I know Tallis Steelyard mainly from the innumerable short stories about the man. He’s a poet and entertainer in Port Nain, and the short stories largely consist of humorous anecdotes, told by the man himself. As I understand, this is his first novel-length work.
Over the last few years, I’ve made a habit of keeping a collection of Tallis Steelyard short stories on my kindle, to read as a palate cleanser between other books. Something to take the edge of a book hangover.
If you’re familiar with Jeeves & Wooster, by P.G. Wodehouse, this is very similar, but in a fantasy setting – although, admittedly, the fantastic aspect takes something of a background role. Tallis Steelyard is mainly about the characters and the antics they get up to. On Amazon, the book is in the Steampunk Fiction category, and perhaps that’s more accurate.
There’s no magic or dragons, but there is a somewhat daring escape from a dungeon. There’s a lot of plotting and intriguing, and there’s the inevitable victory of wit over brawn.
It’s dry, eloquent, and really rather British, if I do say so myself, what with me not actually being British and all – although, the book isn’t set in Britain, or anywhere in the real world at all.
In this way, it’s different to pretty much all other fantasy I’ve read in recent years. It’s funny, but not overbearingly so. It’s interesting, rather than exciting, and most conflicts are resolved through deliberation rather than fisticuffs – most.
What I’ll whine about:
Some of the terminology, especially with respect to the various ranks within the religious organisations, went above my head. Not to the point where I didn’t understand what was going on, but enough to notice.
What I’ll gush about:
Most of all, this is refreshingly different to everything else I’ve read lately. The voice is reminiscent of an older style of storytelling. A little more distant than what’s common these days, and with breaks in the fourth wall that don’t feel out of place.
This is a great book to pick up if you need a break from reading too much of anything, but still want to read something.
If you’re curious about the style, but not sure a full novel is for you, pick up one of the many short story collections.