Beyond Falcon's Reach by Jay Northearn, is a mish-mash of high fantasy, gothic-horror, steampunk and electropunk, with a dash of semi-intelligent machine-learning AI's thrown-in to boot. Yet for all of this, the world Northearn has created is homogenous and holistic - two watchwords I'll bang on about until the cows come home, to anyone who'll listen. Giving everything in your world a place and a reason for being there is something that every writer should always keep in mind. You could learn a thing or two about this from Northearn.
There is magic, but it's subtle. This is not a Harry Potter world. There are god-like creatures, but they interact with the world in etheric ways. There are strange creatures aplenty.
Many of the characters wouldn't feel out of place in a Titus Groan novel, and there is a large cast to play with - large but not too large. Each of them is beautifully unique, wonderfully realised and exquisitely portrayed. They don't just come to life, they fairly leap off the page. The humour hits the right spot every time, and when it's time for a bit of gravitas or action, Northearn knows how to handle that too.
If we ignore the 'plot' of the story and concentrate on the plots the characters themselves are involved with, involved in, or weaving, it doesn't take us long to see there is plenty of grist to this story. Plots within plots. Devious plots. Machiavellian plots. Everyone has a role to play, and not everyone you thought you'd labelled as a black-hat or a white-hat made that label stick.
As for the main plotline, there's a surprise there too. More twists than a drunken snake playing Twister. The scenery and landscape is epic in scale, which suits the story right down to the T, and the only gripe I have with the story is we don't see enough of it. He's teasing us, of course. Hoping to whet our appetite so we come back for more.
There are a few frustrating typographical errors that should have been weeded out, and a small handful of grammatical errors, but don't let that bother you - the story is going to outshine anything like that into submission.
Every story needs three things: A great story, well written, well told. Beyond Falcon's Reach has all three in spades. It is artfully constructed by a master of the genre. I had to read this novel twice to review some of the subtleties he'd woven in, and there are plenty of them. I hear he's writing a follow-up, and I can't wait.
Put this on your 'books-to-read-before-you-die' list. Right now.