The Thorn of Dentonhill Author: Marshall Ryan Maresca Series: Maradaine Constabulary 1 Publisher: DAW, February 3, 2014 Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages List Price: $7.99 (print) ISBN: 9780756410261 (print) Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.
With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.
So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.
The Thorn of Dentonhill is a terrific tale of adventure and magic, with the action practically non-stop from the opening page. Veranix is a magic student by day, and a daring thief of those who pedal drugs at night. He leads a personal vendetta against the city’s biggest drug lord, Willem Fenmere, who murdered his father and has been the biggest criminal player since he arrived in the city.
As a university student of magic, Veranix is obligated to do well in his studies and accept a position with the mage group that is sponsoring his education. However, his extracurricular activities as a thief negatively affect his ability to remain awake during lectures and do the actual studying. During the course of his adventures, he has friends, professors, and family who try to support him. His friend and roommate Delmin Sarren assumes that he is having a passionate affair with the lovely groundskeeper, Kaiana, who in actuality helps him hide the tools of his trade and supports his mission to stop the drug dealing in the city. His cousin, Colin, a high-ranking captain in the one of the main gangs that run the city, is certain that Veranix is the Thorn, but believes that his actions in targeting Fenmere will result in a backlash against the gang and the other city citizens, from both Fenmere and the so-called authorities.
For a novel that has this much “swashbuckling” in it, The Thorn of Dentonhill actually is very political. Maresca has created a complex world, with different races and classes side by side with magic users who can use magic to differing degrees. I loved Veranix’s explanation of “the five hundred and five rule,” which explains how one out of five hundred people are born with the talent to feel and channel magic (called numina), and of those five hundred, only one in five has the ability to manipulate it in any useful way. Maresca does a fantastic job of setting the political stage in his city, explaining his magic, and developing the back story for why Veranix is so determined to stop drug sales – all naturally within the story itself, without long-winded paragraphs of explanations relating to which gang has control over which criminal functions. Maresca’s world is probably at an 18th century level in technology, with magic being so scarce that technology already has dealt with and eliminated the problem of having mage rulers.
I enjoyed The Thorn of Dentonhill tremendously. It was a quick read, action-packed but with enough intrigue to balance it out. Maresca is an extremely talented author, and I expect to read more great things from him.