I'd read a couple of sniffy reviews about this book and a friend was very meh about it ... even Weeks himself seemed a touch apologetic about his debu...moreI'd read a couple of sniffy reviews about this book and a friend was very meh about it ... even Weeks himself seemed a touch apologetic about his debut when he saw my tweet about starting it ... though I could be over-reading 140 characters there. In any event, my expectations were not sky high.
It turns out that I tend to like what people tend to like ... who knew? I don't enjoy every popular book but I do generally find out that there's a good reason why they're popular.
Brent Weeks is a great story teller and his writing is plenty strong enough to carry the load. I call the book fun, and it is, but that's not to diminish it in any way. There are plenty of emotional scenes and even though I could see the strings being pulled, I still got drawn in. There's as much action as any reader could want, varied and interesting magic, tight plotting from a good number of interesting points of view. The pacing is good and there are few info dumps. I could perhaps have stood fewer discussions on the city's varied architecture but that's the very minor niggle on the back of a great deal of enjoyment.
And that friend of mine who wasn't a fan - she wasn't a fan of The Warded Man either, which I loved, and I have to say that this is probably the most enjoyable read I've had since devouring Brett's The Warded Man several years ago. Like that book TWoS takes what I loved about 80's fantasy and grows it up for the more demanding, hard-edged tastes of today. Definitely recommended.
Perhaps the book benefited from me having a rare day to myself and reading most of it in one go. Then again I could have done a lot of other things with that day ... and Weeks' story didn't let me!
I enjoyed the 2nd installment of "Hopeless,Maine". It's a lovely hardback produced to a high standard. I buy very few books for myself these days (I g...moreI enjoyed the 2nd installment of "Hopeless,Maine". It's a lovely hardback produced to a high standard. I buy very few books for myself these days (I get more than I can read sent to me) but I shelled out my pounds for this without complaint and feel it was money well spent.
As with the first book the artwork is bizarre, Gothic, and sumptuous, each panel full of strange detail. Why are there so many bottles standing about? We shall probably never know ... just part of its charm.
The first book seemed to have a more complete story arc. This one feels more like a bridge or episode. The story moves around a fair bit and there were times when I found myself turning back, wondering if I'd missed a page or two. The pervading strangeness continues to grow and we're left with more mysteries than we started with, but the thing is more about mood and imagery than anything else and the trick is to let go of your need to understand everything and to go with the flow.
At the end there's a text-heavy appendix detailing some of the families on the island and it added to the story in a good way. There's a gentle off-beat humour throughout the book which I liked.
This a quirky, restrained, and atmospheric tale that I'm struggling to describe. Google the title to get a feeling for the artwork and the vibe of the thing. And if you like what you see then let the tentacles pull you in!
If you enjoyed the first volume, "Personal Demons" (& I did, a lot) then you're going to find a lot to like in Inheritance. It's certainly something you'll return to to rest your eye on the artwork and discover new things in the shadows each time.(less)
So, I was surprised to discover we owned this book, since it's a very well known book but nobody in my house had ever mentioned it to me.
Turns out my...moreSo, I was surprised to discover we owned this book, since it's a very well known book but nobody in my house had ever mentioned it to me.
Turns out my wife bought it, tried it, found it too slow, and gave up. I've convinced her to give it another go.
I enjoyed Locke Lamora and his lies quite a bit. Immediately I liked the writing, which combines wit with solid prose. Like my wife I hit a bit of a soft patch early on, though for me it was that I was finding the point of view very 'surface' sharing almost nothing of Locke's thoughts or desires, leaving him a bit of a blank. Lots of fantasy fans quite like a blank to project themselves onto - but I'm not one of them. Fortunately Locke's personality continued to develop and the point of view seemed to settle a little deeper into him as things progressed.
The real strengths of the book are the plotting, the dialogue, and the atmosphere. The dialogue (banter) brings the Gentlemen Bastards to life, the plotting keeps the reader on their toes, and the city is very well imagined.
I was surprised to find that the light-hearted tone (set primarily by the banter between Locke's gang) actually allows a slew of quite dark themes/scenes to slide past with less impact than they might have. The child prostitution, the gruesome torture scenes, and the mutilation dealt out by our hero are all absent in my own debut which is often called out for being very dark.
In any event, I found it to be a rewarding read, well written, and entertaining. I'd recommend any fantasy fan to give it a try.(less)
I read most of the Sandman story as separate graphic novels bought off ebay about 10 years ago.
This Christmas I bought myself the bound 'mega-volume'...moreI read most of the Sandman story as separate graphic novels bought off ebay about 10 years ago.
This Christmas I bought myself the bound 'mega-volume' a very high class piece of bookage that contains the 1st 37 issues of the comic which is half of the 12(?) graphic novels.
Now the thing is that, yes, at the bottom of it all these are comics bound together into a book that's six inches thick... but excellent writing can show up in many media and Neil Gaiman is an excellent writer.
