A number of other reviewers have made the obvious comparison to Xanth, and they're right - this first book in a prolonged series reads very much likeA number of other reviewers have made the obvious comparison to Xanth, and they're right - this first book in a prolonged series reads very much like a slightly more mature Piers Anthony novel. But only slightly. The River of Dancing Gods is part traditional portal-epic fantasy, part satire of that genre. Chalker must have had a lot of fun writing this, but in his self-aware parody, he sometimes comes off as trying a little too hard to convince us it's all a joke. "See, the bit about beautiful women walking around half-naked, it's in the Rules!" Yeah, okay Jack, I get it, you're being totally subversive. Har har.
Ruddygore turned to Marge. “You realize, of course, that you’re almost more in a state of undress than dress. That’s what Joe was talking about.” “Well, yeah, but…Oh, those books again.” Ruddygore nodded. “Volume 46 is mostly concerned with appearances. Page 119, section 34(a)—‘Weather and climate permitting, all beautiful young women will be scantily clad.’ It’s as simple as that.” She just stared at him.
Marge and Joe, a trucker and a woman on the run, find themselves at a literal ferry crossing, where they meet an enormously-girthed wizard named Ruddygore who gives them the classic call to adventure, layered with a bit more metaphysics. Chalker builds his alternate world with a story about heaven and hell and how the magical fantasy world of Husaquahr was built as a sort of prototype for the "real" world, Earth. Ruddygore needs a couple of adventurers from Earth, for rather obscure reasons that aren't completely explained in this book, to help prevent the Dark Baron from conquering Husaquahr, which hell will then use as a beachhead from which to launch an invasion of Earth.
Upon crossing over, Joe becomes a brawny, iron-thewed barbarian warrior complete with a magic sword, and Marge becomes a half-naked elfin witch. The two of them go through a quick training period, then acquire a group of companions to accompany them on their quest, which involves a Circe-like sorceress who transforms men into animals, some battles with enemy soldiers in the mountains, a neurotic dragon, a genie in a magic lamp, and finally, a big staged battle between fantasy armies.
This is a classic, cliche-heavy epic fantasy, but the twist is that it's deliberately and intentionally so - when the angels created Husaquahr, they did so with a book of Rules concerning how magic and quests and everything else were supposed to work. Then a Council of wizards took over the job, and like all bureaucracies, has added to it over time until now the Rules are an immense library governing everything from genies to magic swords to barbarian heroes to the attire of beautiful young women. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from these Rules, so we are continually reminded that there's a reason for the cliches.
And here's how it ends:
He sighed. “Remember back at the start of this thing? Remember, Marge, when you labeled it the start of an epic?” She chuckled. “Yes, I remember. I didn’t know how true that was when I joked about it.” “You still don’t,” he told her. “The Books of Rules, Volume 16, page 103, section 12(d).” “Yeah? So what’s that crazy set say about us?” Joe wanted to know. “All epics must be at least trilogies,” Ruddygore replied, and laughed and laughed and laughed…
This book was fun, light reading, though were some passages where it felt like Chalker was just kind of filling space by telling us what happened between the scenes he really wanted to write. The worldbuilding hints at a bit more complexity than is immediately apparent, but nothing like his Well World or Quintara Marathon series. This is basically a book that's a product of its time, the 80s boom in epic fantasy of indifferent quality, and while Chalker is always an entertaining author, this series was probably not his best work. The first book was okay, but I'm not really motivated to read the rest.
I downloaded this ebook as a free Phoenix Pick, and then randomly read it out of order in my TBR queue because I used to really like Jack Chalker but had not read him in a long time. (FYI and OT, if you are a SF&F fan, especially if you like older stuff, you should subscribe to the Phoenix Pick newsletter - they offer a free ebook every month, usually an older first-in-a-series book, and have a nice mix of classic formerly OOP SF and new stuff for sale.)...more
I'm going to take a bit of a risk by comparing this to George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, since I have yet to actually read any of those books.I'm going to take a bit of a risk by comparing this to George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, since I have yet to actually read any of those books. However, I haven't escaped the general critical acclaim and analysis of the story, or many of the plot points, being the popular phenomenon it is, so I'm going to say that Daniel Abraham's The Dragon's Path looks like "A Game of Thrones" without the constant shots of sex, violence, and grimdark despair.
