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The Gallows Gem of Prallyn

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How far would you go to be free from religious persecution? How would you liberate your believers in a land where its state religion is so entrenched that the church enjoys the privilege of having a standing army? What if you thought the only way to disestablish the church was to pit the crown against it, weakening both and creating the conditions to install a new regime? What if your plan put thousands of lives at risk? Would you pursue your ends? These questions bubble in Charano the Bright’s mind as Prallyn stews through an unprecedented drought and heat wave.

Nerves are on edge in Thrylland’s capital city as the heat rises. The nobility are locked in a bitter, often deadly, debate on whether to constrain the king, each camp led by a duke with his own agenda. Only the Duke of Blackabbey seems to place the people’s interest ahead of his own as he protects the realm from the incursions of the Altapi, barbaric savages threatening the land’s western borders. At the same time, the Guardian Church’s prelates argue over allegations that its Ecclesiastical Guard has massacred pious followers. The only person seemingly unworried about something is King Jerryn IV, busy as he is attending the theatre.

When an unexpected spark of insurrection arises among the poor, Charano the Bright, who practices his religion in secret from fear of persecution, decides that the time is right for liberating his congregation from the dictates of the Guardian Church. In his efforts, he will be joined by the Red Fox, a part-time weapons merchant and full-time rogue, as well as his spider web of contacts, the threads of which reach the inner chambers of the Saint Garyn Temple as well as the king’s cabinet table.

Against this backdrop, Siko Bikoyo, a Baranthu witch secretly slips into Prallyn, for she believes that the heatwave and brewing rancour might have an ominous, dangerous source, a long-shrouded power that is growing in strength. Charano the Bright is forced to contemplate a final question. What if the dynamics at play that are being manipulated, are being manipulated not by him, but by someone … or something … else?

406 pages, Paperback

First published November 26, 2014

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About the author

Ian H. McKinley

5 books52 followers
Ian McKinley, a Writers' Federation of New Brunswick "Prélude Emerging Writer" at the 2016 Frye Festival (Atlantic Canada's largest literary event), writes Fantastic Realism, fantasy in which alignments and/or collisions of human interests and values drive the narrative rather than clashes of pure good against ultimate evil. He released his second novel, Harbinger, Book One of Northern Fire, in April in advance of the Frye Festival.

Ian was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ten days later, his parents dragged him off to live in Northern Ireland until the age of five. Then they dragged him back to Canada, to live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Canada has interesting place names, many dealing with wildlife such as Moose Factory, Bear Beach, etc. or with body parts such as Elbow, Eyebrow [no, we're not having you on], or, dealing with both such as Moose Jaw). Of course, as soon as he breathed the pure Saskatchewan air, his blood turned the green of the Roughriders. It was a hard condition to avoid during the time of Ronny Lancaster and George Reed. Five years later, his parents dragged him off to Lethbridge, Alberta, where he spent the remainder of his youth and where he subsequently went to university.

Ian and his wife of 20 years, Josée Lanctôt, have a "modern" family that includes Sanja, adopted from an animal shelter and who is supposedly half labrador, half German shepherd. Both Ian and Josée are convinced that she has a third half ... cat! Together they all live in Bogotá, Colombia. They currently call Ottawa home base.

Ian is a career diplomat with Canada's foreign ministry who has served abroad in Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and at the Canadian Mission to the United Nations in New York. He speaks English, French and Spanish.

More importantly than being a civil servant, Ian fancies himself as an author. He is also a proud fan of the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders and Liverpool Football Club of the English Premier League. As soccer increases its beachhead in North America, Ian has broadened his support for football clubs to include the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer and the Ottawa Fury of the North American Soccer League.

In addition to appreciating sports, Ian enjoys travelling, sports, canoeing and camping in remote areas, gastronomy, music, cinema, and, gaming with his friends.

If you follow Ian's Twitter feed, (@McKinleyWriting) you will know he also retweets in support of foundations that assist animals as well as the fight against cancer. Ian is a proud member of the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick as well as the Sunburst Award Society for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,980 followers
December 31, 2018
The worldbuilding and depth of the characters in this novel gives me the epic sprawl I'm used to in the very best epic fantasies. Lots of unique characters broken well outside of the cages of cliche, with each on an arc of growth, discovery, and quickly into a tapestry of huge change across the world being built.

