Tom Lloyd – The Ragged Man

My hundredth review is one from my Wanted Books list, so I could say it is appropriate for the occasion. It took me one year and two-and-half months to get there. Not too bad.

The Ragged Man (2010) is the fourth book of the Twilight Reign series by Tom Lloyd. It is an epic fantasy series that has a dark gloomy atmosphere and has a mild gritty writing style. The focus on the characters lies mainly at the powerful or the ones supporting them. The mundane or regular persons don’t play any role.

The Twilight Reign series has some resemblances to The Malazan Book Of The Fallen series by Steven Erikson in the way Lloyd displays the Gods and other powers and their relations and actions with the normal world. It is also similar in the presentation and themes. Don’t expect happy endings and characters can suddenly fall away. While Erikson adds a lot of dark humor, one won’t find such in The Twilight Reign. This is the gritty and serious element which makes the series different.

What Lloyd certainly does right is the way he weaves the many mysteries and the mythology into the story. Plenty of hints and references are given, but not too many and without disclosing enough to figure it out easily. The plot itself moves in a solid and steady pace, the point of views shifting between multiple characters of which a few dominate. Lloyd doesn’t waste time on extensive scenes but he spends enough time on each character to give them more depth. The story has enough complexity to make the reader wonder what will happen next but he keeps things straightforward enough to keep the plot accessible.

Lloyd’s characterization is not really strong. He does manage to present a large caste of characters that mostly escape fantasy cliches. This certainly makes the novels stronger as it is something different and there is enough originality to make the novels stand out, although Lloyd does grab back to some common elements. On that part it remains a mystery to how his world is like it is. There are some limitations that keep the story in check but prevent a larger scope and depth. However, this does provide the story with a clear focus and that in itself is important when telling a story, as to prevent too much digressions or unnecessary words.

In The Ragged Man Lloyd has turned certain developments upside down. These kind of twists have become more common the past decade, although it requires an author who has a clear aim for his story. In this book he certainly puts in several twists which could have hardly been expected when having read the previous novels. This makes The Ragged Man the best of the four books published at the moment. Although I was not taken emotionally that strongly the twists did provide great reading pleasure. I certainly can’t wait until the next book.

I will not say this series will become a classic, but it certainly is very good and refreshing for those seeking something different while it has enough familiar elements to be accessible for mainstream readers.

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