Richard and Ana are on the run.
As a young soldier, Richard led a rebellion that installed the King’s sociopathic Magician as the new regent. Now, after forty years of watching his comrades vanish into the dungeons of Stonebridge Castle, Richard has fled the kingdom with his mute daughter in tow, escaping into the desert wastes where magic still boils in the clouds and demons walk the dunes inside the bodies of men.
The Magician isn’t far behind, and he’s brought a pet: the Culling, an undead stitched-together tracking dog with a taste for blood. But Richard has his own weapon, stolen from the Magician himself: the calcified heart of a demon, which he hopes to trade back to its original owner in exchange for sanctuary. What he doesn’t know is that his daughter, Ana, is far more valuable than the stone. She was the last piece in the Magician’s grand weapon, and he’ll tear the desert in half to get her back…
Century of Sand is a 120,000 word novel, and the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy that follows Richard and Ana as they chase down legends and battle to stay one step ahead of the Magician. Murderous warlords, a priest with a dark past, and creatures torn from Richard’s nightmares lie between him and salvation.
Rating: 5 out of 5
This is not the type of fantasy novel I would normally read. Generally I prefer my fantasy to be set in forests, with plenty of pre-established back-story and characters who are determined to do `good’, no matter the cost. Century of Sand is not that kind of fantasy. In some ways it is much, much better.
Like the desert in which it is set, this novel is dark, gritty and dangerous. The history of the characters and the world are slowly revealed in a spectacular way that keeps you wanting more, and while neither Richard nor Ana are traditionally ‘good’ characters, I couldn’t help but cheer for them, hoping they would succeed against all odds.
This is not a novel for the faint hearted… The desert Ruz describes is full of danger and horror, and his characters are complex, three-dimensional beings. Ana ellicits a mix of pity, horror, and hope, and the slow development of her character is fantastic to witness. Richard is amazing as the main protagonist, a hero and anti-hero rolled into one aging being. The Magician is a mysterious terror, the threat that keeps them running. The Culling and the mysterious deppara left me squirming in horror and disgust, unable to imagine how Richard and Ana could possibly get out of these terrible situations…
The only drawback to this novel was that I didn’t have the time to sit and read it all in one go. Century of Sand is the kind of novel you can devour – fast-paced, action packed and utterly intriguing. Ruz does a fantastic job here: balancing mystery, horror, history, fantasy and adventure perfectly, and leaving the reader wanting more of the same. At the end of the novel there are many questions left unanswered, and I can only hope that the next two books will answer them as brilliantly as Century of Sand posed them.
Ruz is an author to watch. A master wordsmith, he is able to create a spectacular world, so vivid in detail you could almost be breathing in the desert heat alongside Richard and Ana. I’m looking forward to being there with them again, just as soon as Ruz finishes writing the next two books. A great first novel, I’m looking forward to reading more!
Like: Joe Abercrombie, but better.
Note: Century of Sand is available as an ebook on amazon.com here!