The city is full of corrupt clergy, and rather than being a light romp, the author gives every character a beating heart and a chance to say their peace. We're treated to a big sweep of change, cast along the turbulent waters of revolution, freedom, and a lot of attention to detail.

I'm quite impressed with the tight prose and energy. Nothing happens overnight and the build-up is rather explosive.

In the acknowledgments, I'm actually rather impressed. It might have begun out of a gaming session, but almost nothing about it resembles an actual gaming session. It's a lot more like a careful sprawling epic fantasy a-la Jordan or Erikson rather than Weis and Hickman.

I can very much vouch for some great quality fantasy here. No blowout magics. Rather, a choice and subtle magic that lies in the dreams, the mind, and deep inside the city. :) No spoilers, but I dug it. :)
Profile Image for Allan Hudson.
Author 21 books41 followers
February 17, 2017
I give this novel a five star because of the clever writing style, very believable dialogue and an intriguing story. If you like historical fantasy then this book is for you. It has all the ingredients for a delightful read.
September 5, 2016
The Gallows Gem of Prallyn takes place in a vividly rendered milieu that is believable and compelling because of the space given to each character to grow within it. Charano, Siko Bikoyo, Dolan and the Red Fox act on unique beliefs, backgrounds and interests, each contributing to the larger narrative without ever being a slave to it. Even minor characters are painted with depth and insight, which makes them instantly recognizeable even when they re-appear after having been absent for several chapters. Funny, dramatic, occasionally tragic but never predictable, Gallows Gem is a rewarding read.
Profile Image for Anne Benoit.
2 reviews
January 31, 2017
Ian in this book has invited the readers to visit a city through some of its inhabitants, exposing the city's political, religious struggle. He has created a game of chess with many characters playing a role. There is a master mind to this game and Ian will reveal that character. It is a good book, one I have devoured too fast. My favourite part is the first chapter.

I don`t re-read books often but this one, I got so caught up in the main story that I wanted to go revisit some of the characters. There are many of them, some by the end of the story, I felt like I wanted to know more about them: Silko, Charano, the Fox, Initiate Dolan and the most intriguing of them all is the Pirate captain of the book's first chapter. On my second read, I've taken note that Silko presented some parts of the Pirate captain's life but I want more first account of his story. Please, Ian write us his story.

Some of the other characters were not as interesting to me, many of the king's soldiers and entourage and the church's priests. But I have to admit that English is not my first language and I had a hard time differentiating those two segments from one another.

1 review
February 23, 2015
If you just happened to stumbled across this book or want a second opinion before picking up your new copy of The Gallows Gem of Prallyn, here’s all you need to know: Fantastic read. Refreshing storytelling that will entertain you from the moment you first open the book till it ends up as a valuable addition to your awesome science-book collection.There, that’s the general gist, stop reading this and start reading the book... but if you still need further convincing or just love reading reviews, here’s a more in-depth synopsis (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD):

