Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Midwinter by Matthew Sturges

Picked this book up on a whim on the new books shelf at one of my local libraries.

It's the first novel by Sturges. He's a comic book writer whom I hadn't heard of, though apparently he's written some stuff in the Fables line that I actually might have read but not realized Bill Willingham had a partner on. And reading the acknowledgments, it looks like Chris Roberson, whom I saw at Armadillocon this year, was one of his readers and helpers with the novel.

Anyway, Midwinter is a fantasy novel set in a Faerie Realm. A former member of Queen Titania's Royal Guard gets released from prison to carry out a secret mission, so secret that he doesn't know exactly why he is doing it. He assembles some other prisoners to help him out.

It was a good if unspectacular book. Part of the problem was that I thought a couple of the main characters were pretty flat--there's a human in the party who does next to nothing and has no significant skills, which really stands out given all the magical abilities of the others. Sturges does about as much as he can with the lead protagonist, Mauritaine, who is one of those "incredibly competent and completely bound by his code of honor" types of characters. To be honest, I would have liked the book a little better if he hadn't been the main guy.

There are some good villains and some nice twists. I like the image of Unseelie Queen Mab's floating city. And I think Sturges does a good job for the most part of presenting the Faerie Lands and their history in a very economical fashion. The plot moves ahead without too many hiccups and the story sets itself up for sequels while still bringing the main plotline that it introduces to a satisfying conclusion.

So I'd recommend this, not as something that will amaze you, but as a good first effort by a writer who can craft a solid story and clearly has a vision for an intriguing world. The Dresden Files stories, though they have a very different feel, began in a similar fashion and just got better. I suspect Sturges has that same potential.

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