Darien (Empire of Salt #1)
From acclaimed historical novelist Conn Iggulden, DARIEN is an epic new fantasy series of spellbinding imagination.TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE. WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change.Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king. It will summon strangers to the city - Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt - and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all.Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made - and lost - in Darien.'A master storyteller' Sunday Express'Iggulden is in a class of his own' Daily Mirror'One of our finest historical novelists' Daily Express

Darien (Empire of Salt #1) Details

TitleDarien (Empire of Salt #1)
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 13th, 2017
PublisherMichael Joseph
ISBN071818646X
ISBN-139780718186463
Number of pages352 pages
Rating
GenreFantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction Fantasy

Darien (Empire of Salt #1) Review

  • James Lafayette Tivendale
    May 29, 2017
    I received an advanced copy of Darien: Empire of Salt via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank C.F. Iggulden, Michael Joseph, and Penguin Random House UK. C.F. Iggulden is an alias of Conn Iggulden. The master of historical fiction who has released the critically acclaimed Emperor series and Conqueror series. The slight change of pen name is due to Darien being his first foray into creating a fantasy tale. Darien is the name of a huge city in this fantasy world that I received an advanced copy of Darien: Empire of Salt via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank C.F. Iggulden, Michael Joseph, and Penguin Random House UK. C.F. Iggulden is an alias of Conn Iggulden. The master of historical fiction who has released the critically acclaimed Emperor series and Conqueror series. The slight change of pen name is due to Darien being his first foray into creating a fantasy tale. Darien is the name of a huge city in this fantasy world that houses over a quarter of a million citizens and the majority of the narrative is set within the city walls. There are twelve ruling family's in this complex political set-up. Each has great influence and almost act as puppeteers controlling the weak figurehead monarch. Unlike a lot of recent fantasy that has staggeringly grandiose fantasy worlds featuring a score of cities and hundreds of characters, Darien focuses more on the individuals, their actions and relationships in a more enclosed environment. There are about 10 main characters that we get to know relatively well in these 350 or so pages. The first half of the book follows about five points of view perspectives and the action sometimes switches mid-chapter to another players antics elsewhere. This switching of perspectives is administered well and it never becomes confusing or disorientating. Towards the end of the book a couple of extra POV's are added but they are usually in the presence of a person we are familiar with so this is also a seamless transition. There seem to be two types of characters presented here. Individuals that have stunning, special and perhaps even magical abilities and others that seem more normal and human, but this isn't to say that they lack unique talents. All in all, I think that the characters presented are expertly sculptured. The youth, Arthur Quick, and the hunter, Elias were my personal favourites.The world does feature magic including rumours of sorcerers or witches, certain individuals knacks, and magic devices. I won't say too much about this aspect. It isn't earth-shatteringly original but it is well crafted and creates a real sense of intrigue. There is one scene which bizarrely reminded me of Disney's Aladdin that is excellent and magic focused. This story is of quite an adult nature featuring destruction, murder, battles, kidnapping, and blackmail. The narrative is brimming with astonishing set-pieces. A segment at 60% through the book was as gripping and exciting as the finales of many great stories. Perhaps because I was treated with this gem of a sequence, the ending, although very good, fulfilling and expertly composed seemed a bit flatter in comparison. Although the majority of threads are tied up nicely there were a couple of loose ends and questions are presented as to what will come next. For example, will we follow the same characters? Will it be set a different city entirely somewhere else in the empire? Whatever comes next, I do not doubt Iggulden knows his craft and what follows Darien will be just as good, if not better. To conclude, this is an impressive, action-packed, character focused take on fantasy by the excellent Iggulden. I am looking forward to what the author has in store for us next on his fantasy venture.James x
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  • Emma
    June 25, 2017
    Fantasy is my favourite genre and so when I was given this ARC by Netgalley I was thrilled to bits. I've never read any of Conn Igulden's historical fiction and so this was a completely new author for me. The magic in this world was done with a light touch- my favourite was the boy Arthur. The strongest magical elements seem to have been remnants from a time long past, but here and there people had 'knacks' for certain magical skills. The story is told from multiple points of view, not all with Fantasy is my favourite genre and so when I was given this ARC by Netgalley I was thrilled to bits. I've never read any of Conn Igulden's historical fiction and so this was a completely new author for me. The magic in this world was done with a light touch- my favourite was the boy Arthur. The strongest magical elements seem to have been remnants from a time long past, but here and there people had 'knacks' for certain magical skills. The story is told from multiple points of view, not all with a clear distinct voice.I generally prefer more character development and for me, there was a disconnect between me as reader and the characters, for which I knocked off a star. The most interesting development for me was between Tellius and Lady Sallet.There was plenty of action to keep the most blood thirsty fantasist happy and I am interested to see how the story continues in the next instalment.
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  • Petros Tr
    July 18, 2017
    Conn Iggulden is one of the greatest Historical Fiction authors of our times. Apparently he's damn good at Fantasy as well. Darien, a city that is home to over a quarter of a million citizens, is the result of the fall of the mighty Empire of Salt, one of the greatest empires this world has ever seen. It is ruled by a puppet monarch whose strings are pulled by twelve aristocratic families; families that keep the order and preserve the peace. But when a bunch of mercenaries are hired to murder Conn Iggulden is one of the greatest Historical Fiction authors of our times. Apparently he's damn good at Fantasy as well. Darien, a city that is home to over a quarter of a million citizens, is the result of the fall of the mighty Empire of Salt, one of the greatest empires this world has ever seen. It is ruled by a puppet monarch whose strings are pulled by twelve aristocratic families; families that keep the order and preserve the peace. But when a bunch of mercenaries are hired to murder the King, everything will go to hell... or even further. "Deeds sighed suddenly, so tired then that he could barely stand. Perhaps it was time to stop struggling. He recalled there had been some ancient fellow forced to carry his own cross to where they crucified him. The thought was in his mind from before, when he'd felt like an apostle. Deeds though he might resemble the man with the cross then." Iggulden has done a great job on his first fantasy novel. He established a wonderful world with its own history and mythos, giving you glimpses of the past, expanding and exploring it with a steady pace. His magic system was well-thought-out and balanced, playing a significant role in the story but leaving enough space for other aspects to work. The story itself was intriguing from the beginning, and it was told from 5 different points of view. There were a lot of important sub-plots that played a vital role in the main story-line, and all of them were masterfully intertwined. All of the aforementioned aspects were fundamental attributes to Darien, but the most crucial one was the characters. Iggulden purred all of his talent into creating a bunch of well-sculptured and memorable characters that fell and felt for. All in all, Darien is a well-written and intriguing novel, with enough machinations, conspiracies and controversies to rival A Game of Thrones.
