Thanks to Matthew Churchill, I am able to indulge myself, once again, and hand over this column to another. Take it away, and thanks very much, Matthew.
Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero is Dan Abnett’s long-awaited original fiction novel. Abnett has an extensive history of writing successfully for various science fiction and fantasy imprints, but Triumff is our first chance to see him playing with toys entirely of his own creation. Those familiar with Abnett’s writing will appreciate that such toys are likely to be full of whirly death, and will contain sharp objects not suitable for small children.
Its eponymous hero, Sir Rupert Triumff, drinks, cavorts and swashbuckles through an alternate version of present-day Earth where the sun never set on the Golden Age of Elizabethan England. Her Glorious Majesty Elizabeth XXX sits on the throne, along with a considerable weight of petticoats, bodice and pearls. A conspiracy is afoot to threaten the life of the Queen and taint the Magick that protects and prolongs her realm. And it’s down to Rupert Triumff to save the day.
The book is a rollicking good read. It has the easy grace and unpretentious style of Abnett’s Games Workshop novels, and shares his familiar blending of accessible prose, realistic characterisation, and resonant description. Triumff will expand your vocabulary with neat antique and obscure words if you care to look them up, but the writing never gets bogged down in flowery prose. Primarily, it is a comic novel, and its lightness of touch and playful language may surprise some who come to Abnett purely from the grim darkness of Games Workshop, although a deft comic sensibility has often been at the heart of Abnett’s work for 2000AD comics.
As an original novel, Triumff requires no familiarity with any of Abnett’s extensive back-catalogue. Comparisons to other writers are inevitable in the fantasy genre. Some are describing Triumff as a kind of Steampunk Pratchett, and it’s understandable. However, Abnett writes action considerably better than Pratchett, with several meaty fights and an explosive conclusion.
With its alternate Earth setting, much of the enjoyment comes from viewing our own world through a skewed mirror, and spotting the parallels. Triumff isn’t preoccupied, however, with playing this game to the detriment of the plot, but does allow for some nice cameos, including a Q’ute James Bond scene that had me laughing out loud.
Ultimately, that’s the important bit. Triumff is laugh-out-loud funny. The characters are strong and well-defined, and the neo-Elizabethan setting is handled carefully and without alienating those unfamiliar with all things cuffed and ruffed. It’s pacey, punchy, and highly enjoyable. Vivat Regina!
(This review was based on an advance proof copy. Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero will be published in October by Angry Robot books and is available from Amazon.co.uk and Play.com)