McNally, M. Edward: The Sable City (Norothian Cycle I) (2011)

The Sable City
Cover art by Edward M. McNally

The Sable City is a winner. It is full of humour, tension and action. You know, it is strange how placing a few words on a piece of paper (e-book in this case) can bring such joy to a person like myself.

At the beginning of “The Sable City there was an episode that convinced me that this was a novel for me:

“Matilda Lanai was among them, though at the time Block knew her vaguely by face but not name. Of about typical height for a young Miilarkian woman, she was however paired against a fellow Block recognized and even knew by name as Kauna, a full-blooded Islander with a creamed-coffee complexion and a mass of black hair to his waist. While of only moderate size for a water buffalo, Kauna was an excessively large human. Block had known enough Island men of the type to suspect that later in life the big fellow ran the risk of turning astonishingly fat, but at nineteen years of age he was a chiselled mountain of a man. Stolid in nature, but capable of accidental bursts of breathtaking power.

That hot day last Fourth Month, Matilda Lanai had found herself on the business end of just such a burst.

Block’s attention had been elsewhere, but everyone in the room heard Kauna cry “Tilda!” in sudden alarm. The dwarf turned and saw the big man frozen with one knee on the mat and his arms fully extended, watching wide-eyed as the bare feet of his sparring partner kicked the air. This did nothing to prevent her sailing out head-first through an open cargo door, and dropping out of sight. Four stories up.

Block was on the other side of the room, and well past his sprinting days. As he crossed to the cargo door the dwarf had time to think at least she went out on the water-side, but then he also had time to wonder just how far the timber cart path extended out around that base of the building the hand pier-like over the water. Pretty far, he reckoned.

As everyone converged the one apprentice who had been next to the open doorway gaped, then cheered. She alone had seen Tilda clear the wooden edge of the pier forty feet below by the narrowest of margins. One more inch, as the girl laughingly told the crow later, and Tilda would have lost nose, nipples, and kneecaps.

….

Her classmates cheered, but the young woman with the sodden mop of black hair plastered to her face and shoulders did not look up. Nor did she flop gasping onto her back, as Block expected. Instead, she paused on all fours for only a moment. Then she was up, and running, along the warehouse and around the corner toward the nearest door giving backing inside. She left a trail of wet footprints slapped across the hard wood her nose had missed by a hairsbreadth.

The apprentices blinked after her, then looked around at each other. Their eyes finally settled on Kauna, who had stood up straight but not yet taken a step closer to the doorway out of which he had pitched his classmate.

“She’s all right?” the big Islander finally stammered at everyone, but one man with Varanchian-blond hair answered.

“You are going to find out in about two minutes.”

….

Matilda Lanai was of the mixed-stock know in the Islands as “Ship People.” Lighter in complexion than a Full Blood but with features typical of an Islander, with a rounded chin, broad mouth, and flashing eyes of a brown so deep the occasionally looked black. The looked that way now as she skidded to a halt, swiped her clinging hair out of her face and over her shoulder, and locked her narrowed eyes on Kauna’s wide-open ones. Tilda’s chest heaved and she stood with her feet apart, silent except for her breath and the drops of water pattering the floorboards. She held her hands loose at her sides, arms toned by boundless youth and a hard year of Guild training.

Kauna looked at the silt, then back at Tilda, then around at his classmates. They now stood father away from Kauna than was Tilda, for the young Guilders-in-training had been drifting away steadily since she appeared, with nary a squeak from the floor.

The big Islander nodded once, twice, then straightened to his full lofty height. He gave Tilda a short bow. Kauna turned, took two long strides into a dead run, and launched himself out through the open door with a great whoop, arcing majestically out over the pier and falling feet first into the water below.”

Map Sable CityAnd that was how Captain Block found his travelling companion. Captain Block himself is a dwarf of the traditional fantasy type. His loyalty lies with house Deskata, one of the merchant families of Miilark. When the last living leader of the merchant family asks him to bring back their sole blood-line heir (who just happens to have been exiled), he and Tilda go off to the continent to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack” and end up having to follow the mercenary Dugan around to find the lost Islander.

Most of the story is told from Tilda’s point of view and much of it deals with personal and physical journeys.  Getting to know Tilda has been fun. She shows us that she is capable of changing her attitudes while holding on to her values. Perhaps being trained as an assassin (among other things) has given her an extra appreciation for the sacredness of life that I know I do not have. Her love for Captain Block shines through. Perhaps he is some kind of father figure to her while away from home. Block also lets his love for Tilda shine through his gruffness. Being centuries old has made it necessary to keep a certain distance to the people he encounters, but Tilda seems to be able to reach through to him and give him back a part of his life that he had not known that he was missing.

I liked Duggan and the lessons he brought into Tilda and Block’s lives. His ability to annoy and charm the two of them is admirable. He might not be the rapscallion he tries to convince them of but there is certainly a ruthlessness there that his mercenary life has left with him.

But The Sable City is not only about the trio. Other people turn up, as is only proper during a quest that ends up in a fabled city supposedly full of treasure.

Axman Zebulon Baj Nif ends up being saved by a Samurai, Uriako Shikashe, and a Far Western healer, Amatesu, from certain death after they had attacked his unit to find him. They bring him with them so he might be a translator for their mistress – Nesha-Tari. This quartet end up adding another member in Phineas of the wizard circle. They are all going to the Sable City along with a couple of other characters who end up being gorgeous Brother Kendall Heggenauer and Father Luis Coralle of the Brothers of Jobe along with the daughter of a duke. Finally, there are dragons, mercenaries and a likeable demon by the name of Lord Dalin.

The Sable City is the kind of fantasy that has its roots back to the days of The Odyssey. As such it is a recipe for writing that has stood the test of time. It is strange that I keep on reading new novels in this genre considering how many of them I have read. But I never seem to tire of them – as long as the author writes well.

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Reviews:


  • File Size: 899 KB
  • Print Length: 478 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: BNL Enterprises; 1 edition (February 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004PLNNLS

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