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  • Dannii Elle
    May 14, 2017
    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, C. F. Igguldon, and the publisher, Michael Joseph, for this opportunity.When I saw that this was the newest release by renowned historical author, Conn Igguldon, I jumped at the chance to read it. I imagined his skill at recreating past societies with a wicked vividity would denote great things for his first foray into the fantasy genre. And I was almost immediately proven correct in that assumption.This fa I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, C. F. Igguldon, and the publisher, Michael Joseph, for this opportunity.When I saw that this was the newest release by renowned historical author, Conn Igguldon, I jumped at the chance to read it. I imagined his skill at recreating past societies with a wicked vividity would denote great things for his first foray into the fantasy genre. And I was almost immediately proven correct in that assumption.This fantastical empire felt like an amalgamation of past culture with something undeniably innovative and exciting, plucked straight from the author's imagination. The city of Darien was its crowing glory.This multiple perspective narrative initially overwhelmed me, a little, due to the disparate nature of the stories divulged. About the midway point of the novel each of the threads of narrative started to overlap. And all lead back to Darien.Here the seemingly discordant stories all were combined as one, under their shared geographical location. The thrilling elements of each story were also heightened and it made for frantic reading to see how one act could impact each of the other characters' stories, despite their initial seeming incompatibility at combining as one cohesive whole.The resulting chaos made the last portion one heavily dominated by action. Battle scenes often drown me in information, in literature, but here I felt I had a good understanding of each character and was able to easily discern what was occurring.With just under two months until the official release date of this book, the means I have over a year to wait until the next instalment. 2018 can not come quick enough!
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  • Emma
    June 18, 2017
    3.5 starsA solid first outing in the fantasy genre from this well known historical fiction author. Set for the most part in the city of Darien, the plot switches between several characters with their own strange and rare powers. Everything is formed by a world building that is both sketchy and specific, it flows in and out according to the needs of the scene rather than compiling a larger representation. The reader learns somewhat about the 12 Families that form the ruling classes of the city, b 3.5 starsA solid first outing in the fantasy genre from this well known historical fiction author. Set for the most part in the city of Darien, the plot switches between several characters with their own strange and rare powers. Everything is formed by a world building that is both sketchy and specific, it flows in and out according to the needs of the scene rather than compiling a larger representation. The reader learns somewhat about the 12 Families that form the ruling classes of the city, but only details needed for the plot of this book, or even the current mess in which they find themselves, rather than the wider history and culture of the land. As with the entirety of the book, wherever the reader's gaze falls, the picture is sharp and focused, but anything outside that narrow gaze is fuzzy or missing altogether. The magic is localised in the same way, there is no system in place and each person has the skills needed for the plot. Obviously that's how books work to some extent, but the only people with magic use it to advance the story in specific ways. In fact, anyone who has a skill, magical or otherwise, is utilised in the same way... Each time you meet someone you are on guard for their talent to come in handy.In any case, Iggulden has created some memorable and individual characters which are strong enough to make me want to see what the future holds for them, but i'd like the narrative to feel more comprehensive and less like i'm stepping in and out of snapshots.ARC via Netgalley
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  • Yvonne
    June 20, 2017
    Darien is a city in the new fantasy series by Conn Iggulden. He is more known for his historical fiction books. This is his first journey into fantasy and is aimed at Teen and YA readers, but also works very well for adult audiences as well.Darien is ruled over by Twelve families, with overall control lying with the King. He is only a weak figurehead, with all the decisions being made behind the scenes by the Families. The main characters are Elias Post from the village of Wyburn, he is the main Darien is a city in the new fantasy series by Conn Iggulden. He is more known for his historical fiction books. This is his first journey into fantasy and is aimed at Teen and YA readers, but also works very well for adult audiences as well.Darien is ruled over by Twelve families, with overall control lying with the King. He is only a weak figurehead, with all the decisions being made behind the scenes by the Families. The main characters are Elias Post from the village of Wyburn, he is the main food hunter of the village. When the plague arrives he decides that he needs medicine for his family, along with Vic Deeds they make their way to the city. Vic Deeds has his own reasons for accompanying Elias. Daw and Nancy are associates of sorts, their own paths meet and events occur that require a special kind of partnership. Tellius and his group of ragged boys, who work their own trade for the benefit of Tellius and their group, he is a very likeable Fagin type character. Then there is Arthur, a boy who does not speak. They all have their own reason for being in the city. There are a couple of the characters who have an ability, or a knack. This becomes more apparent as the story unfolds.The author has created some great characters, as well as the ones previously mentioned, there are also ones who I feel will make themselves known more in future books. The emphasis for this book seems to be more on the characters than on the setting. With this being the first in a series, the foundations have been set, I would like to think more detail about the history of this world will be explored in future books. The writing is a bit disjointed at times with character changes mid chapter, but not so much as to lose track of the story. Once the stories of the individuals start to merge, towards the latter half of the book, it really does becomes a brilliant, imaginative and action packed read. I will be keeping my eye out for further books in this series and will definitely be reading more.I would recommend this book to more mature YA readers as well as Adult fantasy readers. I would like to thank Netgalley, Penguin UK - Michael Joseph and also C.F.Iggulden for my ARC of this book, for my honest and unbiased opinion
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  • Richard
    July 4, 2017
    7/10I saw this on NetGalley and having read and enjoyed the author’s series on Julius Caesar I requested this instantly. This is his first foray into Fantasy but it is set in a world where his historical background will have aided him in shaping the world. It felt like a Game of Thrones lite in that there were a number of viewpoints and nobody to really root for but it didn’t have the impact or the punch as that (earlier) series. The magic in this world was quite an interesting aspect and allowe 7/10I saw this on NetGalley and having read and enjoyed the author’s series on Julius Caesar I requested this instantly. This is his first foray into Fantasy but it is set in a world where his historical background will have aided him in shaping the world. It felt like a Game of Thrones lite in that there were a number of viewpoints and nobody to really root for but it didn’t have the impact or the punch as that (earlier) series. The magic in this world was quite an interesting aspect and allowed for a couple of interesting characters. (view spoiler)[A golem able to mimic actions he’s just witnessed, a woman who drains any magic within her vicinity to then use with flamethrower like skills, a man able to witness events a few moments ahead of time enabling him to avoid any threat. (hide spoiler)] The problem is that these interesting characters were cast aside near the end for an epic battle which fell flat and didn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I’d have rather have it been smaller in scope and concentrated on the interesting characters and their interactions like in the earlier part of the novel.The writing is easy flowing and allows for a quick read. It’s a style I like and isn’t bogged down in overly descriptive passages but still enough description to flesh out the world to make it feel lived in. The ending was a little bit flat for me which is why I rated it lower. I would have liked a stronger ending but then again this will be made into a series no doubt (it’s already listed as a series on GoodReads) and it’s not so much as closure as a way to tie off a section of the story. I’d be happy to read more in the series as there were some interesting ideas and characters but I’d be hoping for something a bit more character focused in the next one. I received a free copy from NetGalley
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  • Nigel
    June 16, 2017
    In brief - Not flawless but enjoyable.In fullI was aware of this author's reputation as a writer of historical fiction and the idea of reading the first part of a fantasy series was very appealing. The story effectively has three threads running through it. Firstly there is Elias, a remarkable hunter who is spotted by Deeds a gunman. Next there is Tellius, a Bill Sykes character, and a youngster who joins his group who Tellius names Arthur. The final strand is about Daw who uses magical devices In brief - Not flawless but enjoyable.In fullI was aware of this author's reputation as a writer of historical fiction and the idea of reading the first part of a fantasy series was very appealing. The story effectively has three threads running through it. Firstly there is Elias, a remarkable hunter who is spotted by Deeds a gunman. Next there is Tellius, a Bill Sykes character, and a youngster who joins his group who Tellius names Arthur. The final strand is about Daw who uses magical devices to line his pockets in the main and Nancy who insists that magic doesn't exist. The other part of the overall scene is the city of Darien where much of the book is set. I guess Darien is a fairly stereotypical city state with rulers who are seen as abusing power and authority. Those who are in authority are doing all they can to retain that authority. I certainly enjoyed reading this book and found it easy to get into. Mostly the characters worked well enough for me. In particular Elias and Tellius were excellent in my opinion. Elias's skill was interesting and well used. Similarly Tellius's use of the Mazer steps struck me as very good. I did find Daw and particularly Nancy rather less convincing. Parts of Nancy's story line did not really work for me. (view spoiler)[I think probably my biggest issue with this book was the fact that the plot lines seemed so obvious to me almost from the start. I'm no expert on fantasy book but the idea that the three strands would come together in Darien itself and probably as part of an attempt to overthrow the governance of the city became more and more apparent to me leaving the story with less bite and tension than I would have liked.Another aspect would be Nancy behaviour in the later part of the story. She starts off as someone who intends revenge on one of the city power holders and is unhappy with that power. She then, having contributed to the attempt to overthrow power, starts defend those who was effectively previously attacking. I did find her less than convincing.(hide spoiler)]In general the action and pace were fine particularly as the book went on; I was happily caught up in the story. This was not a book I would have put down and I enjoyed reading it. My reservation is that the plot lines seem quite well telegraphed. It was apparent to me quite early on the general direction of the story. As I got further into the book I did work out a number of the general storylines. I'd go for 3.5/5 on this one though others will enjoy it even more than me.Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttp://viewson.org.uk/fantasy/darien-...
