Review: Highwayman by Ali Katz

Janos Vesh is a man fighting his past and the stranglehold it has on his present and future. He acts out against the blackness that threatens to consume him by taking revenge as a highway robber on local landowners, similar to those who tormented his youth. Nothing but the comfort of his lover, Stefan, can seem to soothe his wild outbursts. When tension escalates and Janos is threatened with exposure of his dark deeds, Janos’ world and fragile sanity start to crumble.

Review by Erastes

This is an author I hadn’t read before–indeed hadn’t heard of, so I was most interested. It’s always great to find a new (to me) writer of the genre.

The books starts promisingly, with a nice twist which I totally wasn’t expecting. The description is lush right from the word go, which impressed. I was a trifle “ungrounded” by not knowing where or when I was, but due to the names and the technology it didn’t take a brain the size of a planet to work out– I guessed 18th century Poland and I turned out to be right.

There are some nice historical touches, such as the mention of a flintlock pistol (believe me I’ve read of 15th century revolvers before now), the attention paid to Janos’ horse (far too many authors treat horses like cars.)

I particularly liked the mystery of the style, the author skilfully drip feeds us with information and I for one was very eager to find out what was behind it all. Janos it is clear, from very early on, a man with a past, and not altogether what he seems. A troubled man, which is also attractive to me. When you write a short book like this (100 pages) you need to get the reader on the character’s side fast, and Katz does this in spades, as he’s a loving and supporting brother as well as giving his ill-gotten gains to the local village in true Robin Hood fashion. The secondary characters are nicely observed – the sister, the uncle, the business partner – none of them cardboard cutouts and all helped to engage the characterisation and push the plot along.

As a mild warning for you who find it unpleasant there is implied “underage” sex in this book, but it’s not described (and frankly as there were no laws of that sort it’s rather moot, but I know people like to be warned.)

There were touches of this that reminded me of Swordspoint, only because of the street fights and the swords and that’s not a bad thing at all. I must say I hope that Katz (or anyone! There needs to be more swashbuckling sword waving gay historical books) writes about this era again, because I’m a sucker for men in capes wielding swords.

There’s swords, hurt and comfort, misunderstandings and adventure, what more do you want, dancing hippos?

An entertaining and enjoyable – if a smidge too short (more please Miss Katz) read.  go forth and buy it.

Amber Allure

One Response

  1. You don’t often find scenes this dark in a story that manages not to be a downer. Here’s to Stefan for saving Janos, to Janos for being worth saving, and to Ali Katz for telling the tale!

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