That's not to say there is no sex or violence in this book, but it's handled in moderation and it's relatively infrequent. There are only a few scenes of people actually being killed, though granted, one is an entire city being razed.
Abraham's world is not exactly a "faux medieval Europe," but it's certainly another in the long list of secondary worlds created in an ongoing dialog with Tolkien, which means it's definitely Western in flavor - feudal monarchies with hints of pre-modern capitalism, and a vaguely-mentioned religion that seems to be monotheistic, but there are other religions, and other gods, as well, one of which will be pivotal towards the end of the book.
Instead of elves, dwarves, and orcs, Abraham has created thirteen races of men - all descended from the Firstbloods, or true humans. They each have unique traits - the Jasaru are scaled, the Tralgu are dog-headed, the Cinnae are beautiful, elfin, and long-lived, the Kurtadam are furry and tusked, the Drowned live underwater, etc. Only a few actually make an appearance in this book, and racial tensions and other cultures are only hinted at, but clearly there is more worldbuilding to be revealed in future volumes. All of these races (except the Firstblood) were supposedly created by the Dragons, who ruled the world long ago but now have left only jade roads behind.
Despite these little hints that there was once epic magic in the world, there is almost no magic in The Dragon's Path. Instead, it begins with the political machinations of various nobles in the court of Antea, one of the major empires in the post-dragon world, presently ruled by a well-intentioned but somewhat gormless king. There are factions circling the throne, some under the influence of Antea's neighbors, and all of them collide in interesting ways that send ripple effects outward affecting other characters.
The Dragon's Path is told from multiple POVs, GRRM style. The main characters are: Cithrin, a teenage girl who's a ward of the great Bank of Medea; Marcus Wester, a legendary war hero with a fairly typical tragic past; Dawson Kalliam, Baron of Osterling Fells, and Sir Geder Palliako, a low-ranking noble who starts the book out on his first campaign. None of them know each other to begin with, and each of them winds up in vastly different circumstances at the end of the book than where they started.
I liked several things about this book. First, it has the feel of a grand epic fantasy without layering on magic and fantastic creatures or an otherworldy setting. The world is not Earth, but it still has a certain familiarity about it.
Second, the characters are all interesting and human, and some of the ones who seem sympathetic initially turn out to be on a path to becoming right bastards, while the ones a modern reader might be less inclined to sympathize with are in fact much more likable than their enemies. Dawson, for example, is a stiff-necked traditionalist who believes in noble birthright and keeping the peons in their place — his enemies are would-be reformers among the nobles who want to introduce a bit of democracy and class mobility into the empire. This should make Dawson the villain, fighting to preserve ultra-conservative, authoritarian rule, but his enemies really aren't any more benevolent than him, and Dawson is basically a decent man for someone of his class and views. Also, his wife is a marvelously adept player of political games herself, who becomes a POV character later in the book.
Geder Palliako, on the other hand, begins the book as comedy relief, a portly young man who would rather stay in a library but has to go out campaigning because he has the misfortune to have been born into the nobility and that's what they do when the king calls for a campaign. He's a nerd, he's socially inept, and he's the butt of all his comrades' jokes.
By the end of the book, (view spoiler)[he's an arch-villain who's put an entire city to the torch and seems set to take over the empire (hide spoiler)].
The two main threads in this first volume are the infighting among Antean noble houses, mostly involving Geder and Dawson, and Cithrin and Marcus's flight from Antea, bringing them to a small coastal town where they set up shop for future adventures, surviving on a combination of Marcus's wits and martial prowess and Cithrin's wits and financial acumen.