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  • Dee Arr
    May 22, 2017
    My thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book.Author Conn Iggulden has crafted an epic fantasy tale that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. This is sword and sorcery at its finest, with plenty of background information to keep the reader interested until the final page.The book information touts this as a series, but you would never know it. Although there are untold stories that could branch off of “Darien,” this particular tale starts and finishes in one book. This is a stor My thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book.Author Conn Iggulden has crafted an epic fantasy tale that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. This is sword and sorcery at its finest, with plenty of background information to keep the reader interested until the final page.The book information touts this as a series, but you would never know it. Although there are untold stories that could branch off of “Darien,” this particular tale starts and finishes in one book. This is a story of intrigue and hidden desires, and of people caught in a web of someone else’s making. Many books have individual characters, each moving through a personal adventure that may eventually cross the path or paths of the others. Mr. Iggulden has grouped his cast into pairs, with each having their own story and interaction. Hunter Elias Post travels with gunslinger Vic Deeds (guns being new to this world). An uneasy respect and tension rides along, as Post and Deeds must rely on each other to survive. Tellius ( a teacher, of sorts) and Arthur (an incredibly apt student) find themselves unwillingly pulled into a dangerous situation, and each solution only seems to makes things worse. Daw and Nancy find out more about themselves and each other than they may have originally wished. Each pair follows their chosen paths and eventually end up in Darien, only to find other strings have been pulled and everything is not as it first seemed. The author provides plenty of glimpses inside many of the characters, providing backstories and motivations. While I might have wished for more of the sights and sounds of the city, Mr. Iggulden more than made up for it with the battle scenes and the interaction between characters.As stated above, this book can be read and enjoyed by all ages. Although there are large and small battles, it is not described with excessive gore, and Mr. Iggulden has written a book without a hint of adult language or intimate sexual scenes. This is an adventure tale first and foremost. Five stars.
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  • Lynn Williams
    July 24, 2017
    https://lynns-books.com/2017/07/13/da...Darien is an impressive start to a series that looks set to become epic. I had a few niggles but overall I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading more from this world.Unsurprisingly the majority of the story is set in the city of Darien. Darien is a huge city, it has a monarch but he’s little more than a figurehead, the real rulers of the city being the 12 noble families who keep peace with the threat of their own collection of magical artefacts t https://lynns-books.com/2017/07/13/da...Darien is an impressive start to a series that looks set to become epic. I had a few niggles but overall I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading more from this world.Unsurprisingly the majority of the story is set in the city of Darien. Darien is a huge city, it has a monarch but he’s little more than a figurehead, the real rulers of the city being the 12 noble families who keep peace with the threat of their own collection of magical artefacts that are rolled out during troubled times. Not to mention obscene amounts of money that can buy their own personal armies.As we start the story we are introduced to a number of characters who eventually pair up and follow their own storylines which eventually converge. We have a hunter named Elias, he’s desperately seeking a cure for his wife and and daughters who have fallen victim to the plague, his actions have become desperate and his lack of caution brings him to the notice of an ambitious gunman called Vic Deeds. The two of them make an agreement to travel together, one with the promise of a cure, the other with ulterior motives that make him appear as less than trustworthy. We have a sneaky thief called Nancy and her latest potential victim Daw. Again, the two of them strike a deal that sees them seeking out an ancient monument in search of treasure. Finally we have a character called Tellius who runs a gang of street urchins. Tellius is a very clever individual, not originally from Darien, he teaches his boys to dance, except what they believe to be a form of dance is actually a combination of routines that feel like martial arts. Tellius is about to be introduced to his latest recruit, a young boy called Arthur who hides a huge secret.There are a number of different motivations at play here. Elias wants little more than a quiet life and to keep his family safe. He has something, referred to in Darien, as the knack. This differs from individual to individual but lends Elias an ability of stealth and foresight that makes him quite lethal. Nancy’s story is all about revenge, she also has a knack that makes her very interesting to certain people. Arthur is really in search of home. He is much more than a little boy though and although he forms strong attachments to those who show him kindness his abilities will also bring him to the attention of those who would use and manipulate him. On top of this we have a huge army situated outside the city, an army run by a ruthless general who has his own ideas of what is best.Darien is really a character led story and given the size of the book manages to fit a heck of a lot into what is really relatively few pages in terms of epic fantasy. I enjoyed the style of writing. I think the author does an excellent job of keeping the different POVs distinct and I had no trouble keeping track of them. The plot comes together in a very satisfying way. The author manages to converge the storyline in a way that makes us see the plot unfold from different angles which I particularly enjoyed.In terms of my niggles.Nothing that spoiled the read for me but random thoughts that popped up as I read. There is very little history about Darien and although there are twelve noble families we don’t meet them all here. Personally, I think Iggulden has the right idea by not introducing everyone at this point. We only meet with those nobles that play a role in the story and this helps to keep the story succinct and prevents the need for history lessons (although I would have liked a little bit more information on, for example the Sallets).The magic is not really touched upon, more it’s just there unquestioned. There are magical objects and mages and witches, it’s not really made clear why or how the knack manifests in some and not others. To be honest I don’t really mind this but, again, I think a little bit of history would have been useful.I think my real concern is that I did want to have a stronger attachment to the characters. By the end of the story I definitely had favourites but it felt like it took a little while to get there, just as though they were a little flat or lacked that certain something that immediately draws you to them. Like I said, this changed as I reached the conclusion where I definitely found myself caring about the fate of a few of the characters, particularly Arthur and Tellius.Overall I think this was a really good read. It reads as a self contained story but with obvious openings left for the next in series to pick up on, I’m really keen to find out more about certain characters and I’m particularly curious about Elias, and his daughters, and wonder whether they might play more of a role in the future. I think the main issue with this book is that the author was obviously trying to prevent the story from becoming bloated with information which can lead to the story becoming lost a little. As it is, I think this could easily have had another 100 or so pages without becoming bogged down. At the end of the day though the beauty of a series is the way that the characters and world are expanded upon with each successive book.I think this has the promise to become a great series, almost old school in terms of the style of writing, not overly brutal or dark and with some great battle scenes to boot. I look forward to discovering more.I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
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  • Warrengent
    July 1, 2017
    DNF
  • Chris
    April 29, 2017
