This is a fast paced, quite entertaining adventure novel, which attempts to maintain a careful balance between action, intrigue and comedy, with some success. Dan Abnett is perhaps better known for his forays in the Warhammer franchises, where he produced quality work with dark and sometimes complex themes. The text is less dark here, but the writing remains of a good calibre.
Glancing at the cover image, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is a novel of historical fiction - and in one way it is - the setting of the book is an alternate history. But the style ofthe book owes more to Defoe and the Three Musketeers than anything else. Triumff, our reluctant hero, stumbles from crisis to crisis with only a ready wit, carefully maintained aplomb, and a swiss-army-sword to preserve him...and it works very well. The characterisation is a little thin on the ground, as the text relies more on events - characters initiate sword fights, hatch plots, and make outrageous puns, but with the speed of it all, it's hard to get under their skins.
The humour does come thick and fast, including amusing explanatory footnotes (which owe more than a little to Pratchett), but also some excellent wry dialogue, the aforementioned puns, and some entertaining physical comedy. I found myself chuckling every page or so, though some of the efforts fell short of the mark.
Despite the humour, I felt like the focus of this book was always tightly set on the efforts of our hero (and his merry band of misfits) to thwart the machinations of a suitably mysterious villain -as mentioned above, the swashbuckling is done at a fast pace, and it sometimes becomes a bit breathless - but never, ever fails to entertain.
This feels to me like the equivalent of a summer movie blockbuster - silly, action packed, and a great deal of fun, and absolutely no effort to read. It also is extremely difficult to put down. Not `high art' literature, but an excellent popcorn book, which does what it sets out to, despite some flaws, and which I, despite those flaws, thoroughly recommend.
Well worth the read - especially if you just want to turn your brain off and enjoy it!