Title: The Promise of the Child | Series: The Amaranthine Spectrum #1 | Author: Tom Toner | Publisher: Gollancz | Publication date: October 13th 2016 | Num. Pages: 592 | Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy | How I owned it: Purchased in Foyles London, October 15th 2016
3.5 stars – A good debut with a good space operaesque leaning
It is the 147th century.
In the radically advanced post-human worlds of the Amaranthine Firmament, there is a contender to the Immortal throne: Aaron the Long-Life, the Pretender, a man who is not quite a man.
In the barbarous hominid kingdoms of the Prism Investiture, where life is short, cheap, and dangerous, an invention is born that will become the Firmament’s most closely kept secret.
Lycaste, a lovesick reclusive outcast for an unspeakable crime, must journey through the Provinces, braving the grotesques of an ancient, decadent world to find his salvation.
Sotiris, grieving the loss of his sister and awaiting the madness of old age, must relive his twelve thousand years of life to stop the man determined to become Emperor.
Ghaldezuel, knight of the stars, must plunder the rarest treasure in the Firmament—the object the Pretender will stop at nothing to obtain.
From medieval Prague to a lonely Mediterranean cove, and eventually far into the strange vastness of distant worlds, The Promise of the Child is a debut novel of gripping action and astounding ambition unfolding over hundreds of thousands of years, marking the arrival of a brilliant new talent in science fiction.
How little is the promise of the child fulfilled in the man
The Promise of the Child was one of those impulse books bought because I’d attended a festival (Gollancz festival September 17th 2016 I think) with the author in attendance and I liked the sound of both him and his debut novel; I have no regrets for purchasing this book on impulse unlike some of my impulse buys.
I think, personally, that 100 pages is all you get to grab me, if your book fails to grab me by then there’s a likelihood that I’ll abandon it sooner rather than later and I will admit I came so incredibly close to abandoning at about 80 pages because the book hadn’t grabbed me enough to keep me interested – I am glad I didn’t and persevered to the 100 page mark as shortly after my thoughts to abandon, the book picked up massively.
The book is understandably a little confusing in places, sometimes a touch frustrating also but the world building was brilliantly done. It’s the 147th century and there are so many species of creature as to overload a new reader – which I will admit, I am and yes, it did happen – but there’s a wonderful glossary at the back of the book which for the first 150 pages or so I kept flicking backwards and forwards between to understand what it was I was reading. Tom also kindly answered my random Twitter message about the Melius – a giant non-reptilian chameleon-esque creature that wear colours instead of clothes (can I get a hell yeah?) and he’s such a nice guy (Tom, not the Melius, though they are quite nice too) he also suggested that the glossary would basically be my new best friend and no truer words have ever been spoken.
The characters were great – three main characters and a few main side characters that got a little more page time that you’d expect a secondary character to get.
- Lycaste – a Melius who has been blessed/cursed with good looks and a soft heart.
- Sotiris – an Amaranthine approximately 12,000 years old who mourns the death of his sister and plots to stop the man determined to become Emperor.
- Ghaldezuel – a Lacaille knight of the stars who must steal the object that the Pretender will stop at nothing to obtain.
Each character had their own little quirks which didn’t deter from their overall character view but merely added to it. Lycaste for example is really soft hearted in the beginning but then another male encroaches on what he considers his territory and he flips – he’s a totally different man from how I’d gotten used to him and what I liked was that this new Lycaste continued throughout the rest of the book – he became infinitely more “masculine” than the hermit Lycaste of the beginning of the book.
For a debut novel the writing style was fresh if just a touch wordy, a lot of new words and styles of words specifically designed for The Amaranthine Spectrum world and though they’re long, and do put a bit of potentially unnecessary wordage in the book, I think that without them, The Promise of the Child wouldn’t have been the book it was.
On occasion, the book didn’t quite flow as well as I would have thought but it was made better by the general flow of it and the overall world building, characters and the plot line. The plot line was at first a bit confusing (I’d like to point out that I knew this going into the book and that this is no detriment on the book as a whole) but once it hit past the 100 page mark the plots stabilised and became their own individual side plots mixed together to make the one big plot.
The ending of the book threw me for a loop as I didn’t expect that ending in the slightest. It didn’t seem to match up with the beginning of the book where a random kid is taken by the Pretender and you don’t really hear about this child for the rest of the book. Then BAM!
The book is perfectly spacey and sci/fi but it has that sweet touch of fantasy with the seemingly random designed creatures and alien species.
In all, this was a good book and I’d recommend it.