    *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*Darien is the start of a new series by C.F. Iggulden. Iggulden is perhaps better known for writing several series of well received historical fiction, but this is his first foray into fantasy.Darien is a feudal city-state in a low-magic world. That world seems to share a certain amount of history with our own – there’s the occasional mention of Romans, for example. But there was a divergence – a grand empire, the Empire of Salt, formed and fell – and *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*Darien is the start of a new series by C.F. Iggulden. Iggulden is perhaps better known for writing several series of well received historical fiction, but this is his first foray into fantasy.Darien is a feudal city-state in a low-magic world. That world seems to share a certain amount of history with our own – there’s the occasional mention of Romans, for example. But there was a divergence – a grand empire, the Empire of Salt, formed and fell – and Darien is one of its successor states. Most of the world-building is focused on the contemporary, though there’s scattered mentions and inferences one can make about the history of Darien to this point. Currently, however, Darien is an unequal society. It’s ruled by twelve noble families, each with their own heritage and rivalries. They sit beneath a monarch – in this case, a relatively tractable one. The people are a swirling morass, trying to get through their day to day without notice from their social superiors. There’s evidence of a slowly burgeoning middle-class though – merchants thriving in the main streets of Darien, and those with the wages to purchase their wares.It feels like an insular society, one which holds on to old feuds and older grudges. At the same time, it has a familiarity to it – the twisting alleys of Darien evoke those of the medieval period. Darien and its outlying environs do have some differences though – mostly in their magic. There’s old sorcery sitting with vicious quiet in ancient tombs, and powerful artifacts horded by families. Some people seem to have knacks, as well – peculiar skills and talents which may exceed or defy the norm.I wanted to see more of Darien – of the people in it, f the customs and habits which defined them, and of the strange and familiar world in which they find themselves. What’s there is intriguing, suggestive, and builds a solid foundation, but left me hungry for more.The characters – well, this is a narrative from multiple points of view. So we range from hunters to thieves, from martial troubleshooters to troubled duellists. The main cast get enough elbow room to differentiate themselves, though as with the world, I ended up wanting more. Standouts include Elias Post – a hunter, he begins the story as an unremarkable and pleasant man. As matters progress, though, he is offered some exceedingly difficult choices. The text doesn’t back away from this; in fact it embraces it, which is marvellous. Post grows quickly, and in different directions than we might otherwise have expected. There’s echoes of Monte Cristo there, as Post struggles to fulfil his overriding purpose, with no regard to the cost to himself – or what the struggle to reach his goals will turn him into.I also thoroughly enjoyed following Tellius. An old soldier, and not from Darien, he has a sharp intelligence which made following his thoughts enjoyable and a wry cynicism which made me chuckle more than once. Tellius is a pragmatist, with some moral constraints. He’s learned to look out for number one, but struggles against that lesson. Tellius’ dry wit and focus made walking alongside him amusing. The hints of a complex past that were thrown out, and his own efforts to be something better, despite himself, made the journey a pleasure.There were other points of view here for example the vulpine Vic Deeds, the ultimate guiltless problem solver, is charming and ruthless in equal measure, I won’t approach the others, for fear of spoilers – but I will say that even if I wanted more time with these characters, I still felt they had sufficient depth to encourage emotional investment, and to keep me turning pages alongside them.The plot – well, there’s certainly a lot going on. There’s assassination attempts, some very fast-paced and visceral duels, and even a battle or two. Those are choreographed masterfully, and Iggulden brings the movements of large masses of troops, and the dangers and chaos which they face, to life brilliantly. In between the murders, the politicking and the struggles for the life of the city, there’s some touchingly genuine emotional moments as well. It’s epic fantasy at its most literal – the fate of empires settled with fire, sword and pistol shot. In this case, there’s some rather explosive magic thrown in as well.Is it any good though? I’d say so. It approaches the form of epic fantasy with care, and constructs a story which kept me interested and unwilling to put the book down. I want to see more of the world and the people in it, but that’s less a criticism than a hope for future instalments. If you’re looking for something new to fill your next epic fantasy fix, then this will see you right.
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  • Chocolategoddess
    June 26, 2017
    This was such a cool book! A fun read, with an interesting way of pulling together multiple viewpoints.We follow Elias, Tellius, Arthur, Daw, Nancy, and Deeds as they get wrapped up in the schemes of the Twelve Ruling Families of Darien, to catastrophic results.Some of these characters are not normal human beings. They have "knacks", magical gifts which allow them to do extraordinary things, but also makes them ripe for exploitation. Control is a central theme of the book: how to take it and kee This was such a cool book! A fun read, with an interesting way of pulling together multiple viewpoints.We follow Elias, Tellius, Arthur, Daw, Nancy, and Deeds as they get wrapped up in the schemes of the Twelve Ruling Families of Darien, to catastrophic results.Some of these characters are not normal human beings. They have "knacks", magical gifts which allow them to do extraordinary things, but also makes them ripe for exploitation. Control is a central theme of the book: how to take it and keep it. It's done cleverly. There's no simple route to control, or power, or anything else in here and it's awesome.The characters themselves are quite strong. Deeds in particular has a great voice. The others could be a little more full of character, but given there are so many people to follow, I'm happy with the amount we have. Balancing that many characters is a tough job anyway, and it works well here, giving lots of threads for the reader to keep track of, and lots of moments of "Ohhhh, well if they're doing X, then Y can do Z!!!!! This could be amazing or terrible, either way I'm excited to find out", and also lots of "Ohhhhhhh that's clever." I like that in a book.The plot is centred around the city Darien and the power struggles going on there. Our main antagonist wants the king dead, and with knacks floating about, everyone else having plots, and the general populace feeling unloved, it's a perfect time for it. Watching it all come together is incredibly fascinating, and it felt very realistic to me.(view spoiler)[Most of the second half of the book is about the antagonist leading an army into Darien. In any other book I'd get bored with military actions that take up so much space, but Iggulden does it really well. (hide spoiler)] There's actual fighting for the fight lovers, there are tactics for the tactics lovers, and lots of character development still going on the whole time. I read the last 25% of the book in one sitting, despite being really tired and having that itchy-eyes-I've-been-reading-too-much thing. Haven't done that in a while.If I had to find a criticism, it was that the point of view was ... loose. It floated somewhere between third person limited and third person omniscient. I guess it was omniscient, but it would switch focus from being in one character's head to being in another's at really odd points and it was jarring from time to time. Especially when it jumped from one of the main character's heads to some minor character you don't see much of. I really don't care, though.I am definitely going to pick up the next book in this series (again, I curse/love the folk at NetGalley who give me free books in return for an honest review, then make me wait longer than everyone else to get the next book). I'll probably go look at Iggulden's back catalogue too, because it wasn't just the fantasy aspects that make this book good, and I'd like to read some pure historical stuff from a great author.
