The Guns of Ivrea is a seafaring fantasy adventure that immediately establishes its author, Clifford Beal as eminently knowledgeable in his chosen subject area and a strong storyteller to boot.
Our plot revolves around the fortunes of Nicolo Danamis, a pirate in the same vein as Sir Francis Drake, in that he is state sponsored in his actions.. He has achieved his position by being the son of a great pirating adventurer and when first meet him, the burden of this legacy weighs heavily upon his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Acquel Galenu, a monk, finds himself fleeing his order and the authorities owing to something he saw and found in the ancient tombs beneath the Great Temple at Livorna.
Beal’s writing is consistent and accurate, developing the different elements of prophecy, magic and adventure carefully as the story’s protagonists are dragged into desperate situations so they might find the best of themselves.
The use of merfolk as an adversary/ally makes for an interesting turn. Invoking shades of Lovecraft in his initial descriptions, particularly the backstory behind Shadows over Innsmouth, Beal manages to maintain these creatures as both sinister and exotic. The mild sexual content reinforces this and offers a few loose ends for future stories. There is a merging between human and merfolk at the heart of the story, one which remains seductive and unpalatable at the same time. You get the sense a further exploration may tread along this line again, carefully balancing disgust and appeal.
The predominance of male characters as protagonists and lack of female characters in the same roles does raise a small question as this work will share shelf space with more progressive works, but The Guns of Ivrea isn’t damned by this issue. It isn’t a work that sets out to be unduly gender biased and the issue is only apparent owing to the presence of other stories that are attempting to redress this balance. Unfortunately, this may date the work more quickly by comparison.
The highlight of the novel are the ship battles. Beal demonstrates his experience through smooth and fluent writing that evokes the age of sail and high seas warfare. The different combat scenes are highly evocative. Occasionally, they become a little too precise and could describe action based on sensation rather than specific movement, but this is a personal preference.
The titular, ‘guns of Ivrea’ feature as something of a plot device, appearing only later in the story and perhaps the name of the work lends them inaccurate significance. Nevertheless, they make a decisive contribution in an exciting, swashbuckling conclusion.
The Guns of Ivrea is a well written adventure fantasy written by a writer who is clearly enjoying his craft and in his element amidst the salt and spray. This is Clifford Beal’s fourth novel and a good beginning for this gritty fantasy world.
Written on 21st April 2016 by Allen Stroud.
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