It all wove together quite effectively for me, and made me want to read the next book. Some of the best revelations did not happen until the very end, and I'm hoping to see a bit more grand epicness of the sort that's hinted at in this world's ancient past. 4.5 stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This was very meat-and-potatoes high-testosterone epic fantasy, and while I would have suspected the author of drawing on gaming sources even if I didThis was very meat-and-potatoes high-testosterone epic fantasy, and while I would have suspected the author of drawing on gaming sources even if I didn't already know it was a tie-in novel, it still mostly read like an actual epic fantasy and not like something written to sell miniatures.
That said, the world, a sort of steampunk fantasy Russia where certain people have the ability to magically control "steamjacks," steam-powered mechanical golems, could not escape its derivative feel, and the "hero," while given a certain amount of depth for someone who's transformed into a raging hulk of a killing machine, went through every trope in the book to detail his "crucible of pain" yadda yadda.
First Orsus Zoktavir's family is killed by evil beast-men raiders. Then, growing up as the biggest, strongest man around, he's recruited by a criminal gang, then meets his one true love who wants him to quit all that killing and nastiness, so Orsus agrees to quit after one final job that will make him enough money to pay for their wedding, and if you can't see where this is going then you must be either ten years old or you've never read a dark fantasy novel before.
Once Orsus has lost everyone he ever cared about, he turns into the biggest, baddest "Warcaster" ever, until he finally goes crazy and has to be brought before the queen in chains, having maxed himself out as a human superweapon.
This was a violent, action-packed story that was quite a lot of fun, fairly well plotted (even with the segments going back and forth in time), and which I could almost forgive for being a tie-in novella.
That said - who the hell thought this merited a Hugo? It's popcorn. It's written for teenage boys to sell them miniatures of ridiculously 'roided dudes in ridiculous suits of powered armor. Kudos to Dan Wells for taking such an inherently silly premise and making a real character out of it, but there is nothing original or fantastic enough here to make it stand out....more
My copy of The Eye of the World came as a freebie in a goodie bag at a convention way back in the 90s. (Yes, my cover actually has that mail-in rebateMy copy of The Eye of the World came as a freebie in a goodie bag at a convention way back in the 90s. (Yes, my cover actually has that mail-in rebate offer if you buy this book and The Great Hunt by 10/31/00...)
It then spent several years sitting on the floor of my car, and eventually made its way into a box, and only recently resurfaced on my bookshelves.
I remember when I first encountered the book: a friend of mine in the Army was reading it. I picked it up, read the back cover, and said, "Okay, kid with a destiny.... magic quest... fantasy lexicon requiring an appendix.... Dark Lord... blah blah blah..."
My friend vehemently disagreed with me and insisted this was one of the best fantasy series ever!
I still hadn't read any of the Wheel of Time books until now.
So, what did I think?
If I had read this book when I was a high school AD&D nerd, I probably would have thought it was pure awesomesauce.
Now, however, I can see it for what it is: a pastiche of fantasy tropes that were becoming hoary even before fifteen WoT books ran them into the ground. It's a huge, bloated quest book about three farmboys of destiny and a couple of girls, and over 800 pages they hike around the wilderness, have a few encounters out of Robert Jordan's monster manual, and discover that Rand al'Thor is the Dragon Reborn who's supposed to fight the Dark Lord. (Well, he fights him in this book and seemingly defeats him, but apparently that was just the opening act.)
Jordan obviously created a rich and detailed world. You can tell because only about half of the terms mentioned in these 800 pages are ever explained. We're seeing just the part of the iceberg that's above the water here. And I might have been drawn in to see more, except it's so very, very bog-standard Tolkien-ripoff medieval fantasyland.
And Jordan was not much for originality. I mean, "Trollocs"? "Arthur Hawkwing"?
So, a bazillion characters are introduced, we see a few chunks of a vast fantasy world and an introduction to the magic system. And a history going back umpteen thousand years.
The writing was what I've been warned it was: bloated, overwritten, belaboring details and with entire chapters that could have been tossed without impacting the plot. I mean, I'm sure all those chance encounters and references to other parts of the world and Red Ajah and stuff will become important in future books. But you cannot convince me that this is a story that really requires fifteen books to bring to a conclusion.