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  • Mark
    July 22, 2017
    You may not (at first) recognise the author’s name: but readers of Historical Fiction may know of Conn Iggulden, author of nearly 20 fiction books, including the Emperor series set in Ancient Rome, and more recently his War of the Roses series. As if this wasn’t enough, he has also published non-fiction such as The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006).Darien: Empire of Salt uses his considerable writing skills and historical knowledge to venture into a genre he has always considered a personal favouri You may not (at first) recognise the author’s name: but readers of Historical Fiction may know of Conn Iggulden, author of nearly 20 fiction books, including the Emperor series set in Ancient Rome, and more recently his War of the Roses series. As if this wasn’t enough, he has also published non-fiction such as The Dangerous Book for Boys (2006).Darien: Empire of Salt uses his considerable writing skills and historical knowledge to venture into a genre he has always considered a personal favourite: Fantasy.Darien is clearly meant to be the first in a series and not a stand-alone. What this means is that the book introduces the reader to people and places that are going to develop over more than one book. The plan at present is for a trilogy.Whilst Conn’s homage to his hero David Gemmell is clear throughout, this is not a typical medieval-esque Fantasy. Admittedly Darien is a city in a world with a long and rich history, some of which we read of here, and many of the residents of the city live a harsh peasant-like existence, it is a world more akin to the global Empire building of the Mercantile Era, c16-18th century, than most traditional Fantasy novels. This is also shown by presence of guns in this world, something more akin to Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere worlds or even Gemmell’s Jon Shannow than, say, Game of Thrones. It is a violent and treacherous place filled with warriors, spies, magicians and mercenaries.In terms of the characters, it is clear that the author is not lacking in ambition in the scale of this book, although the book mainly concerns itself with six main characters. Elias Post is a hunter with a secret  who encounters and reluctantly allies with Vic Deeds, a young mercenary killer for hire. Tellius is an old swordsman and rather Fagin-like character who meets Arthur, a boy brought to Tellius’ notice that has an special skill that will be central to the story.  Thirdly, Daw Threefold is a chancer and gambler rather down on his luck, who meets Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all. Conn wisely sticks to the majority of the book centred around these three groups of characters, although there are others who weave in and out of the narrative, and will no doubt become more or less important at various points of the series. This creates the feeling that we’re in for a long and immersive plot here, of which Darien is merely the introduction to other events. The slight disadvantage of this is that much of the first part of the book is about meeting new characters and setting up their individual backstories and reasons for being in the plot, but it is worth persevering through the first half to the latter section.It is in the second part of the book where the pace steps up a gear as these characters begin to connect together and affect each other. In the city of Darien, the perspective widens so that the politics of the Empire becomes paramount. The geopolitical situation is that there are twelve families ruling under a King, creating a complex political environment which though briefly glimpsed, seems reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth’s court or the Borgias. The King himself is a weak one, placed there by the leading Family for presentation purposes rather than actual leadership, which means that the lesser Families are manoeuvring for new positions of power. As a result, a plot is hatched which leads to an assassination attempt on King Johannes and events that usher in an impressively fast and rather violent last part of the book.In short, Darien is a solidly old-school Fantasy novel, strong on character, in which readers can immerse themselves. As you might expect from an experienced author, it is well-done. It is not as broad and as complex, as say, Game of Thrones, but it brings enough new ideas to the table to ensure that the novel the maintains a reader’s interest, with enough characters to keep a genre fan happy and enough action to make the initial lengthy exposition bearable. Most readers will want to continue to read more in this series.
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  • Judith Moore
    June 6, 2017
    Full review up on my blog: http://bit.ly/2stgrdvSo we have the classic epic fantasy multiple POV set up with six men and one woman (sigh) all of whom were supposed to be quite different but I just kept mixing them all up because I didn’t feel that they had particularly distinctive voices. The possible exceptions to this were Arthur and Nancy (given that these were a child and a woman it’s not that surprising that they were more distinctive than the sea of violent men that were the other characte Full review up on my blog: http://bit.ly/2stgrdvSo we have the classic epic fantasy multiple POV set up with six men and one woman (sigh) all of whom were supposed to be quite different but I just kept mixing them all up because I didn’t feel that they had particularly distinctive voices. The possible exceptions to this were Arthur and Nancy (given that these were a child and a woman it’s not that surprising that they were more distinctive than the sea of violent men that were the other characters).But I hate being negative about books so let’s look to the positive. I do think this is a classic epic fantasy world clearly created by someone with an interest in historical fiction (the genre this author normally writes in). We have an older society with the addition of magic, largely based in artefacts though some can wield it in various ways. While this isn’t particularly innovative it was handled well, and the simplicity of the setting lends itself to a series as you can expand on principles later on if needs be.Unsurprisingly, I liked the character of Nancy best, call me a cliché but I like a strong female character. I thought that the mystery surrounding her skills was handled well and that she developed well throughout the book. Arthur was also an interesting element to the story (not going to spoil that for you though).So as I say, I think this book could have been really quite good, it just fell short in a few ways (for me, you might love it). I felt like the concept of the twelve families wasn’t expounded as much as it could have been, just to make the political system feel a bit more fleshed out, and I felt as though we jumped from calm to action really quite quickly with not much of a sense of continuity between the two. The flow was just a bit off for me which hindered my enjoyment of the book as a whole.My rating: 3/5 stars (I liked it but I wouldn’t read it again)Darien publishes on July 13th so if you fancy a trip to this fantasy world you can preorder now!By the way: I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher (Penguin Uk-Michael Joseph) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.
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  • Stacey Taylor
    July 16, 2017
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.“TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE.WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change. Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king.It will summon strangers to the city – Eli Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.“TWELVE FAMILIES. ONE THRONE.WELCOME TO THE EMPIRE OF SALT.The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. Twelve families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. The people of the city endure what they cannot change. Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king.It will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all. Their arrival inside the walls as the sun sets will set off a series of explosive events. Before the sun returns, five destinies will have been made – and lost – in Darien.”I was quite excited to receive this as I am a lover of fantasy, especially in the warmer months so I thought it would be great summer read. Something wasn’t quite right though, and I don’t know whether it was because I’m in a weird reading slump or because of the book.This follows six different characters who all have some kind of unique skill. I honestly was only interested in two: Nancy and Arthur, who held skills that I had never read about before. I would have liked to have seen more description around these two, and what they their powers entailed, as the background and charm surrounding these characters was great. The other four I did not care for.The plot was a bit bland and I felt that not much was happening, but this may have been because it is the first in a series and I understand that these books are usually set up books. I felt that there could have been more world building because the action was a bit lacking.Saying this, it was a well written book. Seeing as this genre is not the norm from this author I think there is a lot of potential once they find their feet with it. I won’t be picking the rest up in the series because it was lacking the detail that I want from a book.3/5* good effort.
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  • Levi
    July 31, 2017
    This was a complete random selection for me, a friend passed it to me in work and I read it over three shifts .I really enjoyed it ...I dislike hardbacks but as it was for 'research' purposes I coped ! 😊! The book had a dark Oliver Twist feel to me ...perhaps it was just me . Either way I'm interested to see what else this author has written as it was an intriguing read ! Would recommend
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  • Connie
    June 1, 2017
    Conn Iggulden is better known for his historical fiction, which I love, so jumped at the chance to read Darien, the first in the Empire of Salt series.This is a fast-paced high action fantasy which I loved and look forward to the next. 5*
  • Tracey the Lizard Queen
    June 10, 2017
    Full RTC
  • Amberlydia
    June 28, 2017
    HIGHLY RECOMMEND FOR IGGULDEN FIRST FANTASY BOOK!! Loved the thing start to finish! I know some people are going to think game of thrones but honestly no. It's different in subtle and significant ways. If you can't see it. Your not getting it. Still highly recommend it!
