Published: March 18th 2014 by Orbit Books
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
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A theft in a faraway land --- with repercussions that reach around the world...
The world thinks of Saker Rampion as a priest, a gentle man preaching peace. The truth is, he's a spy for the head of his faith, posted in the court of King Edwayn.
It's a time of fear --- as a mysterious and monstrous disease sweeps the country ---but also opportunity ---lucrative trade is opening up overseas, and what's grown on the Spice Islands is rumored to cure the demonic plague.
However when the king uses his own daughter as a pawn in trade deals, Saker cannot help but get involved. And for his trouble, he may just end up excommunicated, or even dead...
Sometimes reading a book feels like coming home. You crack open the spine and find that the words inside are exactly what you need. The Lascar’s Dagger was that kind of book for me. I was hooked from the first page.
My favourite aspect of The Lascars Dagger is definitely its plotting and the complexity of the world it is set in. I bring those two up together because they are intertwined in this story. At its heart this is a story about a handful of people with their own fears and motivations, but their positions in society and histories mean that their every thought and action has the potential to shape the future of entire countries.
While the action of the book is mainly set in the Va-cherised lands – the neighbouring Kingdoms of Ardrone and Lowmeer – we get enough glimpses of the rest of the world to realise that it is diverse and incredibly well-crafted. Ardrone and Lowmeer both believe in Va, but practice their faith in different ways (the Way of the Oak and the Way of the Flow). These countries rely on spices imported from the other side of the world, the so called Va-forsaken lands, and much of the narrative is focussed on the political, religious, and economical implications of these complex relationships.
The magic in this world amazing. Firstly, there’s the dagger itself, which is able to move by itself and seems to literally have a mind of its own. Secondly, there are the ‘witcheries’ – powers believed to be granted to people whom Va cherishes and wants to bless. There are the Gods themselves, Va and his antithesis A’Va, who subtly weave their own brands of magic throughout the world. And finally, there is the religion and magic of the ‘Va-forsaken lands’, where Rajas and Ranis rule and feathers control lives.
Our protagonist is Saker, a priest of the Va-Faith who also serves as a spy for the Pontifect. When paired together, his intelligence and fighting prowess make him perfect for this role, and the result is a man who is unflinchingly loyal to both his faith and his Pontifect – who rescued him from a poverty-ridden life with a step-father who hates him. Saker hasn’t finished growing yet. He hasn’t really learnt the realities of the world he lives in and when he becomes embroiled in a plot that spans all the Va-Cherished Lands, it’s quite the rude awakening.
Our story also follows Sorrel Redwing, who is on the run from the law; Princess Mathilda of Ardrone, who is about to be married off to some King to secure profitable trade agreements for her father, and the titular lascar Ardhi, who is on a dangerous quest of his own. Of all those characters, my favourite is Sorrel. She’s basically the only character with her head screwed on straight and I enjoyed reading from her point of view and getting to know her through the other character’s eyes. Her story becomes intwined with that of the princess, and thusly with Saker.
Princess Mathilda! Let’s talk about her for a bit. Firstly, I love her characterisation! Like the others, she’s an incredibly vivid character – she flies off the page. She’s headstrong and arrogant, and she learnt early in her life that her value is tied directly to how well she manipulates the men around her. And what’s awesome is that she’s not this super-amazing-smart-shrewd girl who succeeds at everything and ends up being labelled a manipulative bitch of a character. Her plans are sometimes very ill-thoughtout and only sometimes work, and even as I came to recognise her as not-very-nice, I ended up grudgingly pitying her … maybe even liking her a little.
I really enjoyed The Lascar’s Dagger. It’s amazingly plotted, well characterised, and richly painted for readers. It gently introduces readers to its world and characters, and then ramps up so you can’t help but keep turning the pages until it’s way past your bedtime. Pick it up, you won’t regret it!