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Review – The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (novel)

24 April, 2014

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick follows the coming of age of Lucien di Fontein in the city of Demesne in the Kingdom of LandfBwtPBall.   Lucien is one of the Orfano, mysterious orphans cursed with unusual physical characteristics, Lucien blood is clear but turns blue after it has bled out while another Orfafi has spines on his forearms for example, but the Orfani are raised within the nobles house and treated as nobility on the Orders of the King.

The title comes from the fact that Orfani are not allowed to wield a steel blade until they come of age, before that they are restricted to -still lethal- porcelain bladed weapons.  The story is told in chapters alternating between ‘now’ and chapters showing how Lucien’s grew up and how it shaped his view of the world, while this occasional breaks up the action it does cause the story to unfold in an interesting fashion without overwhelming the reader with background information.

The city is very Italianate in style -and the characters curse in Italian- with a dark Renaissance feel to the technology and society, vendettas and rivalry for status dominates the relationships between the noble houses.  And very dark secrets are hidden behind the facade of Demesne, secrets that Lucian is drawn into and must confront in order to survive.  It is a good read, though there is some issues with pacing due to the chapters alternately switching from present to past, with interesting characters and a compelling plot.  The story resolves completely but sets up the characters up nicely for future stories (which makes sense as it is the first of a series).

From a roleplaying point of view, it has many useful ideas, a group of characters like the Orfani, physically distinct and social privileged by law but shunned by many people for being different.  Adopted into different House they would have access to different skills and contacts but still united by their aspect of ultimately being outsiders, pawns of the politics of the nobles yet with their own agenda and a certain amount of social protection from their status.  That could make for quite a fun setting, dark and baroque yet with a reason for the character to band together against the world that does not have a place for them, unless they make it.

Notes: Gollancz kindly provided me with a copy of this book so that I might review it.  And you can find more information on the author, Den Patrick, at his website.

 

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