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  • Michael Cayley
    June 17, 2017
    Conn Iggulden's new novel is the first in a planned series of fantasy novels. It is gripping and finely imagined. The characters range from a poor young woman who disbelieves in magic but discovers that she has hidden powers, to a retired soldier who runs a gang of child-thieves (a kinder version of Fagin) to an ambitious general, a timid king, an impoverished man with a gift for anticipating people's next movements, a gun-toting soldier, and a determined and ruthless female aristocrat. At the c Conn Iggulden's new novel is the first in a planned series of fantasy novels. It is gripping and finely imagined. The characters range from a poor young woman who disbelieves in magic but discovers that she has hidden powers, to a retired soldier who runs a gang of child-thieves (a kinder version of Fagin) to an ambitious general, a timid king, an impoverished man with a gift for anticipating people's next movements, a gun-toting soldier, and a determined and ruthless female aristocrat. At the centre of the novel is the city of Darien, and Conn Iggulden portrays its multifarious life well. For the first half of the book there are several largely independent strands of plot, but they come together in a ferocious struggle for control of Darien. In other hands, the complexities of the fighting involved could have been confusing: here, everything is described clearly.Do not look for subtle characterisation. This is very much a plot-driven novel, with the emphasis on action. As such, it is very enjoyable.With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me have a review copy.
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  • Leonie Byrne
    May 8, 2017
    CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Na CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Nancy, more than just a fumble and a tumble, she has something about her which causes magic objects to fail. Daw has big plans for what they can do with this power but Nancy has plans of her own... revenge. Elias Post is an incredible hunter. Because he has a gift of his own. A gift he calls 'reaching' but it's about to get him into trouble when General Justan of the immortal army gets wind of it and decides how he can use it. Then there's Tellius who comes across a small boy who can mimick anything he sees perfectly. Tellius thinks to use him to his own advantage until they get into a scrape and the boy is revealed as not a boy at all but a Golem. Overall the novel was fairly fast paced. It changed direction quickly which was sometimes confusing as it switched to the different narratives of all the characters involved. I would have also liked to have seen more world building, other than the name of the city, the fact it has 12 families and that the people worship a goddess not much else was given on the world itself and where it is supposed to be set or even when. We also only meet characters from 3 of the 12 families and I'd have liked to have seen more about them. How did they get into power for example and why are they so important? Just their names would have been nice...I think this book got off to a great start and I really enjoyed the first 50-65% of it. But as aforementioned it lacked too much in world building and also became very fighting strong. That's not necessarily a criticism but I'm not that fussed on books with a lot of fighting for like 35% of the story. Overall, it was well written and plotted and I think fans of books about action and war with a little magic thrown in would really enjoy it.
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  • Robin Carter
    April 18, 2017
    I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to read a very advance copy of this book. Conn Iggulden is one of the biggest names in Historical Fiction, i think still the only writer to top the Fiction and Non fiction charts at the same time. So when i found out that Conn Iggulden was going to do a fantasy book i was thrilled, the man is a born storyteller, given free reign to write without the bounds of history was going to be fun to read. Add to this the fact that he has a great passion I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to read a very advance copy of this book. Conn Iggulden is one of the biggest names in Historical Fiction, i think still the only writer to top the Fiction and Non fiction charts at the same time. So when i found out that Conn Iggulden was going to do a fantasy book i was thrilled, the man is a born storyteller, given free reign to write without the bounds of history was going to be fun to read. Add to this the fact that he has a great passion for my favorite writer David Gemmell, which would without doubt and i think does influence his work, in the way he builds his characters and backgrounds, and the sparse style that says much with minimal words.Full review: https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/...
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  • Sachin Dev
    June 29, 2017
    Originally review on Smorgasbord Fantasia : https://goo.gl/fGDEvZSo Darien, Empire of Salt is the opening salvo to this high-fantasy trilogy by CF Iggulden, [Conn F Iggulden also happens to be one of my all-time favourite historical fiction authors]. After his books on Genghis Khan and Julius Ceaser (Both towering feats of story-telling, of spell binding imagination that brings alive historical stories drenched in blood and myths!) I was super excited that he turned his hands, to writing a full- Originally review on Smorgasbord Fantasia : https://goo.gl/fGDEvZSo Darien, Empire of Salt is the opening salvo to this high-fantasy trilogy by CF Iggulden, [Conn F Iggulden also happens to be one of my all-time favourite historical fiction authors]. After his books on Genghis Khan and Julius Ceaser (Both towering feats of story-telling, of spell binding imagination that brings alive historical stories drenched in blood and myths!) I was super excited that he turned his hands, to writing a full-on fantasy novel, without the trappings of actual history weighing down on the story. Unfettered imagination and brilliant writing chops, would make this a delectable affair, thought I. and naturally, the expectations were sky-high. The premise for Darien, an empire at the “weary end of a golden age” was a cracker. Basically, it sets the ground for explosive happenings within the capital city of Darien – where a regicide is being planned and five strangers converge, their fates colliding with each other’s to write a new chapter for the Empire. A plot to kill the king? Political feuds? Backstabbing? Magic! Hell, count me in, thought I. The expectations were now stratospheric. Outer edges of moon and all that. Conn begins the story by giving us the drop on each of these ‘strangers’ – their backstory, their motivations and what drives them to their ‘fate’ within the city of Darien. This was the most interesting part of the story, personally for me. Elias Post, the hunter – makes a deal with the devil [ a power hungry General Justan who wants to right the wrongs meted out to the people of Darien by bringing in winds of change, a revolution or a military coup to overthrow the absolute tyrannical rule of the ‘Royal’ family ] to save his family and is forced into a contract, the consequences of which could be disastrous. He is brought in by General’s right hand man, a young soldier Vic Deeds, who is better than the devil, when it comes to the guns and is assigned to keep an eye of Elias, to ensure he goes through with the contract. Now Elias was an easy character to follow, to root for. His family’ life is at stake and his ‘knack’ (magical ability) was fascinating, making him the perfect ‘assassin’ or weapon in the wrong hands. But Elias thinks for himself and a multi-layered personality. Vic, on the other hand, is a soldier and doesn’t think beyond saving his own skin. A fairly grey character with hidden motives but I just couldn’t get to like him. The set of Tellius, an old retired soldier who wants to get back at the ‘arrogant swordmasters inside the city’ discovers a new urchin, who is mute but who might become his greatest student ever. Arthur, the boy who can learn anything within a few seconds of having observed it, however hides a greater secret than Telius can even fathom. I liked Arthur a lot. So much pain, so much hidden behind those silent gaze – and his secret is a mindblowing twist on the story plot. Telius, on the other hand – comes across as just a grumpy old man seeking to better his own fortunes – wasn’t my favourites. There are hints of a complex past, of war and soldiering with a secret sect but Conn doesn’t expound on these, choosing to focus on the tumultuous events of a military coup in the present. The last set of two intertwined fates, that of Thee – a gambler and Nancy, a young girl down on her luck, started off as the best possible tale. That of an adventure, deep into the hearts of a desert, in search of magical artefacts and treasures. Thee – again an unscrupulous character out to just make good on his own fortunes, wants to use Nancy for the unique gifts she brings in – her ability to suck magic out of artefacts into herself. Nancy, comes across as a troubled soul, wanting to just lead a respectable life and coming to terms with the powers awakening inside her. Again, sadly these two characters didn’t really shine for me much. Conn is a master of his craft – and the plot keeps unfolding at relentless pace. There is tremendous world building hints thrown out – very intriguing and deep but Conn again chooses to just tease the reader with these being just hints. The Empire of Salt, an erstwhile sprawling empire with its royal families each holding a family heirloom of magic to protect the city of Darien, seems to have some fairly interesting roots, histories. There’s magic aplenty – and Conn keeps these mysterious. Monstrous sorcery hidden deep in a tomb, magical weapons that will keep empires alive and more. There are battles, epic and huge in scale with the whole revolution brewing, skilfully wrought out alive on the pages by Conn that will keep you hooked and in between all the politicking and changing loyalties, there are some genuinely poignant moments, like the fate of Elias Post and his girls or the story of Arthur. I would have loved to see more of the city of Darien, the people, the culture and the practices followed that makes the Empire of Salt what it is. However, we are driven straight into the heart of the revolution as soon as we pass through the gates and I thought this was a shame. Overall, I think it is a fairly good start to a new series by Conn but the magic and the thrill of reading the Emperor or the Conqueror series was definitely missing. Mainly because I couldn’t get behind and really like any of the multi POV’s in the book. But it’s epic fantasy in its purest form. The fate of an empire hanging in balance as individuals grow into their own destinies – An explosive clash of fortunes involving cunning schemes, political feuds that brings out raging fires, swordplay and gunshots sealing their fate along with city of Darien. A one-time read but don’t go in expecting the same charm of Julius Cesaer or the brutal ferocity of Genghis Khan.
