Malspire is a fantasy that takes place within a steampunk setting, written by Nikolai Bird.
So what's it about?
Ajator and Malspire were born twins, but that's where their similarity ends. While his brother is the perfect naval officer, likeable in every way and undeniably handsome, Malspire is a rogue and a loner. He was also crippled at birth, cursed to never have the ability to stand straight and tall, his back curved and misshapen.
Even so, he is a lord. This means that he'll rise to the top whether his superiors want him to or not... and they don't. He's unkempt and uncouth. He has no interest in becoming the perfect officer, preferring to mix with the common seaman below deck.
When he is promoted to captain, Malspire is given a small frigate to command, one that isn't even seaworthy, and the barest of skeleton crews. He's angered, but he has to make do. During this time, he realizes that there may be more to the war against the Empire than he ever dreamed.
Some of you probably remember when I reviewed a very short story called Cthulhu: Something in the Mud, written by the same author. I mentioned I had added a full novel by the same author to my reading list.
And here it is!
With Malspire we have a protagonist that is very much an anti-hero. I wouldn't quite proclaim him the perfect example of an anti-hero - he does have some heroic ideals that he sticks to - but he's close enough that we'll go with the term.
See, Malspire is, quite frankly, someone that I wouldn't take the time to get to know. He's short tempered, crude, and not exactly a nice guy. There's a reason most people within this story don't like him, and it doesn't have to do entirely with his looks.
But he grows on you.
While at first he seems to be nothing more than a cold-hearted, unlikeable ass, we soon see things as he sees them. We start thinking things like,
Then, that changes into,
Which later becomes,
It's a slow process, but also a particularly thorough one.
See, Malspire considers himself a coward, and I agreed with him... in the beginning. Later, though, I changed my mind, realizing that he's actually pretty courageous. Courage isn't the absence of fear, after all. It's action in spite of it.
And Malspire lives with quite a large amount of fear: fear of danger, fear of society, and even fear of himself. His life is pretty rough, and his fears are all completely understandable. Malspire is forced to navigate through these waters, fighting fear every step of the way.
And there is quite a bit to fear!
Naval officers that make Malspire look absolutely kind-hearted, creatures that are half man, half fish, sword fighting, guns blasting, heavy artillery, assassins, and even a sea hag... Malspire deals with it all. Sometimes he's on the losing end, but he always gets back up again.
Characters in this ebook are well-written, and I never confused any of them with another. Some I liked, and some I despised, but each one was true.
Narrative, on the other hand, seemed to go on for a bit too long, on occasion. There were times that long lengths of prose became frustrating, making me think, "Just get on with it, already!"
So... yeah. I did skip over a few paragraphs from time to time. If, however, you're the type that enjoys heavy narration, this won't bother you. None of it was useless, understand. Everything fit into the story. I just felt that at times I was being told things that I didn't particularly need to know.
Things that slowed the action, sometimes stopping it altogether.
But! When Bird wrote an actual action scene, I hung on each word. He has a special talent for it. Every sword thrust, every step was important, and highly necessary. It was exciting, and at times, a single sentence would cause me to gasp with surprise.
Finally, as much as I complain about narration slowing the action, I felt that the end happened far too quickly. I ended up frustrated, wanting to know enough to feel a sense of closure, but not enough to be completely comfortable.
You see, it's clear that there will be a sequel.
I'm pretty sure that will be worth reading, as well. I just wish Bird had given me enough closure that I had a sense of what led up to the point that we left off at. I know I'm supposed to be left wondering. That's clear. I just wish I knew what direction my imagination should head in.
Then again, perhaps that feeling will keep me looking for the second installment...
Am I being too critical? It's possible, considering how much I loved his short story. What do you think?
Malspire can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.