I'm going to review all four books in one as I read them back to back. I'm fairly fortunate in that I come to Ian's books late and he had completed the quadrilogy. Lucky for me really. I'm a lover or the larger books as I really like to submerge myself into the story and characters. So for me the four books make one sizeable book, split into four parts. I strongly recommend reading all four back2back and in order. Yes each one can be read separately, and each story stands on its own. But in my opinion, all four books work best together as one epic tale.
The four books chart story of Sebastian Varden. A middling successful musician who starts the first novel as someone about to commit suicide. Not exactly the most foreboding of starts, but one that piques the ole curiosity right from the off.
Now if you read all the other reviews, the vast majority of which give Ian five well deserved stars, you will know each book's story well enough. As a fellow writer I'm going to review these from a writers viewpoint, just to be a little different.
Ian is not afraid to let main characters die. George R. R. Martin has shown the publishing world that you can kill off characters and it is OK. Lets face it, we don't all live in the Disney inspired loveliness that there is a happy ever after for *every* character; well except for the baddies that is. This is one of the many things that I feel adds a depth to the story telling that is missing from other writers.
Ian's characters are *real*. You can connect with them. They exist. You empathise with them. They have flaws, and are all the more real for them. Even the secondary characters have a depth normally missing from other works. These are people, they have more depth than the page they are written on. Top marks!
Ian mixes magic, religion and Science Fiction. A mix that would normally be reserved for SF masters such as Peter F Hamiliton (His Void series) Or a mix which can easily lead to disaster. His touch upon each topic is inspired and illuminating. Respectful is another word. Depending on your take of religion & faith is how you will form your own opinion on this topic. For me, it was thought provoking.
I personally loved the way the characters developed. I liked the way Ian addressed super hero issues. The recent crop of Marvel films have *just* started to address these issues. No longer are they unapproachable icons of perfection. They are flawed, far from perfection. They are real people with all the baggage and imperfections that you and I have. Seb, is this personified. I wish I could write characters this real!
On some epic tales the story is everything! Which is why they are let down by a Duex Ex Machina ending which kinda tempers the enjoyment some. Ian manages to give an ending that is both fulfilling, and so, so human. Bravo.
In summary. Great story telling. Enthralling, emotional and immensely readable. I didn't want to put these down. I am genuinely impressed.
Sean P Chatterton
P.S. I had to dig my copy of Lao Tzu's book after reading these.