A sparkling debut fantasy set in a diverse world, featuring dead gods, a pirate queen, shapeshifting mages, and a Sherlockian teenager determined to upend her society.
Her mind leaps from clues to conclusions in the blink of an eye.
No. Not in crime―in crime-solving.
They’ve been hired for their biggest job yet―one that will set them up for a life of ease.
If they survive.
Buc and Eld are the first private detectives in a world where pirates roam the seas, mages speak to each other across oceans, mechanical devices change the tide of battle, and earthly wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few.
It’s been weeks since ships last returned to the magnificent city of Servenza with bounty from the Shattered Coast. Disaster threatens not just the city’s trading companies but the empire itself. When Buc and Eld are hired to investigate, Buc swiftly discovers that the trade routes have become the domain of a sharp-eyed pirate queen who sinks all who defy her.
Now all Buc and Eld have to do is sink the Widowmaker’s ship….
Unfortunately for Buc, the gods have other plans.
Unfortunately for the gods, so does Buc.
The Sin in the Steel is a very pirate-y adventure story about two friends/amateur detectives (Buc and Eld) who are hired by one of the big trading companies to find out why their ships carrying sugar have been disappearing. This is a game changer for the duo, and if they succeed the results could be life-changing. Of course, nothing goes as planned as our protagonists are in for the ride of their life.
Author Ryan Van Loan has hit a home run with The Sin in the Steel, the first in the The Fall of the Gods series. I enjoyed just about everything about this book: the characters are easy to connect with, the world building is interesting, the plot is a whole lot of fun, and there are plenty of surprises to keep things fresh.
Character-wise, the main character, Buc, is absolutely amazing. Not afraid to say what is on her mind, she is snarky and brash and has so many great one-liners. Buc’s dialogue was so much fun I just kept a constant drumroll going on in my head. I also love that her weapon of choice is a slingshot, which might sound weak to you, but Buc has no qualm telling you why it is the best weapon to have on hand. She is clever and witty and has an intriguing backstory, too, which not only adds depth to her character and guides her decisions, but also has a larger effect on the overall narrative, as well. Buc also has a love for libraries, and I think we would probably be BFFs IRL (though she is so anti that she would probably reject that I just said that).
Eld is the other protagonist, and Buc’s partner in crime. We do not get much of Eld’s backstory, just that he is a few years older than Buc and was there for her when she needed it. Eld has a much more calm demeanor, more pensive, less sharp of tongue. More of a Yin to Buc’s Yang, Eld creates much-needed balance in a story that Buc threatens to spin out of control at times (though, he does not always succeed). The relationship between and Buc and Eld is one of the best aspects of the book.
The rest of the cast of characters are really intriguing, as well. Chan Sha is another main-ish character that gains importance as the story goes on. She is the captain of a pirate ship Buc and Eld encounter. There are also gods and demi-gods (i think? more about that later), mages, scores of undead, plus others that I do not wish to mention out of fear of spoiling some things. For me, this is a very character-driven story, and the author has done a great job of creating a unique, diverse, balanced, and interesting character set that carried this book all the way through.
Though I read the synopsis before picking up the book, I was still surprised at the direction of the plot. It turns out, this book is a sea adventure! And a fun one at that, with big ships, crazy crew members, pirates, people being made to walk the plank, lost islands, sword fights, and sea battles complete with cannons and mortars. The narrative was basically non-stop, cover-to-cover action. I was grateful for that, because Buc and Eld are so energetic that they deserve a plot with intensity to match. That is exactly what they got – a dynamic sea adventure worthy of their enthusiasm.
I mentioned the world-building before, and I do find the world in this book intriguing. There are big trading companies that control commerce, and this is the backdrop for a haves-to-have-nots dynamic. You kind of get what you expect from that atmosphere: gangs fighting for power, pirates making a living on the sea, and people who pay for protection. There is also a situation with Gods and Demi-Gods, I think, that are in business with mages who use magic to assert a certain amount of control over the world. This was one of the drawbacks for me, as I did not quite understand this dynamic. They actually play a large role in the story, but their relationship to this world was unclear to me. I will say, it looks like the series sets it up for book 2 to explore that connection more.
The Sin in the Steel is a fun book with great characters and a whole lot of adventure. It gets my recommendation for fans of fantasy, and for those looking for their next great maritime read, this is it.