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Monument    by Ian Graham order for
by Ian Graham
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I had to read this novel when I saw the recommendation from David Gemmell on its cover. Having done so, I can understand why he liked it as its antihero Ballas is an extreme version of one of his own characters - bloated with drink, lice-ridden, ale gut sagging over his belt, his nose broken often and resembling a boar's snout, dried vomit on his shirt. He's a thief and kills easily, but a strong fighter with a remarkable ability to take damage and to extricate himself from seemingly impossible situations. He rewards charity with violence - overall not a likeable character, but one with an interesting past that is only revealed late in the story.

After stealing a black iron disc with a blue gemstone at its center, circled by four blood red stones, Ballas has a vision of a Lectivin, one of the supposedly extinct 'Pale Race' obliterated during the Red War. Arrested by church Wardens, he is sentenced to the Oak, but escapes to be relentlessly pursued by all the resources of a religion with a tight control on its population. Ballas ruthlessly uses everyone that he meets to keep his freedom, leaving a wide trail of blood behind him. He decides that he must leave Druine and pursues clues that will take him to refuge in the legendary Belthirran, the 'Land Beyond the Mountains', which sings to him.

Since cowardly eel-catcher Lugen Crask has some of the answers, Ballas hauls Crask and his competent daughter Heresh along with him. The church issues a 'Decree of Annihilation' against them, and its own Lectivin tracks them with magic, resulting in many close calls including an exciting chase through a sewer. Ballan does reach his goal (at a high cost to others as always). He is surprised at what he discovers there, but fights to the end, accepting that he has become a 'bringer of death'.

Monument is action-packed noir fantasy in a well-realized world; and if you enjoy Gemmell's seedier heroes, you'll love Ballas.

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