“Craft of the Heretic” by Jason Blackmore

Craft of the Heretic by Jason Blackmore develops an intriguing premise: strangers awaken to find themselves aboard a drifting ship with no clue how they got there.

Set in an alternate Renaissance, amid members of a mercantile and proudly seafaring society, it blends elements of historical fiction and high fantasy as the unwilling shipmates’ stories unspool.

Shifting back and forward through time, Blackmore’s world-building is woven through with superstition, faith and everyday magic. Craft of the Heretic also proves densely peopled with many lively characters: tough military men, influential clerics, wily traders and brittle, elegant society grande dames to name but a few (some with wonderfully grandiose names, too, like General von Burgghusen).

The plot takes a little time to reveal itself, as does each character’s importance to the overarching themes but readers’ efforts to follow each narrative thread are rewarded in the end, by a satisfying story.

Written with a strong sense of old-fashioned adventure, mystery and at times proceeding with tongue firmly in cheek, Craft of the Heretic’s a highly readable entry in the fantasy genre. There’s much political scheming, a touch of spy craft and swagger, as well as much bantering dialogue to enjoy here from debut author Blackmore.

Follow Jason Blackmore on Twitter at @jason_blackmore