I don't actually think The Eye of the World was bad. It's just not that good. It would have been a fine light read at half the pages. Written as is, it's a clunker of an epic that seems to be barely getting started by the end. I did enjoy the climax (even if it was also extremely derivative) as it showed Jordan can write action and some vivid imagery when he chooses to. But the rest all felt like we were watching a model builder still in the process of setting up his diorama, and not quite finished by the last page.
2.5 stars, which I will round up to 3 for the impact it has had on the genre, but no, I doubt very much I will be enticed to read the rest of the series....more
Another short story set in the same world as The Wardog's Coin. This was a quick, light fantasy read about two different protagonists, one a human wizAnother short story set in the same world as The Wardog's Coin. This was a quick, light fantasy read about two different protagonists, one a human wizard, one a dwarf warrior, both on a mission to rescue an elf princess from a brothel.
If that sounds very AD&Dish, it is. All your standard medieval fantasy tropes are here; if you liked AD&D novels as a teenager, you'll probably like Vox Day's fantasy novellas. Which is not to say they are juvenile, particularly, but they're not deep or reinvigorating the genre, they're just swashbuckling, spell-slinging adventure tales with worldbuilding on a par with one of the better AD&D settings and decent dialog and action scenes.
The writing is a bit clunky at times, but it's not bad, so if you like your fantasy Tolkien-by-way-of-TSR-flavored, these are good, quick reads. Really 3.5 stars; the scheming and the twists made this a well-plotted story, so I would have given it 4 stars, but some of the prose awkwardness keeps me from rating it as highly as I would a more original and better-written fantasy....more
This ebook contains two novelettes set in the world of Vox Day's epic fantasy Throne of Bones. The world is an interestingly derivative fantasy settinThis ebook contains two novelettes set in the world of Vox Day's epic fantasy Throne of Bones. The world is an interestingly derivative fantasy setting in which a Christian Roman empire vies with elves, orcs, and cat-people. This is the sort of worldbuilding one might suspect was born in a fantasy RPG campaign, and that suspicion might be reinforced by the fact that the heart of this novella's two stories are battles between two fantasy armies with some magical tricks and clever tactics used to decide the outcome. Yet it did not read particularly like a novelized fantasy RPG (I've acquired a sensitivity to that sort of writing), and in fact I found both stories quite entertaining.
Vox Day's writing is not bad - it is a bit florid at times, but that's a common failing of epic fantasy writers. The descriptions of the environment and the armies make it easy to visualize the action, which sometimes zooms in on the individual participants (the main characters) and then pans out to show how the overall battle is progressing.
The first of the stories, The Wardog's Coin, is a fairly standard tale of a mercenary company finding itself up against suicidal odds. In this case, they are facing an orc army, fronted by goblin spear-carriers (literally) and backed by giant war-pig riders. The main character is a veteran sergeant in the company, chosen for an infiltration mission to plant a magical surprise in the orc camp that will even the odds.
The second story takes place in a different part of the same world. Here, the POV alternates between that of a Roman commander who raised a couple of Legions to go conquer some primitive tribesmen, in what he thought would be an easy and career-enhancing campaign, and his opponent, the leader of a tribe of shapeshifting cat-people who are defending their desert homeland against the numerically and technologically superior humans. Once again, there is some individual action (and more politics, both on the Roman and the cat-people sides), followed by the big battle.
Nothing here is terribly original, but the writing is competent, the worldbuilding is interesting enough to anyone who is a fan of epic fantasy, and there is reasonable attention paid to characterization within the limits of two short stories that are essentially descriptions of battles between fantasy races. If you like epic fantasy that's heavy on the military action, this isn't a bad little novella....more
The Cloud Roads is a fairly traditional fantasy novel with worldbuilding that at first seems fairly original. It took me until I was about halfway intThe Cloud Roads is a fairly traditional fantasy novel with worldbuilding that at first seems fairly original. It took me until I was about halfway into the book before I realized why it felt derivative. Of course saying a fantasy novel is derivative is not necessarily a bad thing; I think fantasy readers sometimes overrate originality. Very few great fantasy novels are great because their worlds are so unique and different: it's the characters and the sweep of the story that makes them great.