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  • Megan Leigh
    July 3, 2017
    This review originally appeared on Pop Verse.C. F. Iggulden is the pseudonym of successful historical fiction writer Conn Iggulden. Darien is the author’s first attempt at a fantasy series, and a YA series at that. Having never read any of his previous work, I went into Darien knowing nothing other than this was a novel from a well-established writer. It was a shame, then, that it read like a first draft.The characters in Darien exist entirely in service of the plot, without any inner lives of t This review originally appeared on Pop Verse.C. F. Iggulden is the pseudonym of successful historical fiction writer Conn Iggulden. Darien is the author’s first attempt at a fantasy series, and a YA series at that. Having never read any of his previous work, I went into Darien knowing nothing other than this was a novel from a well-established writer. It was a shame, then, that it read like a first draft.The characters in Darien exist entirely in service of the plot, without any inner lives of their own. Knowing Iggulden comes from the world of historical fiction actually makes some sense when reading his fantasy novel attempt – he clearly planned an event to happen at the end of the book and made it happen, at the expense of developing interesting characters with even a hint of agency. Instead, everything happens by chance and there is little in the way of overall motivation driving any of the characters.‘If an outcome cannot be controlled, you are left only with style.’The novel follows a disparate cast of characters around the city of Darien. Elias is a desperate father trying to save his family from the plague; Tellius a kind-hearted Fagin type figure looking after lost boys from the city’s streets; con artist Daw Threefold finds his livelihood threatened by a pretty face who has the power to suck magic into herself. None of these characters have any particularly world-changing plans, and those that do only develop them after accidents of circumstance. All of them eventually find themselves in the centre of the city and critical players in a political coup.‘Worst of all was the thought that the world might be so badly organised that a cure could exist and still not reach those who needed it.’The opening of this YA novel is a strange one. It is written in a style that brings to mind folklore. There is no immediate hook that jumps out and has only the barest hint of something ‘other’ to appeal to speculative fiction readers. It was not a chapter that particularly hooked me in as an adult reader and it would have left me cold as a teenager as well. It made me wonder whether such a novel would have found publication if it had been written by an unknown, debut author. I do hate that debut authors are required to so completely conform to the splashy requirements publishers set, but at the same time, are those same publishers being too lenient with established voices? Why not push them to do better? I like that they are willing to take risks on other kinds of storytelling, but it is frustrating that these risks only appear to happen with well-known names.Iggulden’s fantasy style borrows a lot from George R. R. Martin and, to a lesser extent, Robin Hobb. It reads like a medieval history novel with a splash of magic thrown in to appeal to the fantasy audience rather than being firmly in the fantasy realm (at least for the first half of the novel). The novel also called to mind fantasy novels like The Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamora. All in all, it lacked its own distinctive personality, as though I’d seen it all before. Yet another medieval fantasy involving political power dynamics. As a basis for a fantasy series, that wouldn’t necessarily bother me, but it has to say something different to hook me in or have really strong, interesting characters. Darien has neither.I struggled with the narrative style employed in this novel. Like its setting and magic elements that riff off A Song of Ice and Fire, so does the narrative style. While Darien isn’t as strictly structured as Martin’s epic, with chapters clearly delineated as being from a specific character’s point of view, the revolving third person narration is still there. Unfortunately, Iggulden doesn’t manage to pull it off. For the most part, it reads like third person limited, but it constantly switches whose head the reader is in. It is confusing and incoherent to the point where I wondered what the author was actually going for – were they trying to do omniscient that just felt limited/focused or were they trying to do limited pov but failing?‘It doesn’t hurt to show the world a nice smile, especially before you kick its teeth in.’Characters need agency. They need motivations that drive their actions towards a relevant end-point in the narrative. The characters in Darien that fulfil this requirement are either introduced very late in the game or only find their motivation after a series of coincidental circumstances. Otherwise, the General of the Immortals could be said to have a clear motivation from beginning to end, but he is a minor side-character at best. The two characters who arguably are the most pivotal of all – Nancy and Arthur – are perfect examples of characters who do not have sufficient motivation and are purely props of the plot. Arthur is a golem, a magical creation without desires, or at least none that are articulated. His story arc is a series of accidents and things happening to him. Nancy’s path is also an accident. In trying to steal from Daw, she discovers that she has the power to steal magic from artefacts and use them. Once she discovers this knack, she decides to seek revenge for the death of her father which just happens to throw her into the path of other, bigger events that are playing out in the city.By the time I’d reached the halfway point, I still had no idea where it was all headed – and not in an interesting or intriguing way. None of the factions of characters were linked in an obvious sense. Combine that with none of them having ultimate goals that might come together, it all felt too reliant on circumstance. At any moment, a new character could be introduced, a new path given for a character, and the story would move on to an entirely different route. SO what was the point of it? I couldn’t root for any of them as they had no particular goals in mind for themselves – even Elias, who at least has something very specific keep him on track – was forced into his actions, rather than choosing them to further his own goals in some way.‘You lived or died. There was no point worrying about it.’Ultimately, the lack of character agency and depth meant I had no interest in what was happening. The plot of the story felt irrelevant to the characters that inhabited it. The worldbuilding was limited and the magic ‘system’ (if you can call it that) was extremely undercooked. Everything about Darien felt like a first draft – one that you would polish before even sending it to beta readers. How it ever got past agents and editors is baffling.Verdict: Only for those who place no importance on characters being active in their own stories.
