Thursday, 8 October 2009
‘Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero’ – Dan Abnett (Angry Robot)
Whether it’s in a book or on TV, there’s nothing I like more than a good old fashioned swashbuckle. Dazzling sword fights, witty repartee, a chandelier to swing from and lots of confrontations with either pirates or the City Guard. It doesn’t get much better than that! Recently, I’ve been getting my ‘swashbuckling fix’ from Jonathan Green and his dashing character Ulysses Quicksilver; a set of books that you really should check out if you like the aforementioned dazzling sword fights etc. I’m always on the look out for more of these kind of books though so when Dan Abnett asked me if I’d like to try out ‘Triumff’ I jumped at the chance. I’ve read a couple of Dan’s books before and they’ve never failed to hit the spot.
As it turned out, ‘Triumff’ was completely the swashbuckler that I thought it would be and I couldn’t help but enjoy this one immensely. Any sequels will be more than welcome in my house!
It’s the year 2010 and her Divine Majesty Queen Elizabeth XXX rules over the Anglo-Hispanic Unity; an empire that is technologically stagnant but rules over the globe through it’s utilisation of the ‘arte’ (‘magic’ to the likes of you and I). While the general populace is content with this state of affairs, elements of the ruling class are anything but content and plot to relieve the Queen of her throne. Sir Rupert Triumff (renowned explorer and dashing swordsman) is more than happy for the Queen to stay right where she is but is in the middle of a plot of his own. Both Triumff’s plans and those of a shadowy cabal are about to collide in a series of events that are set to have the streets of London ringing with the sounds of combat and magic...
Once I got into it, ‘Triumff’ was an absolute pleasure to read. There is that ‘once I got into it...’ to bear in mind though... The interview, at the back of the book, tells the reader that the character of Sir Rupert Triumff is a favourite of Dan Abnett’s going back almost twenty years and this affection on the author’s part is clear in both positive and negative ways. Abnett comes across as being extremely happy to finally get the adventures of Triumff down on paper as is shown in his waxing at length about the background setting (and its history) that this drama plays against. This background information paints a bright and vivid picture, as well providing the reader with a constant flow of humorous asides (that were more ‘hit’ than ‘miss’ as far as I was concerned); the only problem I found was that there was a little too much of it...
At times I felt that I was reading more about the background setting than I was the story itself and that wasn’t what I came to the book to do. The same kind of thing happened with the jokes although this didn’t feel as bad somehow; the jokes come thick and fast but at least they are keeping things moving forwards at a fast rate of knots. I wasn’t expecting ‘Triumff’ to be as funny as it was and it was a more than pleasant surprise to find myself laughing as much as I was.
When the story does get going it does so in great style and once again you get the feeling that Dan Abnett had a great time writing this book. The descriptive padding serves to hide a plot that is tightly drawn and has plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing the outcome and turning the pages to get there as soon as possible. Running gags, such as the ‘Swiss Army sword’, maintain the humorous tone whilst also adding a delicious hint of uncertainty to the proceedings. How can Triumff possibly hope to win through if he doesn’t know whether he’ll be fighting with a cutlass or a tin opener...? The real fun lies in the moments where everything kicks off with lashings of hot pursuit and swordplay. This is where Abnett really lets loose and has a great time; throwing friend and foe together with great gusto and shaking the mixture up to see what happens. As far as I was concerned Abnett carried it off almost perfectly. My eyes were pretty much glued to these pages the whole way through and Abnett still manages to find the time and space to throw more jokes in as well.
I got the feeling that Dan Abnett indulged himself a little too much in the scene setting but this was more than balanced out by the rest of ‘Triumff’; a book that never did anything less than be gripping and a thoroughly entertaining read. As I said earlier, any sequels will be very welcome!
Nine out of Ten