The Big Bad is bottled up in a prison dimension, and the wizard Abernathy wants to keep him there. He plucks eight people with diverse skills and backgrounds from their everyday lives, and the party go a-questing. Which may sound rather cliché, but this book is a joy to read. It’s got interesting, well-developed characters; a soundly constructed plot; inventive fantasy; lots of humour; and excellent writing.
Setting is about the only weak point I can identify. While there’s a lot of fun detail, like the moving islands in the desert or the various gods, there’s no deep world-building on display. The clerical/wizardly magic system could be ripped straight from Dungeons & Dragons. But I can’t say I minded because the characters are so good.
The story is told in multiple points-of-view, jumping between the eight members of the party in different chapters. Though I had my favourites, all the characters are good fun. The writing is accomplished and very readable throughout, with no editing errors that I noticed.
This is clearly intended as the first in a series, but is satisfactory to read as a standalone story.
Update: The sequel, The Crosser’s Maze, is now available, and is also very good – inventive fantasy with great characters.