The biggest "hook" for The Cloud Roads is that it is a world completely devoid of humans. This is truly an alien secondary world. There are a seemingly infinite number of humanoid "groundling" races, distinguished by various configurations of fur, scales, feathers, tusks, etc., and the implication that they are probably mostly from related evolutionary branches. The world (referred to as the Three Worlds) is a low-tech fantasy one in which some groundlings build cities while others are nomadic tribesmen, but there are (as yet) no empires or significant technological development beyond basic stone and metalworking. Magic exists in the world, but it seems to be found only in the natural abilities of various creatures and some elements; there are no "spells" or wizards.
Moon, the protagonist, has been living among groundlings for most of his life, but he is not a groundling. He does not know what he is, only that he can magically shift from a humanoid, groundling-like form to a much larger winged, reptilian form. He keeps this hidden from groundlings, because unfortunately the apex predators on this world are demonic creatures known as the Fell, who come in several varieties and castes, but among other things, can shift into immense reptilian winged predators.
Eventually, Moon discovers that he is actually of a race called the Raksura, who have been warring with the Fell forever. Much of the middle of the book is about Moon being brought back to a Raksura "court" and trying to find his place among them. Because of his feral upbringing, in complete ignorance of Raksura ways, he finds that he is a consort — one of the most important castes, naturally — in a court that has two rival queens in need of consorts, but he has no idea how to negotiate the situation the way a Raksura-raised consort would.
The last third of the book brings us back to the Fell, and their plans for the Raksura, and the climactic battle between Moon's court and a Fell hive.
There is a lot to like here, and if you're looking for an epic fantasy that's a little offbeat, I can recommend it.
I have referred to the Raksura and the Fell as "winged and reptilian," and while the word "dragon" is not used, The Cloud Roads reminded me a lot of the Dragonriders of Pern, and perhaps even more strongly of the Harper Hall trilogy and its twee fire lizards and its misfit misunderstood protagonist who is the most Special GirlRaksura on PernThree Worlds. Raksura and Fell do not breathe fire, but they are divided into castes, described by color, and have telepathic powers, and there are all kinds of weird caste/gender politics.
Secondarily, The Cloud Roads reminded me of Elfquest. Yes, Elfquest, the Wendy and Richard Pini comic, with its cute but bloodthirsty elves living in magical savagery, pursued by more monstrous creatures, and when not fighting for survival, having soap-operatic romantic feuds with lots of hissing and baring of teeth and swords, or in the case of the Raksura, claws.
So once I realized I was reading a 21st century fantasy novel in the spirit of Pern and Elfquest, I was caught between nostalgia and snickers.
I did not find Moon endearing. He wallows and angsts and dithers. Because he has spent much of his life hiding his true nature from groundlings who will kill him if they find out what he is, even as he sleeps with them, taking some of them as wives (hmm, allegory anyone?), he is mistrustful and prepared to run even when he finds himself among his own kind. At a certain point I wanted to slap the boy and say, "Look, quit whining. You've found your people." It takes him many chapters to get to the "Stand and fight" moment.
Then there is the, I don't know what to call it, omni-bisexuality between Fell and Raksura? The Fell are described as foul, demonic creatures with a stench that repels Raksura from miles away, yet some of them can assume groundling forms that are sexy-hawt enough to have Foe-Yay sex with them. What is this even. In fairness, it ends up being a significant part of the Fell's long-range plans, but there were some scenes that made me think they'd been tossed in there as fanfic-bait.
Other things I did not like:
17 instances of "lifted a brow." 5 instances of "rolled his/her shoulders." and similar writing tics that were frequent enough to be annoying.
