A J Smith is a first time author whose debut
work is The Black Guard, which is the starting piece to the Long
War chronicles; the world, history and characters the frontispiece of the book notes he
has been devising for more than a decade.
The story concerns Lord Bromvy, and his sister Lady Bronwyn, of Canarn,
who have been declared traitors or black guards to the kingdom throne of Ro Tiris. They
have escaped the army that has captured their home and are seeking to regain their home.
Meanwhile a wider confrontation is afoot between the followers of the three living gods
that the people of the world recognise and worship.
But the The Black Guard is not so simple. This is
a novel of two "books" each of two parts and each part, with one exception, of
five chapters and that exception was six chapters. Unfortunately for the reader, the first
eight chapters were told from eight separate viewpoints of a chapter each. This made the
first half of the novel very episodic and disjointed and sapped this readers
engagement with the story. However, by midway through the second "book" a lot of
the characters were co-located some had even died, but new characters had sprung up
to carry their point of view forward so the continuity of action was much improved.
And this is a book that depends on the action to carry the story. Subtle story telling
innovations, such as character and dialogue as opposed to the call and response talking
that the identikit story actors exhibit, have passed the author by. Which is a shame as The
Black Guard is at heart an interesting story that could easily appeal to a