got to this thought though. But back to the story. All the different elements that Edward Cox shows and utilizes in his story from building his world (which is amazing Ill get to it in a bit), his interpratation of magic and Thaumaturgy and the different characters all work together to bring this story to a new height. 

So for the world. This is pretty awesome. Edward Cox has created a truly one-of-a-kind world. Imagine well. The central place wherein the story takes place is called Labrys Town but during the last war, Labrys town lies at the hearth of a vast labyrinth and was once the place to live an thrive but in the last war this place was sealed off by invisible barriers. They have picked up life once again. Labrys Town is being governed by The Resident a powerful and all knowing person, this guy remains a lot in the background for the people and is perhaps more known a a presence via for example the magical globes he is able to send around town to gather information. The Resident also stand at the head of the Relic Guild. It is in describing the events and surroundings of Labrys Town that I got a definite labyrinthine feeling, often there was only one direction or way towards a goal and it wasn't in particular the one with the least resistance. Added to this come the concepts of the Aelfirian Houses. Complete realms that stand on their own and which have some amazing names. The world that Edward Cox managed to inspire is one that will make you want to just sit there stop reading and just dream away with endless possibilities but also one that inspires a definite doom and nefarious and often very real claustrophobic feeling. 

As for the characters that feature in The Relic Guild, I have already mentioned The Resident, he goes by the name of Van Bam. I liked the idea of what The Resident is and what he can do, one very cool thing was the fact that the current Resident is always in direct link with the past, deceased Resident, they are able to commune with each other, is there a better way of learning your role? Van Bam is blind, but able to see more than perfectly clear with his mind eye, so he doesn't encounter any inhibition with it in his work, armed with his cane he is more than a force to be reckoned with. Next up there is a very powerful empath Marney. Being an empath means that she is able to exploit and influence human emotions. I don't think I have read a story yet where such a magic takes place and especially the interpretation of empathy. Marney's empath magic allowes her for example to block feelings of hurt and makes her in turn resistant to any torture method, because when you can't feel it, you won't react. But given this, it does require a lot of effort to focus and when it does get to much... even this magic won't be able to save you.You also have a close right hand of Van Bam, the gunslinging bounty hunter Samuel. Sam also has a special gift, one that gives him an edge when it comes down to fighting and can perhaps be best described as an spider sense. He known just when the action will take place. I liked reading about Sam in particular because he is a guy who does what is needed when it is needed and doesn't sit around and mope about how tough it is, it is him that you want to have as your back-up plan. Then there is also the old Hamir, a necromancer, his gift should be self explanatory, lets just say his gifts wont cure you, Hamir is a wise old guy, it is not really that he is deceiving anyone by not telling but he knows a lot, and his years have taught him that you really have to be careful just what you reveal and tell to others... 

And then last but definitely not least you have Peppercorn Clara, the one child who defies everything. She is the first born within the barriers of Labrys Town that has a magic gift. Is she the bringer of good news? or a downfall? When I first was confronted with her profession, that of being a prostitute I was a bit like wow, ok... You learn that she is good at her job but I am always a bit off put by such bold introduction and luckily Edward Cox does make it ebb more into the background instead of letting it be a focus. Edward Cox uses Clara's character in a very nice way, he uses her to show all the details of the Relic Guild and hereby reveals a lot of the history because as the latest recruit of the Relic Guild you do have to learn everything. I always like it when a story is told this way as it greatly reliefs the moments of information dumps and let everything about the dynamics of the world and histories of the character come over as a natural flow. As for Clara's character, she really grows into her role as the latest member, she comes to terms with her own powers that of being able to shapeshift, which at one time she was terrified of, she now starts to embrace and sees it as a way to only make her stronger. I already have high hopes for her for the continuation of the series.

With Fabian Moor, Edward Cox introduces a nefarious presence and what better way to show what their intentions really are than by dedicating parts of the story to them. I have said in many times before but will repeat myself, showing the inner thoughts of the plans of the bad guys in a book, when done in a good way, work wonders for me. And this is precisely what Edward Cox manages to do in The Relic Guild. he clearly wants to show that Fabian and his Genii have some deadly plans in store for the Relic Guild. It was a pleasure to read just how Van Bam and the Relic Guild was thinking and plotting and then seeing the focus on Fabian and his Genii and how they were plotting really nicely done. Top stuff.

But then The Relic Guild sadly draws to an end and well what an end. All I can say is WHY!? Why put my through a year of torment for the sequel! The ending that Edward Cox introduces will get you fired up for the sequel and really leaving you with an urge just to travel to his doorstep and force book two out of him. It's gonna be awesome I know it will.

The Relic Guild is an awesome book and that doesn't even come close. In the saturated fantasy genre as an author you really have to bring your A game if you want to break through and for me Edward Cox has delivered this. The whole setting of The Relic Guild and here I mean mainly the world building with Labrys Town and the way it is all described is very provocative and Edward Cox leaves enough for you to think about it for yourself. Then you have the interesting magic system and a great bunch of characters that really make the story come together and alive. Each and every character is different and it feels like Edward Cox invested a lot of time and effort in them to let them come out the way they did, very humane and natural and you will grow attached to them. I must urge you to read The Relic Guild, it highly enjoyable and has some great bold idea's that Edward Cox brings to the front. It's is by far a standard fantasy story, so if you are looking for a something refreshing to read pick it up, if you are looking for a next read, pick it up. Well, make sure this book is the next thing that touches your hands, you don't want to miss out on it! BRING BOOK TWO!

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