Title: Strange Fortune
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publication info: (c) 2009, Blind Eye Books
Format: trade paperback
Back cover copy:
Strange Days Indeed
Valentine Strange, late of his Majesty’s 21st Benhali Lancers, needs money. Happily, the wealthy Holy Orders of Harappu are desperate to retrieve the diadem of the Goddess Purya from an ancient temple deep in the mountainous jungle — an area Strange knows well from his days quelling rebellions. The pay is too good and the job seems too easy for Strange to refuse. But when Master Aleister Grimshaw, a dangerous witch from a traitorous lineage, joins the expedition, Strange begins to suspect that more is at stake than the retrieval of a mere relic.
Grimshaw knows an ancient evil surrounds the diadem — the same evil once hunted him and still haunts his mind. However, experience has taught him to keep his suspicions to himself or risk being denounced as a madman. Again.
Harried by curses, bandits and unnatural creatures, Strange and Grimshaw plunge onward. But when a demonic power wakes and the civilized world descends into revolution, their tenuous friendship is threatened as each man must face the destruction of the life he has know.
The blurb is somewhat exaggerated IMO.
What did I think? I enjoyed the book as speculative fiction set in an alternative colonial India in which magic and witches are active. The adventure was engaging. But the back copy led me to believe that there would be more…introspection, perhaps? The relationship between the two men was pretty ancillary to the plot. TBH, while I grasped the larger context of the civil conflict between the Albans and Hindush, some pieces of the plot (like Lady Isabella, and the mutineers) felt not-well-integrated. I wonder if I knew more about the Anglo-Indian colonial experience, would I feel like the book was more cohesive? Or maybe it is fine, just not up to the standard of the book I was rereading before this one, The Curse of Chalion, which is my absolute benchmark for fantasy as alternate histories of sorts.
What about the book as object? Blind Eye Books is a reputable publishers and the book’s presentation is lovely. I especially like the colors and patterns used to decorate the book cover, although I don’t love the cartoon style hero. There were a fair number of either copy editing or typesetting misses, mostly little things like quotation marks facing the wrong way or being doubled, some dropped punctuation and missed letters and the like.
Would I recommend the book? Yes. With the caveat that it is not at all like Lanyon’s other work, so readers should not expect Adrien English-in-India.