So after raking this book with my claws (there is much raking of things with claws in this book), I give it 2 stars. It was not bad, it has definite original elements and lots of action, I just found it to be written perhaps for a slightly more female demographic. At a certain point I found myself skimming, which is a pretty good indicator that the rest of the series will not hold my interest....more
It's a good thing I started reading Brandon Sanderson's later works, and only listened to this audiobook because it happened to be on sale. It's SandeIt's a good thing I started reading Brandon Sanderson's later works, and only listened to this audiobook because it happened to be on sale. It's Sanderson's fantasy debut, and while I wouldn't call it terrible (it's actually entertaining and somewhat original, like most of his work), it sure has all the signs of something written by a beginning author.
The main characters, Prince Raoden and Princess Sarene, are so noble and good and wonderful and pure-hearted they practically stepped out of a Disney cartoon to teach everyone else in their feudal fantasy world that slavery is bad and women can too fight and think for themselves. Sanderson heralds every plot twist with portentous description that tells us what we just read, a sort of literary "Dun-dun-Dunnnn!" (drumroll) that smacks of a writer who's not yet learned to trust his readers to "get it." The dialog is entertaining and humorous but overdone and prolonged at times. I hate to compare Sanderson to David Eddings because he's not nearly that bad, but it kind of reminded me of Eddings's inane banter between characters during inconsequential scenes.
Elantris has Sanderson's usual mysterious divinely-empowered world with an intricate, internally consistent magic system that works best for someone who thinks it through and figures out the "rules" (which of course Raoden does, figuring out in a few weeks what no one else in the past ten years has even tried). It also has Sanderson's usual fondness for elevating nobility above the common people, and if you are aware that Sanderson is a Mormon, well, you can detect a certain "vibe" in all of his books, having to do with the way religion and marriage works in all his stories, but it's particularly pronounced here. I wouldn't say it ruins the story, but it does make me twitch a bit.
In short, this is not Brandon Sanderson's best work. I liked the Mistborn trilogy and The Way of Kings, but you'd have to be a pretty rabid Sanderson fanboy to love Elantris....more
The Name of the Wind was one of the best fantasy novels I've read in the past several years, so it was inevitable that the second book in Patrick RothThe Name of the Wind was one of the best fantasy novels I've read in the past several years, so it was inevitable that the second book in Patrick Rothfuss's debut trilogy would have a hard time living up to expectations. Although I really liked it, I felt like rather than building on the awesomeness of book one, Rothfuss kind of let his momentum carry him through the second book. It would have been better had they been released as one volume, except of course it would have been the phonebook-sized.
In The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe continues to struggle to pay his tuition at the University, continues to engage in pointless juvenile rivalry with Ambrose, continues to have an on-again, off-again not-really-a-relationship with Denna, and continues his search for the secrets of the Chandrian. In the meta-story, it's day two of Kvothe's narration to Chronicler and Bast, and all that really happens is we get more dire portents and hints that the world is becoming a darker, scarier place, and that Kvothe is not the man he once was, if he ever really was that man.
I enjoyed The Wise Man's Fear, every hour of it. It was all great storytelling, and while there were chunks of the book that could have been edited out, nothing was a waste or uninteresting. That said, Rothfuss has been credited with bringing something new and awesome to the table in the fantasy genre, largely with his inversion of expectations and his skillful use of all the fantasy tropes we know and love, treating them affectionately and knowingly while making something new with them. But the second book of the trilogy doesn't really do anything new, and in some ways falls back into the cliches I thought Rothfuss was subverting. For example, Kvothe is like the ultimate Mary Sue of high fantasy literature, except in book one, we found out that a lot of his supposed legendary feats were made up or exaggerated. In book two, he actually does a lot of the things he's credited with, so it's less a story of a man being trapped by the legend he created and more a story of a man actually becoming the legend -- which we've seen many times before. Sure, he's still very human and vulnerable, but he gets away with an awful lot and he learns all kinds of skills with just a few weeks practice and makes friends with everyone he meets, who all teach him their secrets (except the people who irrationally hate him just because he needs some antagonists).
