I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.On the Matter of the Red Hand (Judicar's Oath Book 1) by J.M. Guillen
Series: The Paean of Sundered Dreams, Judicar's Oath
Published: 2015 by Irrational Worlds
Genres: Horror/Gothic, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Source: the author
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Over the past few months, I’ve been raving about a series called The Paean of Sundered Dreams, which spans a multitude of genres and tells the story of a Lovecraftian apocalypse as it impacts different worlds within a shared universe. And within The Paean of Sundered Dreams there are a number of mini-series (micro-series? mini-series sounds too made-for-tv, which is the wrong vibe entirely). On the Matter of the Red Hand is the first book in the Judicar’s Oath micro-series, and is an expansion upon an earlier novella bearing the same title.
On the Matter of the Red Hand is set in Teredon, a world has already undergone its apocalypse.
“Once the stars drifted and the world withered, everything changed. Gloaming storms raged across the sky, leaving only the dead and the mad in their wake. Entire nations fell as tides of depravity assaulted our lands, and darkened abominations awoke in the twilit shadows.” He tapped the maps again for emphasis. “After that, our world had come to an end.”
Remnants of humanity have managed to hold out and develop a somewhat stable life, but the city is mostly ruled by Guilds, which are pretty much the mafia. Law and order is tenuously maintained by the Judicars, law enforcement agents who rely on alchemical potions that help them see the future, as well as trained ravens. Thom is such a Judicar, and he is about to begin his assignment, which takes him into the clutches of one of the most dangerous Guilds of all–the Red Hand. It’s leader, Santiago, asks Thom to look into the disappearance of his sister Rebekah. But Thom is not the only person Santiago has asked for help, and sometimes one’s friends can be just as deadly as one’s enemies.
On the Matter of the Red Hand has a decidedly noir vibe to it, with elements of steampunk thrown into the mix. Previous technology has become almost legendary, because after the planet’s fall, people were more concerned with figuring out how to stay alive than remembering how everything worked. The Guilds are a much more primitive political structure, and which makes Teredon feel like a weird throwback to Dickensian England. It’s a fascinating setting, and I enjoyed getting to experience Thom’s world.
I love it when Guillen incorporates poetry into his writing. I usually make a mental note of it while reading, but I keep forgetting to mention it when writing my reviews, because mental notes have a rather short lifespan. This time I made it a point to underline such a stanza that a street child was singing as creepily as possible:
Can you hear them, calling out?
His men, they wander, all about.
Terror makes the sweetest meal.
It sets the mood so well.
As a whole, I would have to say that while I enjoyed On the Matter of the Red Hand, it isn’t the strongest book in the Paean. Thom was interesting, but his case seemed to drag on a bit too long, and I felt like there was a disconnect between the foreshadowing early in the story and the eventual conclusion. Perhaps it’s because I already had some idea of what to expect, but contrary to my expectations, everything stayed surprisingly normal for most of the book (and by normal, I mean there was a distinctive lack of tentacle monsters). But I’ll boil that one down to personal preference. The world needs more tentacle monsters in general, and maybe I’m just being greedy.