It's common for reviews of fantasy fiction to draw comparisons with Tolkein. I'm not going to do that. There are no hobbits, no elves, no dwarfs, and certainly no orcs, so such a comparison would be invalid. In fact, if your taste in fantasy or science fiction writing is rooted in the "sword and sorcery" sub-genre, then this book probably isn't for you. Yes, there are mages, but no magic - at least not magic as most people would understand the term. In "Warlord" the author paints a vivid picture of another reality, where a few gifted individuals employ the power of their minds in a life or death struggle with the evil that threatens their world of Ambros. If I were to classify the book - a difficult task - I would call it "social science fiction".
Katy Winter has written a well-crafted, fast-paced, original work. Violent at times, the narrative builds a picture in the mind, letting the reader's imagination take over. "Warlord" therefore owes more to Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers than to the explicit violence of George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" and the like. Which brings me to the warlord himself.
The author has added a new name to the register of fictional evil protagonists. The warlord Lodestok is a profoundly evil individual, quite unlike any other I have come across. Though not the paramount source of evil in the book, he is the conduit through which evil works. There is an extensive cast of characters, but Lodestok, more than any other, is central to the plot. A truly bad individual, he both fascinates and repels. Were "The Ambrosian Chronicles" to be adapted for film or television, actors would be lining up to play him.
"Warlord" is only the beginning of a saga which encompasses seven volumes, all of which have now been published. Having now read all seven books, I can honestly say the story is worth the time spent in following it to the very end. I hope we will see more from this new, talented writer.
(review of free book)