The Rostikov Legacy
3.5/5 (rounded to 4 on Goodreads)
100 pages| Fantasy/ mystery
I received an electronic copy of this novella as part of the TBRindr programme.
The digest: a shorter story with an interesting bit of worldbuilding, I reckon most fantasy lovers would enjoy this. As with other ebook novellas, don’t expect too much depth and you will probably have an enjoyable reading experience.
The Rostikov Legacy is the first entry in The Malykant Mysteries series of fantasy mystery novellas written by Charlotte E. English, the main character, Konrad, being the Malykant: the world’s servant of the God of Death. It is Konrad’s job (along with his two serpent spirit familiars) to find murderers and ensure that they are properly punished in this life *and* the next, serving them up to The Malykt (aforementioned death god) through legal means or otherwise.
The story takes place in two main locations – a not unfamiliar Victorian-esque city with the usual trappings of nobility and horse-drawn carriages, and the Bone Forest (which to nobody’s great surprise, is a forest). Nothing too original, but the reliance on familiar territory works in the author’s favour as it means that within the 100 pages no time is spent describing the more mundane aspects of the storyworld. The plot is, of course, fantastical and has its fair share of religion (along with a present god) and magic (stemming from the god’s own power, it would seem), with at least one solid mechanic used sparingly but appropriately in order to progress the story without unnecessary delay or complication.
I would have probably rated the book slightly higher had there been more of a focus on magic and the power of the god(s), as what little we are presented with is interesting but lacking clarity. There isn’t really any indication of what can and cannot be done, but there is a slight hint of a larger magical world that what our protagonist knows of and the history of his familiars could very well be a story worth telling on its own. It is worth pointing out that herbology and the study of poisons play quite a large role in the story and I appreciated these passages more than most others. I don’t think I’m alone is wanting some sort of explanation for how things work in fiction – I much prefer (for example) a magic system like Sanderson’s over Rowling’s. Even if authors don’t want to create a hard magic system, I still enjoy learning what is possible even if we don’t learn the full extent of what can be done.
Well-paced, the plot never slows down too much for a prolonged period, English knowingly using language techniques to increase or decrease the tempo at a few select sections. She did this well and at one point (toward the conclusion of the novella) I was tearing through the pages to see what could be done (if anything) to save one of the characters. The time-sensitive nature of the events of the opening pages also means that to prevent more death Konrad has to get a move on and solve the mystery as to who this murderer is and what motivations they have. Again, this is standard for the mystery novels I have read but if the formula works then why change it? The mystery itself is again nothing too ground-breaking but what can you expect in a 100-page self-published novella? I have no complaints here.
The characters are quite well developed considering the sense of urgency that sweeps through the narrative – there is a tension between Konrad and a side character called Nanda which isn’t overbearing (though I can see it potentially becoming more important in future books), and the supporting cast (suspects, victims, etc) again isn’t too two-dimensional. The dialogue doesn’t really have any issues beyond Konrad’s serpents, who can be a bit stiff at times (even for a formal style of speaking). As with the Industrial Magic series by Emma Newman, the character development and portrayal will probably not sweep anyone off their feet, but a solid effort has been put in to make them seem interesting enough. In future books I’d expect the author to put more emphasis on this growth to prevent the characters from stagnating and just filling a role for the plot.
All in all, The Rostikov Legacy was an interesting story on the outskirts of my reading tastes. Would I recommend it? At 3.5/5 I would recommend it for those who are looking for a short fantasy-mystery, but encourage anyone else to read more review/ try a chapter before fully committing. Will I be continuing with the series? There are currently four other books out at the time of writing this review and they are all quite short so maybe if at some point I have some spare reading time. Right now, however, I just wasn’t engrossed enough to commit to having them on any TBR.