This book was recommended to me by my father (one to know me as a champion of secularism and a ‘geek’ for anything science-fiction) and since he hadn’t yet read the book himself, he told me I should give this “political/religious” book a shot. This extremely vague description is misleadingly accurate, for if you were to read the extract at the back of the book I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking McKinley’s book for a purely religious dystopian novel; a fictional crossover between Orwell’s 1984 and medieval Catholic autocracy. The Gallows Gem of Prallyn is far from such a scenario, and surprisingly it’s a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, as entertaining as such a story would be, it would not do justice to the layers of depth the novel itself has to offer.
Rather than one totalitarian governing body overseeing all of Thrylland -the magical vast land were the story takes place- there is a delicate balance between various governing entities, some fighting for greater influence while others merely struggling to keep up. Prallyn -Thrylland’s capital- serves as the epicentre for the greater part of the book and sets the stage for the crucial turning points of the story. Prallyn's political landscape is like a hydra turned on itself, with numerous heads of power outmanoeuvring each other with the sole objective of being the last one standing. Chess pieces are moved and plans set into motion- diplomacy, negotiation, speculation, magic, treachery and brute force the weapons of choice. Jurisdiction is not a clear line drawn in the sand, truths are relative, and the actions of those in power are only virtuous or appalling depending on what side of the aisle you stand on. The mighty walled city is brought to its breaking point when the recent coronation of a young incompetent king creates a power vacuum that inevitably leads to a chain of events whose grave and profound implications elude most.
The royal crown and its complex entourage of dukes, lords, generals and spies is not alone in the struggle for power. Rich influential merchants, foreign warriors and witches, a suppressed lower class on the brink of rebellion, and the Guardian Church -a foreign religious entity with a standing army whose absolute control on religious matters and powerful say in socio-political matters are resounding- all fight for control. Add to this wonderfully vibrant scenario a brutal scorching summer and ancient and long forgotten magical forces coming back with vengeance and you get a symphony of cataclysmic disaster that will keep you turning page after page way past your bedtime.
Perhaps McKinley’s greatest triumph is the believable characters that come to life through the rich and descriptive narrative that follows them all throughout the course of events. It would be unfair to divulge too much and deprive you of the wonders of discovering for yourself what each character brings to the story, so I won’t say much (Other reviews will surely devote great detail to each unique character, but believe me when I say it is better you discover them for yourself). But I will say that it is a rare event for a novel to not only successfully make its main characters believable, but to also make you be them. You root for them, you despise them, you anticipate their moves and even despair when things don’t go their way (and at times rejoice they got what they had coming). In short, the perfect recipe for a cocktail of emotions; if that doesn’t translate into outstanding writing then I don’t know what does.
Profile Image for Francisco Becerra.
648 reviews6 followers
February 6, 2015
A very well paced fantasy story, full of amazing and intriguing characters (specially the Red Fox) and well crafted institutions and organizations. The author uses his professional and academic knowledge of politics and diplomacy to create a vibrant renaissance-like setting, where everything is moving and changing. The fantastic elements are not so apparent in the beginning, but they come in full force and with unexpected turns later in the book, building tension. In general, this is a refreshing take on fantasy, a very promising debut for McKinley.
5 reviews
July 5, 2016
A great read. Sci-fi / fantasy is not my usual thing, but what I liked about this was the intelligence behind it. In many ways it is a case study of political ambitions and the wars and violence inflicted on societies as those ambitions are challenged. You can see the diplomatic insights behind the intricate plots and rivalries, and I fear there is more than a little inspiration taken from history and experience as well as the shear imagination of the author. I also liked the relative gender balance with women featuring in some key roles.
1 review
July 13, 2015
The Gallows Gem of Prallyn is a wonderful and complex mix of political intrigue, action, and fantasy combined in one story. Ian McKinley does a great job of building the characters and showing multiple aspects of each. The book is a great read from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Caroline Novoa.
Author 5 books27 followers
September 2, 2015
For me, this was a foray away from my usual reading genres. But the journey was one that was well worth making. One I would (and have) recommended to others.

With the prologue, this book started off as a whirlwind rush of excitement that completely reeled me in. It then slowed somewhat to let the reader catch their breath before building up the tension again.

It takes a little bit of time to learn about the various institutions and groups vying for power and the threats facing them in this fantastical world where so many of the characters’ motivations and challenges reflect those of our own world. But the author paces it with skill so that there is enough action to keep the story driving forward whilst giving us the time to find our bearings in this unfamiliar place. That this does not happen in the space of a couple of chapters is testament to the fact that the author shies away from oversimplifying things - preferring instead to explore the more interesting grey area. Perhaps one of the book’s great strengths is its ability to put us inside an entirely new but very convincing society whilst at the same time tackling subjects that make you think about the kind of society we ourselves live in.

With my terrible memory, initially I did have to keep flicking back to the helpful list of characters at the start. This is one of the books triumphs, that it has such a large cast of characters all so individually drawn. For me, it is also one of the things I struggled with. I like to get really behind one or two characters and into their minds and see a story from a more narrow but deeper point of view. But I didn’t start to build up an affinity with any particular main character(s) until a good way through the book when we start to spend more time with them. I think I was just overwhelmed by the number of people I was meeting at the outset.

All in all, a great read and some fantastic writing - especially the action scenes!
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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