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  • Peritract
    July 11, 2017
    The Empire of Salt has declined and fallen. What is left is Darien – a city ruled through a puppet king by twelve noble families. Magic has faded too, and only the wealthy manage to hoard anything more than trinkets. Plague ravages the countryside, and children steal to survive. Society is old and tired, looking back to an earlier age to avoid thinking about the failures and compromises of the modern day. There’s no pride, justice, or nobility left.Darien focuses on a cast of characters who want The Empire of Salt has declined and fallen. What is left is Darien – a city ruled through a puppet king by twelve noble families. Magic has faded too, and only the wealthy manage to hoard anything more than trinkets. Plague ravages the countryside, and children steal to survive. Society is old and tired, looking back to an earlier age to avoid thinking about the failures and compromises of the modern day. There’s no pride, justice, or nobility left.Darien focuses on a cast of characters who want something more. A thief who dreams of a treasure hoard, a girl who dreams of justice. A gang leader with memories of a nobler calling and a general tired of pointless orders. Darien has been in placid decline for centuries, but times are changing. Plans and paths converge, beginning a chain of events that will either destroy the city or redeem it. C. F. Iggulden is actually Conn Iggulden, writing under a different name. Take a moment to recover from the shock of that reveal. Conn Iggulden is primarily known for stories set in ancient Rome, and that comes through in this book. There’s a realism to the prose and the ideas, like a sepia filter. The story feels old, and it feels as though it could have really happened. Even the magical elements – which become increasingly noticeable through the novel – blend in seamlessly. Suspension of disbelief is not a problem. “Historical fantasy” isn’t a genre, as far as I’m aware, but I find that I rather like it.The book jumps between perspectives a lot – there are a lot of different characters each with their own, eventually-interweaving plotlines. One thing I liked about this book is that subplots genuinely are interwoven, rather than there being one main thread with the others just tacked on. The overall plot is about the city, not the characters, but each of the characters’ roles is important – with one thread missing, everything would change, and it’s not always obvious how a particular piece will fit in until it’s in place. It makes an interesting change from plot-driven main-quest fantasy.Darien is a quick read – either because it’s relatively short for the genre, or because it rattles along fast. Perhaps due to the unusual plot structure, it never drags; even the quieter scenes move rapidly. In places, I actually would have liked the narrative to slow down a little, to spread out the events and build the tension more slowly. When events start snowballing, the pace accelerates rather inexorably. The book could have handled more space to explore itself without growing tedious.It’s definitely fantasy – there’s magic and everything. It ranges from little trinkets to fire conjuring and giant sword-wielding robots. There are hints throughout though, that Darien is set in some future version of our world. I’m not a huge fan of “actually the future” elements in my fantasy – it bugged me in Dragonriders of Pern, and grates a little every time it occurs in anything else. That is a personal quirk though, not a criticism. I don’t like time travel either, but I accept that tastes differ.The tagline for the book mentions that it’s part of a series. Presumably, the next couple of years will reveal a second Empire of Salt book. The story is really quite self-contained though – there’s no obvious main hook for a sequel. The story reaches a natural end, with all the characters disposed off in satisfying ways and places.I enjoyed Darien. It’s rather different to standard epic fantasy – the plot, the prose, almost everything is non-standard. Fantasy is a genre that tends to stagnation, and Darien is absolutely kicking against that. It’s a refreshing and engrossing book, and I’d enjoy reading more like it.
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  • Rosie
    July 19, 2017
    SummaryC.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.PlotThe novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. SummaryC.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.PlotThe novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.CharactersAs I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.World/SettingThat being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.Final ThoughtsWhile it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.
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  • Rebecca Armstrong
    June 30, 2017
    As we follow five people within the City of Darien, their destinies are made or lost. One night, everything changes.Darien starts slow as every person is introduced. Side characters are introduced and the world is built up. Iggulden has a world filled with detail. With his past of historical fiction this isn't surprising. The detail is extremely immersive and you get to know the world really well. I loved the world it was set in, it was an old world, with problems for the lower classes. I also e As we follow five people within the City of Darien, their destinies are made or lost. One night, everything changes.Darien starts slow as every person is introduced. Side characters are introduced and the world is built up. Iggulden has a world filled with detail. With his past of historical fiction this isn't surprising. The detail is extremely immersive and you get to know the world really well. I loved the world it was set in, it was an old world, with problems for the lower classes. I also enjoyed that we weren't following one of the royals or twelve houses that are the higher classes within Darien.At times, Darien is a struggle to read. The writing style is complex and full of intricacies. A lot of focus is needed when reading Darien because of this. I often read before bed, but when I'm winding down this is not the right book. Changing POV's kept confusing me because of lack of focus. It's very similar to Lord of the Rings or ASOIAF books in that sense.What I enjoyed was the characters are not labelled good or bad. They all have both good and bad traits which are shown throughout the book. This gave the characters so much depth. There was the problem that I didn't know who I was routing for though as sometimes the characters were on opposing 'sides' of the conflict.The character's storylines could have also been more entwined than they were. Although it was nice to see different POV's from each character, often I questioned whether it was necessary for the overarching plot. For example, the old man, Tellius, did we really need his part of the story for the story to make sense? I don't think we needed the background information. For some characters it was just a mention of missing each other at the same place by mere minutes. I would have been more coherent if it was all interlinked somehow.Overall, Darien was a nice read. Iggulden has used his historical fiction background to ensure descriptive world building and well written politics. There were just some aspects that I personally didn't enjoy as much as others would.I received Darien* by C.F. Iggulden as an e-book from the publisher via Netgalley. This is an unbiased and honest review.
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  • Colin Hardy
    June 3, 2017
    DarienPlot3 concurrent stories are woven together. The story telling ability of the author cannot be denied; neither can his characterisation and backstory development. However, the constant jumping from one thread to another that comes without warning becomes frustrating very quickly. I tried really hard to get into the overall story but there is just not enough time given for any scene to hold your attention. Just as soon as you think you are getting into it the story lurches to another group DarienPlot3 concurrent stories are woven together. The story telling ability of the author cannot be denied; neither can his characterisation and backstory development. However, the constant jumping from one thread to another that comes without warning becomes frustrating very quickly. I tried really hard to get into the overall story but there is just not enough time given for any scene to hold your attention. Just as soon as you think you are getting into it the story lurches to another group of characters. As the book continues there is a clear drawing together of threads around the city of Darien and there is a weeding out of characters but by that time I had no investment in the story and just wanted the book to end. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good story and some of the themes and plot twists are interesting. The pace of the story is well handled with a balance of story development and action. The use of magic, magical objects and extrasensory perception was credible, but it should be noted that there is a clear moral aspect to this side of the story concerning the effects of power on the individual. Innocence is a tool to be used and as such there are no unsullied heroes, similarly there are an awful lot of victims.All of the themes resolve themselves in the end and there is a drawing together of a number of them into a more understandable and focussed dénouement. This closer binding makes the latter part of the book a much better and easier read, oh that it had been done much sooner.
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  • Rochelle
    July 25, 2017
    **I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in return for my own personal and honest review**I love a good, solid fantasy book. I've read a whole range of fantasy series and it is definitely my genre. So when the opportunity came up to review Darien, the first in a series by C.F. Iggulden I was excited. I haven't read any of his other work (historical fiction is not my genre) so I wasn't sure what to expect.The book is set in and around Darien, a city that is coming to the end of its Golden **I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in return for my own personal and honest review**I love a good, solid fantasy book. I've read a whole range of fantasy series and it is definitely my genre. So when the opportunity came up to review Darien, the first in a series by C.F. Iggulden I was excited. I haven't read any of his other work (historical fiction is not my genre) so I wasn't sure what to expect.The book is set in and around Darien, a city that is coming to the end of its Golden age and that is built on magic. This is more than just parlour trick magic, this is salt of the Earth (see what I did there?) magic. The kind that is infused into temples older than you can imagine, or Golems who will outlive us all. C.F. Iggulden beautifully creates a world where this magic is woven into the story.The book follows a series of characters culmunating in a power struggle for the city. It is the characters that help make this book such a triumph. Other fantasy authors get so caught up on the magic and the drama and the intrigue (and the incredibly long fight scenes) that they forget about the essence of the story, the people. Whilst I felt that the author could have gone even further on this, you can see the beginnings of something quite special here and it's why I was so drawn to it. I will be very intrigued to see what comes next with this book, and very keen to follow the exploits of the characters in the next installment to see where they lead next.
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