The worst part of The Wise Man's Fear is when Kvothe wallows in the worst aspects of Mary Sue-ism: the land of teenage wish-fulfillment. He starts the book as a virgin, but by the end he's added advanced sexyjutsu to his list of super-special skills that he does better than anyone else, starting with his encounter with a fairy seductress sex'n'death goddess. It's not enough for Kvothe to get laid by a superhot immortal fairy woman, it's not enough that he's the only one in history to walk away from her afterwards, it's not enough that she doesn't toss him back into the water like the underage virgin he is (yeah, an older woman who can have pretty much any man in the world she wants is totally going to fall for a teenage boy), no... she also gives him a magic cloak and sends him off to sex all the other ladies in the world so everyone will know that her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.
I liked the chapters where Kvothe is in the fey realm -- they were magical and mysterious and had a perfect fairy tale quality to them, and Felurian was hot and sexy and creepy and scary all at the same time -- just as I liked Kvothe's time among the Adem learning badass martial arts skills -- but Kvothe getting laid by pretty much any woman he shows an interest in felt like straight-up fanboy pandering, as did his becoming the equivalent of a black belt after a couple months of study.
The Wise Man's Fear is a huge book, but it only covers Kvothe's life from age 15 to 16. So I'm not sure what Rothfuss is going to do for the finale. I'm hoping he actually ends the series in book three -- this story really needs a decisive, genre-rattling ending, not to become yet another interminable multi-book series coasting on fanboy adulation like every other fantasy series out there.
All my griping aside, this book was still entertaining as hell and I am looking forward to book three, but whereas The Name of the Wind was a glowing 5-star book (and I always think hard before I give a book 5 stars), The Wise Man's Fear is more like 4.5 stars -- still a damn fine book, but it did not blow me away like the first one. I've got enough faith to hope this was just the dreaded "sophomore slump" a lot of authors suffer in the middle of their trilogies and that Rothfuss is going to bring it in book three. C'mon, dude, don't let me down!...more
Following a familiar pattern in epic fantasy, this book (the first in a trilogy) introduces us to the main character, Azoth, who starts the book as aFollowing a familiar pattern in epic fantasy, this book (the first in a trilogy) introduces us to the main character, Azoth, who starts the book as a young street rat with nothing but his wits, and ends it as one of the deadliest warriors in the kingdom, with super-ninja powers, a magical talent, and possibly immortality. Along the way, he acquires a Wise Old Master, assembles a varied collection of allies, faces down old enemies, uncovers secrets, and gets the girl. So, it's pretty much a standard heroic fantasy, except the "hero" is an assassin who's done a lot of bad things to atone for. And right on schedule, the real adversary appears at the very end of the book, setting us up for the sequel.
This was a great story -- fast-paced, well-plotted, full of twists and turns and an interesting cast, and lots of action. The writing was a cut above average, but only a cut. Also, it was like a lot of Hollywood blockbusters -- a fun thrill ride while it lasts, but there's nothing deep or novel in it. Brent Weeks isn't carving out his own niche in the genre, he's just settling comfortably into the space occupied by others. Will I read the rest of the trilogy? Sure, I'd like to see what happens next. But this is still, ultimately, standard-issue dark fantasy; you'll enjoy it if this is your thing, but I can't see putting it on any "Best Fantasy Series Ever" list yet, though maybe the next two books will up the ante enough to impress me more....more
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It wasn't bad. I'll probably read the third book in the series. But honestly, I thought the first bI really wanted to like this book more than I did. It wasn't bad. I'll probably read the third book in the series. But honestly, I thought the first book held promise despite some rough writing and annoying bumps in the narrative. A decent debut novel. Book two... was not better-written. Jemisin still has that annoying habit of inserting "* * *" in the middle of the narrative as the main character breaks her train of thought and decides to talk about something else. The prose often seems to lack polish. And while I liked seeing a bit more of the world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, we don't get to see a lot more. Most of the action still takes place in or under the cloud city of Sky.
