A few days ago I read a novella by J.M. Guillen called The Herald of Autumn. Below is the review I’ve posted on Amazon and Goodreads…
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked up On the Matter of the Red Hand immediately (and I do mean immediately) after loving another novella by J.M. Guillen called The Herald of Autumn. I was not disappointed.
The novella, written in first person, is narrated by Thom, a detective known as a judicar. Guided by an alchemical serum that gives prophetic visions and waking nightmares, Thom must inject himself into the search for the sister of a dangerous guild master, knowing that he may not emerge alive.
The novella is as much about Thom’s investigation as it is about Thom himself. Time is taken to show the man behind the badge (or the stave, in his case); his thoughts, his means for dealing with the burdens of his position, and his inner conflict with the serum that both aids him and disturbs him. Guillen’s portrayal has a distinctive voice that I found very enjoyable.
The novella paints an intriguing pre-industrial setting filled with alchemy, guilds, and danger. One of the details I enjoyed most about this book was the concept of each judicar having as a partner a trained raven. Guillen hints at a richer background in his setting (such as a rare firearm that seems to be a product of the setting’s past). I wanted to know more.
In fact, wanting more is the main reason I nearly rated this book 4 stars instead of 5; the end left something unresolved that I wanted to know more of. I came to discover that the novella is intended to lead into a larger series, which I’m certainly looking forward to. My only complaint here would be that Thom himself seems to sense that it was time for the novella to end, as he finds a greater sense of closure in certain events than I would have in the same situation. If Goodreads allowed me to rate it 4.5 stars, I would, but as that’s not possible, I’m rounding up.
I look forward to more.