Title: Hope and Red
Author: Jon Skovron
Released: 28 June 2016
Reviewer: Andy Angel
In the Southern Isles a young child sees her entire village massacred and sets a course for vengeance.
In New Laven a young boy is orphaned and adopted by Sadie into the criminal underworld.
The girl goes by the name of her village, Bleak Hope, as she cannot remember her real name. She is placed with a group of Vinchen monks, a warrior order and although women are not allowed to be part of the order, the leader trains her in secret.
The boy is Rixidenteron, known as Red, due to his strange coloured eyes. He too is trained, but it is a training of a different sort, that will see him rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld.
In the early stages of the book the two main characters have their storylines kept separate in alternating chapters, allowing the reader to see the both develop. Both have very different upbringings and are miles apart when it comes to morals and ethics – Hope is very much focused on avenging her family and village, Red is more of a wide boy type (very much an ‘Artful Dodger’ type) – but when they actually meet up the two fit together really well.
The ‘villains’ here are the Biomancers, a male only group who use a kind of science/magic to do really nasty things to the human body in the name of research for ‘the defence of the Empire’. Some of these scenes are extremely graphic and horrific in nature but not unnecessarily so.
One thing that really stood out for me was the use of language. The crooks, criminals etc. of New Laven speak a kind of street slang and a good bit of it is fairly coarse (so may put some people off, which is a shame) but the thing is, the way of talking actually flows really well and is easy to pick up, so, kudos to the author for that. Also, there is a glossary in the back to help you along, done in the style of a study document.
The setting feels very ‘Dickensian’ at times although, with the introduction of an inventor type character later on there is also the feel of a world on the edge of technological advancement.
The ending of the book is very much wide open for more adventures and this pleases me greatly as I really cannot wait to get back into the world Jon Skovron has created.
As a debut adult novel this is a book with a lot of promise and one I would highly recommend (and trust me, I will be rattling on about this for a long, long time).
9/10 (it would have been more but I’m expecting even better from book 2)