More disappointing to me is that while this series is supposedly "epic fantasy," if not for the secondary world setting and the bigger scope of the supernatural love interests (gods, rather than vampires or werewolves or fairies), this would be sitting on the shelf next to all the other paranormal romances.
There is a little bit of forward motion in terms of the series arc, but if there is anything truly world-shaking that's going to occur, it will have to wait until book three.
What I really, really didn't like was the passive heroine and the undifferentiated nature of the characters, and worse, that this was what I didn't like in the first book. So I really hope Jemisin ups her game in book three. I'm teetering right on the edge of "Is this trilogy worth finishing?"...more
I've only recently been getting back into epic fantasy, having taken a long break from the genre. Over the past year, my results have been mixed. I'veI've only recently been getting back into epic fantasy, having taken a long break from the genre. Over the past year, my results have been mixed. I've read some new stuff I liked, and some mediocre Extruded Fantasy Product. Some of the latter came highly recommended, so... I've started taking reviews with a grain of salt. Everywhere I read, people were praising Patrick Rothfuss's debut novel, The Name of the Wind. Nobody had a bad word to say about it. So, what the hell, I listened to the audiobook.
This was a GREAT story. I loved it.
That said, I'd kind of call this "comfort fantasy." Which is to say, it's not groundbreaking or even terribly original, and it's not edgy, gritty, or particularly dark, as is trendy in epic fantasy nowadays. The setting is your basic low-magic AD&Dish medieval kingdom, and the main characters literally meet in a tavern. Then the hero of the story, Kvothe, proceeds to narrate his life story, the story of a man who's climbed his way up from street scrub to bonafide Legendary Hero. Doesn't sound all that interesting? Well, even though it's long and sometimes the details are downright prosaic, it held my attention all the way through. It's like listening to a master storyteller (and Rothfuss is a master storyteller) tell a story you've already heard but which nonetheless keeps you waiting breathlessly for the next part. There are so many characters and events, all coming one after another, always something new happening. It's just a damn good read/listen.
However, this is the first part of a trilogy. By the end of the book, Kvothe has only gotten up to his University years; he's not even out of adolescence yet. So you have to wait for the next two books to find out how he really becomes a legend.
All the recommendations didn't steer me wrong this time. I'll be looking forward to book two in the Kingkiller Chronicles....more
It's been a long time since I've read a great big fantasy epic. I read Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, which I liked, but not without some irritation. AIt's been a long time since I've read a great big fantasy epic. I read Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, which I liked, but not without some irritation. And this is supposed to be book one of a ten book series!
Well, I guess I'll be waiting for the next nine books to come along, because while this was not a perfect book, it was what a fantasy epic should be, which is entertaining and original from start to finish. It's got all the hallmarks of epic fantasy -- gods, heroes, villains, powerful magic, ancient artifacts, political intrigue, kingdoms rising and falling, prophecies and visions and End Times a' comin'... but Sanderson has actually created an original world that does not feel in any way Tolkienesque, nor does it resemble your usual vaguely medieval European fantasy setting. He's designed everything about his world in immense detail, and it's about as alien as can be while still hosting a recognizably human civilization.
It's a great (though very long) read. The characters are all likable (even some of the villains). My complaints are that there was too much filler, including some minor characters who got one single chapter each, and I have no idea if they're meant to be recurring characters, and that (as is the nature of big epic fantasies) Sanderson left a lot hanging at the end of this book, and I suppose this will continue in each succeeding volume. There is also something just a little too orderly and planned about his magic and cosmology, the trait of an author who has spent a lot of time playing RPGs and thinks in terms of rules and "magic systems." But this didn't take away from the high fantasy feel and some people probably prefer that kind of "logical" fantasy world, as opposed to a more mythic one where the powers and beings are more nebulous and undefined. By the end of this book, we have a pretty good idea of the "rules" of the world, but I expect a lot of new stuff to pop up in book two.
So, read this if you love big epic fantasy novels and are willing to become invested in a story that's only just getting started after a thousand pages....more