I’ve marked this book as recommended, but you better like fairly bleak stories. If features someone so nasty as they main character that anti-hero is an understatement, he’s a complete bar steward. He steals, tortures, maims, kills and demolishes his way through the story in an effort to get himself to safety. He thinks of only one person, himself. Ballas is a vagrant, happy to steal anything he can to pay for more drink, until one day he steals something that enters his head and drives him to unleash a powerful and destructive past that threatens all humanity, only he doesn’t know it, he just thinks the evil, manipulative Church is after him because he maimed a master, one of their highest order. Ballas isn’t just any vagrant either, he was a Hawk, one of the army’s elite, he fought to put down a rebellion, he’s a decorated hero, and that makes him hard to catch and harder still to kill.
Slowly you get used to Ballas and either you notice his depraved acts less, or he becomes a little warmer, but there will be times when you’ll hate him. Not that he’s the only one, the book is filled with horrible characters, on both sides of the law. The story itself is well drawn, in a rounded, realistic universe with some interesting characters and locations, but, for me, the ending, where everything the story is about changes in the last 30 pages and Ballas suddenly has to become a hero and defend everything he has despised up until this point, proved too hard to swallow and I felt cheated. Maybe this could be argued that the person who infects Ballas’ mind is to blame, but he was bad long before that.
Certainly not packed full of valour, but nice enough, I’ll keep my eye out for other Graham books.
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Reviewed: 24th February 2007