A Sorcerer Slain is a fantasy crime novel by Dave Sivers, the first in the Lowmar Dashiel series. I interviewed Dave back when he released the sequel and I must admit to making a terrible mistake: I didn’t read them sooner.
“I just happen to be a…” I clutched some appropriate-sounding words out of thin air, “- a Personal Inquisitor.”
And, just like that, I had embarked on a new career.
When I first heard that Sivers was writing fantasy crime, my first thought was that those genres were unusual bedfellows. But A Sorcerer Slain is proof they make an excellent match; it calls no attention to itself, borrowing tropes from both fantasy and crime as it wills. So Lowmar Dashiel calls himself a Personal Inquisitor (a private investigator), he has a partner in the dwarf Grishen, and a poor relationship with true officers of the law. But the story takes place in the kingdom of Balimar, where magic is real and society resembles feudal England. At no point do these tropes clash and it was only when I was writing this review that I realised how good a job Sivers did in stitching together two genres with nary a seam.
I wanted to trust him – but I thought I’d better watch my back when I was around him. Just in case.
One of my favourite things about this novel is that Dashiel thinks like a real person. The crime committed is the murder of the Sorcerer Supreme (he would be the sorcerer slain), which threatens to topple the king and spark a civil war. With so many interested parties, no-one can be above suspicion. But I’ve seen too many crime stories where someone always is. There’s always someone the hero never suspects for a moment, and it’s always them that did it. Always. But Dashiel suspects nearly everyone at one point or another and I wanted to applaud every time.
“Good old Boxen,” I went on. A little voice at the back of my head pointed out that my mouth was running away with my brain, but I was powerless to stop it. “How is his search going?”
“Search?” The militiaman eyed me suspiciously.
“For the ape that sired him.”
Dashiel is also a very likeable character. He’s a bit of a state at the beginning of A Sorcerer Slain; dishevelled, poor, hungover. His concern with this case is limited to his feelings for the main suspect. But he’s redeemed by an excellent sense of humour and the case changes him as the novel progresses. Instead of worrying about himself or the woman he longs for, he increasingly cares about the people he meets and the innocents who will suffer if he doesn’t solve the case. The change is actually quite dramatic yet gradual and it’s done very well.
You’re so busy looking at the so-called big picture, you can’t see the small one any more.
The only downside for me was the tangents. Dashiel is investigating a world-changing murder, with the potential to start a civil war and invasion from foreign states. Yet too many times Dashiel gets waylaid. Other investigations, attempts on his life, even a spot of epic fantasy battle. There’s always a good reason for each tangent, but after a while I started to wonder how Dashiel could let himself get so distracted with so much at stake.
I always say that highest praise I can give to a novel is that I would read the sequel. And this is an accolade I readily award to A Sorcerer Slain. The world and the characters Sivers has created are fun to read; I really enjoyed this novel and I can’t wait to read the sequel. If you like fantasy and crime, go and buy A Sorcerer Slain now. Trust me!