"Oh, come on, if your friends aren't willing to strangle you, what kind of friends are they?" [p. 123]
So far, so RPG. Kingfisher (a pseudonym of Ursula Vernon, award-winning childrens' author) fleshes out her characters interestingly, and with more depth and variety than the standard gaming stereotypes. The paladin, Sir Caliban, is a holy knight who's been deserted by his god, and who committed horrendous crimes while possessed by a demon. (The demon is dead, mostly.) The scholar, Edmund, is very young and very misogynistic, at least to start with. Slate, the forger, has a cannibalistic tattoo which ensures her loyalty to what's effectively a suicide mission: she doesn't expect to survive once they reach Anuket City, because her past will come back to bite her much harder than that tattoo. And Brennan, her former lover ... is a bit of a blank thus far, though his jealousy of Caliban provides some comic relief.
There is also a gnole named Grimehug, who may know a great deal about the Clockwork Boys. I am not quite clear as to why none of the others have asked him about this.
Which is my main problem with the book: too many unanswered questions, all of which I'm sure will be resolved in the second volume (coming soon) but some of which really should have been resolved in this, the first half of the story. Why is Grimehug so amenable, and why has nobody asked him about the Clockwork Boys? Where did the shaman's demon end up? And what exactly happened when Caliban fell prey to his own demon?
Quibbles aside, I found this an enjoyable and amusing read, though the pacing is occasionally uneven. I'll definitely read the second half of the story.