From the bestselling author of Winterbirth comes a magnificent new epic fantasy about The Free - the most feared and revered band of mercenaries the kingdom has ever known . . .
They are the most feared mercenary company the kingdom has ever known.
Led by Yulan, their charismatic captain, the Free have spent years selling their martial and magical skills to the highest bidder - winning countless victories that shook the foundations of the world. Now they finally plan to lay down their swords.
Yet when Yulan is offered a final contract, he cannot refuse - for the mission offers him the chance to erase the memories of the Free's darkest hour, which have haunted him for years.
As The Free embark on their last mission, a potent mix of loyalty and vengeance is building to a storm. Freedom, it seems, carries a deadly price.
The Free by Brian Ruckley is the story of the last contract a group of mercenaries take before their retirement. Although the summary makes the story sound fairly straightforward, and even dull, the story holds up, and exceeds such a narrow summary.
The setting for the story is a kingdom which is being torn apart by civil war as the nobility rebel and depose the royalty. This is problematic for a number of reasons, including the fact that the royal family’s accomplishments including preventing the southern regions “Orphans” from invading by way of threatening to unleash a Permanence, called The Bereaved on them. Then there are the neutral parties in this civil war, the magic users, or the ‘clevers,’ who are able to use elemental magic for their own agendas.
The Free is a band of mercenaries comprised of clevers, warriors, and their Permanence, the Clamour has nearly completed their last contract, having been hired to fight for one of the noblemen against the last of the royalty. The Free are eager to be done fighting, in particular their leader Yulan, who is looking forward to a quiet retirement. But then Yulan is offered a final contract, one which promises a large sum of gold, but also allow them to clear the slate of an old humiliation.
A great deal of the plot sounds like a collection of familiar tropes, and to round them out is a young peasant named Drann, who is the reader’s way into this band of mercenaries but whom will soon find himself in over his head. Other characters are interesting, but at times may feel as if they have been gathered from familiar stories with little alteration.
As a whole, the book has enough action and worldbuilding for it to be a quickly moving story, but the predictability of some of the characterizations and plot elements may not appeal to some readers.
(Received a copy from the publisher)