Firstly, we’d like to thank the wonderful Head of Zeus for sending us a shiny copy of this book. We’re also proud to be launching the blog tour with our review.
The Gauntlet and The Fist Beneath is an action fantasy and the first novel of the Aberdeen-born epigeneticist and fantasy writer Ian Green.
The tale unfolds in a world of warring gods and nations; rotstorms and rottrolls, wolf packs and crow-men, whitestaffs and shamans. At its core, it’s a story of a warrior of the Stormguard fighting to save her kidnapped child. After one fateful night, Sergeant Floré is sent on a mission to investigate mysterious disappearances and reports of strange lights in the sky when luminous flying orbs descend upon her village, waging destruction, searching for the offspring of an exceptional skein–mage.
Sergeant Floré is our main character; a woman, a warrior and a mother. It’s great to read a story with a female protagonist beginning that way and trekking on into further adventures, rather than the historical typecasting in which her tale and adventures end in marriage and motherhood.
Getting to know this world is an enjoyable and exciting experience, adjusting to the lore and landscapes as one adjusts to light in a darkened room. Green guides us through his world with quotations from historical, literary and religious texts at the start of each chapter, with the flashbacks from different characters pasts, as well as well-conceived plot revelations. According to Green himself, if you’re ready to be transported into a fist fight with a pack of wolves, this story is for you.
Green’s passion for sci-fi as well as high fantasy comes through in the plot and worldbuilding, as does his love for epic Scottish landscapes. In an interview with FanFiAddict, Green mentions being inspired whilst working on a short story project about UFOs. He got hooked on the idea of medieval peasants reacting to ‘crazy lights in the sky’ through his research into a historical mass UFO sighting in 16th century (what is now) Germany.
Although the focus is on Floré’s mission and epic action scenes, the author explores a number of fascinating themes including: state-based violence, revolutionaries becoming oppressors, and the dynamics of a community who are ‘free’ but governed by a military state in order to live with a constant external threat (the Rotstorm).
Green’s worldbuilding is unique and creative. Green acknowledges his inspiration of Celtic animism and the pre-roman occupation of Britain as he expands his creation through a polytheistic lens. Although his thematic exploration may be philosophical at times, he balances this academic aspect well with magic, throwing his readers at the feet of inexplicable trolls and creatures that spawn from the Rotstorm. Whilst explaining the finely composed and satisfying lore of the story, he does not drown the reader in pedantries of his creations, rendering this a great read for a wide variety of fantasy readers.
This book appeals to both enthusiasts of high fantasy as well as the more everyday fantasy reader. Epic action, deep world-building, and colourful characters make for a magical debut, forged in compelling inspirations. As it turns out, this is only the beginning – Green has just finished drafting the second book of this trilogy. There’s plenty more magic to come.
The Gauntlet and The Fist Beneath is published by Head of Zeus’s imprint Ad Astra and is available to buy on e-book and in hardback in the UK from 5th August 2021.
By Felicity Hemming