I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what I was in for with Quill, given that I’d largely forgotten the blurb by the time that I got to reading it. But after a quick refresh, there was a lot that was appealing to me. Dark magic, assassin priests, and cartography, count me in.
The peace in a sleepy fishing hamlet is destroyed by a particularly brutal murder. With a noble victim entirely out of place in the hamlet, and evidence of a dark ritual, the local police agree that this is entirely outside of their capabilities and bring in some outside help. This help comes in the form of Duke Oliver Wellesley, a prince, adventurer and cartographer. Joining him as a representative from the Church is Sam, an apprentice to an assassin-priest who is convinced that this is the beginning of a great battle with the forces of darkness, and that she has a part to play. Together, they will investigate this strange murder, finding that it leads to places that many powerful people don’t want them to find.
There was a lot to like about Quill. The two main aspects that I’m going to talk about are setting and characters. The setting is an intriguing mix of steampunk and magic, which I’ve sometimes seen described as Gaslamp Fantasy, but it has a particular lean towards spirit magic which is a neat spin. There does look to be quite a lot of worldbuilding that’s gone on, but the narrative is really good at introducing it in digestible pieces that make sense to bring up in the moment. I’ll be really interested to see where some aspects go, especially the stuff to do with the haunted region of Northundon, which has only been hinted at in the vaguest of terms so far. The high society aspects of the worldbuilding is much more familiar to me, but meshes in with the magic elements quite nicely, as there are the obvious kind of secret societies that are polite excuses for orgies covering for the really dark stuff.
This leads us on to the two main characters. I can’t think of another book where the two leads have had such awesome chemistry together, but the idea of them becoming a couple is utterly baffling, and I really hope that this buddy cop sort of dynamic continues. On the one hand, you have Duke Oliver, a womanising prince with a thirst for adventure. Compared to a lot of other characters that you would classify as nobility, there’s a bullishness about him that I love. There he is in your standard sort of upper class society, and he’s just unsubtle enough that it causes all kinds of problems. On the other, there is my new favourite knife-bisexual, Sam, whose role just seems to be to bulldoze her way through every single possible expectation that society has of her. She’s a priestess, but is quite happy to drink and brazenly flirt with people. She’s a representative of the Church, but quite willing to throw the current establishment in charge firmly under the bus when need be. I love her and want to see so much more of her. The risk with a male and female lead is that the automatic expectation is that by the end they’re kissing, but I much prefer their banter whilst checking the same people out as partners. Off the top of my head, I’ve not seen that kind of reluctant wingman dynamic before and it turns out it is definitely my kind of jam.
A great start to a series and I definitely want to read more of it. The setting is a nice mix of familiar and unusual, and the chemistry between Oliver and Sam is an awesome buddy cop dynamic that I am so here for. 5/5
Next review: Small Favor by Jim Butcher