The Copper Promise by Jen Williams (book review).

There are many reasons why you might want to break into a highly dangerous cavern reputed to contain not only the only the lost mage’s magic’ but also several imprisoned gods. You might be Lord Frith, who sees the cavern as his way to vengeance for the brutal murder of his entire family. You might be Wydrin (the Copper Cat) of Crosshaven or Sir Sebastian, two sell-swords who see it as the way to some quick money. Whoever you are, you might want to take this piece of advice to heart…let sleeping gods lie! Fortunately for us, this particular god wasn’t left in peace and now it needs to be taken care of causing all manner of destruction along the way.


‘The Copper Promise’ is the debut novel from Jen Williams, part one of new series of high fantasy books that I, for one, cannot wait to get further into. In actual fact, that’s a fib, this is already a set of small novella’s bound together into one 500 page book. So please be careful if you’ve read anything by Jen before as chances are you’ve read a chunk of this book.

I have to admit that I used to read loads of high fantasy back when I was a teen but haven’t read much for a while. I think I may have over-indulged and been put off by the sameness of the books I was reading. Now, whether it’s because I’ve taken that break or not, I found this novel to be very refreshing for the genre. It didn’t start out with the traditional laying down of the story. In fact, I often wondered where the story was going next. This may be because it was originally written as a selection of four short stories, in which case I do hope that Williams writes the next book in the same format because I loved it! This book just kept throwing more and more things at the reader, either new characters, new environments or new battles and it did so without managing to confuse me. I just wanted to get onto the next chapter to find out what was going to happen next. Not only was the plot excellent but the characters were interesting, too. It seemed to have just the right amount of action, intrigue and even a little romance.

This is not to say that this book isn’t without its faults, it does have the feel of a first novel with some slightly clunky sentences here and there and a lack of detail in some areas. Williams seems to assume some knowledge in some areas where more detail would have been helpful, while in others she goes over old ground only a few pages after its first appearance.

There is one area I’m a bit confused about and that’s where the name of the book came from. It is mentioned in the book a couple of times that the sell-swords have a ‘Copper Promise’ with Lord Frith but it’s not explained any more than that. I’m assuming it means that they have promised to serve him for coin but a little explanation would not have gone amiss. Also, I’m not sure if I’m about to start some kind of vegetable-based discussion but is a pumpkin a root vegetable? Personally I’m not sure enough to put this description into my first novel, but then that’s just me.

You’ll be glad to know that, although this book is the first in a series, it doesn’t have one of those sickening cliff-hangers at the end. The story is completed with regard this particular set of adventures, but there is the hint that there are further adventures to come to this little group. Overall, I would say that although this seems to be a fantasy novel I think it’s much more than that, it’s better than the average fantasy novel out there on the market.

Sarah Bruch

February 2014

(pub: Headline. 535 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47221-111-8)

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