Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.
Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?
As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.
Note: An eARC of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I have since purchased my own copy.
This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2015.
Liesmith is Australian author Alis Franklin’s debut novel. It is the first book in the urban fantasy series, The Wyrd. Two more books in the series are forthcoming.
Let’s get one thing up front: I make no secret of the fact that I am really, really burned out on a lot of what passes for urban fantasy these days. I am tired of love triangles and of seeing characters doing dumb things to perpetuate love triangles. I am tired of seeing mythology thinned, turned into yet another cookie-cutter book filled with the same old tropes.
And so I approached Liesmith with some trepidation. Worried that this would be yet another same-old same-old.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Because seriously, Franklin has knocked this one out of the park.
Sigmund Sussman is a geek. He works in IT – and worse, the brand of “Have you tried turning it off then on again?” IT – he’s chubby, somewhat awkward with non-geeks, and he plays DnD. Refreshingly, though he’s unashamedly geeky, he’s not portrayed as a loner – his two best friends, both female gamers, Wayne and Em, are always there for him. Sigmund can also always sense when someone is lying, an ability that he keeps to himself.
Enter Lain Laufeyjarson, hipsterish new addition to the IT department. Sigmund brushes Lain off originally (at which point I was pretty much cheering because no love at first sight trope!), but Lain is immediately interested in Sigmund. He slowly takes his time getting to know him (double hooray!) and the two of them are drawn together.
You make think this is a standard romance, but beneath Lain’s skin lies someone – and something – else, and Sigmund and his friends are thrown into a world of monsters where gods can be reincarnated and not everything is as it seems.
First of all, the romance in this is wonderful. There’s no love at first sight, just a believable growing together of two people. Without spoiling anything specific, Franklin could very easily have thrust these Lain and Sigmund together, but she chooses not to, instead creating a very gradual relationship (including the awkward moments that happen in any nascent relationship). This is no stereotypical Powerful Character falls in love with Squishy Mortal story, but something that feels very, very real. The fluid treatment of sexuality is also to be commended.
The fantasy elements in this are also amazing. Franklin has taken the Norse myths and created something pretty damn amazing. What lies beneath Lain’s skin is monstrous, but there’s a deep humanity to him, even in his most inhuman moments.
I seriously do not have enough words for how much I love this book and want to thrust it at everyone I know who reads urban fantasy (and those who don’t). The romance is wonderful, all of the characters are well-rounded (including Wayne and Em, who could have easily been just so much window dressing in a lesser writer’s hands), and the fantastical elements are original and solid. On top of everything, the writing is brilliant, and there’s fun and humour and darkness in just the right balance.
Franklin is most definitely a writer to watch. She brings something truly fresh to urban fantasy in Liesmith and I hope we get to see many more books by her. Based on Liesmith alone, she’s on my instant buy list for life.