The immensely wealthy Gilbert Frobisher has recently come into possession of a diary that hints at the location of an enormous piece of highly valuable ambergris. Assembling a crew of adventurous companions, including the renowned scientist adventurer Langdon St. Ives, he sets sail on his magnificent steam-powered ship to bring back the treasure. However, he’s not the only one who has his eyes on this particular prize.
‘The Adventure Of The Ring Of Stones’ is a fairly short novella featuring James P. Blaylock’s returning character, Langdon St. Ives, although his part in this one is fairly limited. Instead, it is St. Ives’ companion, Gilbert Frobisher, and our narrator, Jack, who take the front roles. I found it to be an odd balance of characters really. It feels like there are more characters introduced than the story has time to explain and, as a consequence, the reader has very little chance of getting emotionally invested in any of them. The villains are barely given any development at all, so there’s no tension built up in the development of their side of the plot and, as for the rest, well, if you’ve not already read other Langdon St. Ives novels then good luck figuring out who is who!
There were some good points in this novella. The deep sea monster they encounter is wonderful and the sections featuring the adventurers’ interactions with the monster are very entertaining. I’d have liked to see more time on that aspect and less on the introduction to the plot, which took a disproportionate amount of time at the beginning of the book. It really dragged for the first few chapters, with a lot of hints and allusions to a deeper plot that turned out to be somewhat disappointing when it finally materialised.
This was an illustrated edition, which is usually something I really enjoy but, unfortunately, I really didn’t appreciate the illustrations in this one. They felt more like posters advertising a local amateur dramatic society’s latest production than the high quality illustrations that I’d expect from a Subterranean Press offering.
As a standalone book, I found this lacking in many respects, but if it had been in with a collection of short stories or a couple of other novellas, then I think it would have worked better. You definitely need to know the characters from previous books in the series as there’s not enough time to catch up with who they are in this novella, and I think the pacing really needed some work. If you’re a die-hard Langdon St. Ives fan then you’re probably going to read this anyway but, if you’re not, then I’d probably suggest giving this one a miss.
(pub: Subterranean Press, 2014. 217 page deluxe hardback. Price: $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-584-0)
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