The story we're given is as sophisticated and full of erudition as any book you're likely to find on your average fantasy fan's shelves. More so, in fact. But though it may quote Shakespeare and Marlowe and plunder the legends, sagas, and mythos of many cultures, it's mostly about entertaining you - and it does a great job of that too.
With a protagonist such as The Lord of Dream there are really no places you can't go. We bounce around through time and worlds and meet the good, the bad, the badder, and the ugly.
It's pretty much a triumph! And the art's not bad either!
I don't want to oversell it. You won't find an epiphany on every page, some stories disappoint, sometimes the art veers well away from my imagery for the story or characters ... but you'd be hard pressed to find a better set of graphic novels.
Gaiman and the artists work together to create wonderful moods, to delight, to revolt, to make you think. You might not want to shell out the small fortune for this tome but try the first graphic novel ... and thank me later!(less)
Gene Zion cunningly disguised one of the great existential questions of our age in this Dirty Harry book.
Do you feel lucky?
This is a book about identi...moreGene Zion cunningly disguised one of the great existential questions of our age in this Dirty Harry book.
Do you feel lucky?
This is a book about identity:
Am I white (with black spots) or black (with white spots)
About change and transition:
Do I have to remain how I was born. Can I not re-imagine myself. If I identify as a black dog with white spots (or by extension the ying to any yang be it gender, sexuality, or some more esoteric quality) can I not change? Can the leopard (or Scotty dog) change its spots?
About civil liberties:
When can indignities (such as baths) be imposed upon the young or upon minorities (Scotties), and when is it time to stand up to authority and say "No!" (or "woof").
And about consequence:
Will your loved ones recognise your rights to make the choices you have? Will they even recognise you after the upheavals of your personal transition/journey.
Above all this book lets you know that running away from home can be kinda fun.
In short this modern classic of 20th century literature subsumes our bourgeois preconceptions in a tale of real drama and urgency, a creative maelstrom in which modern angst is conceptualised in canine form. For it is not a Scotty per se, rather it is a cypher for man's eternal (non)interconnectedness with the natural world, realised with Zion's characteristic perspicuity, its disingenuous indirectness a paradoxical signifier of its vital directness and its relevance, in real terms, to the anguished unreality of the modern - and yet forebodingly ancient - the disjunction of Man and his nearest (this terminology rapaciously encompassing Woman and her nearest) post-Jungian-evolutionary relation.
There can be no better education for a child. Or adult. I commend it to your attention. And to the ages.
An exceptionally well written book that shows an alternative world with numerous echoes of our own, set in a loose 'wild west' parallel with with an e...moreAn exceptionally well written book that shows an alternative world with numerous echoes of our own, set in a loose 'wild west' parallel with with an eclectic mix of cultural references. Jacobs' prose is lean and to the point but touches on poetry in places even so. His characters are expertly drawn and interesting, and his plot compelling.
There's a variant steam-punk vibe with demons harnessed to drive technology and an intriguing caste of engineers who summon and bind these horrors in service of men. The natives are inhuman and fascinating.
The story is given to us, in the first person but, unusually, from the point of view of what might be considered one of the lesser characters, an individual who isn't the hero, doesn't have a love interest, and is in other ways set apart from the society of the leaders of this tale. It's not a combination I recall reading before, though strangely I think my next read (Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards) uses the same device. The technique may appeal most to more sophisticated readers as it doesn't let you ride the emotional current direct behind the eyes of the 'hero' - but it has advantages in allowing a filtered view that has a different perspective over-laid and which can, and does, work very well.
For the majority of the book it's a small scale and personal story. The fate of worlds or vast armies don't hinge upon the outcome, just the happiness and well being of a small cast. In the last 20% or so of the book things broaden out rapidly until at the end the stakes are as high as they can get.
It's a strong tale, well told, and sat very well with me.(less)
Well, I've only read one story so far, The Emperor's 13th Choice by N.E White, but that was excellent work. Given the anthology costs less than a doll...moreWell, I've only read one story so far, The Emperor's 13th Choice by N.E White, but that was excellent work. Given the anthology costs less than a dollar and all profits are going to a children's hospice charity I'd say that one excellent story merits 5*.
There are however 12 other stories in there, including one by me, and any number of those could be excellent too!
There's something about Polansky's writing that floats my boat. I'm not alone in this, other authors I know have said it too. I'd call Polansky a writ...moreThere's something about Polansky's writing that floats my boat. I'm not alone in this, other authors I know have said it too. I'd call Polansky a writers' writer but that might imply he's not a readers' writer, and he's certainly that.
The first two books in this series (trilogy?) are excellent but when you get to She Who Waits you understand they were entrees. This is the main course - this is where the payoffs you hadn't noticed building up are delivered. There's a level of emotion in this book that was perhaps absent in the first two. Where the first two fascinated and entertained, this one will also make you care.
Polansky writes great noir crime fiction, his plots are complex and draw you in, his characters are colorful and well drawn. He wields the first person point of view masterfully, fully exposing the man at the pivot point of the tale without exposition or breaking character. His greatest strength perhaps is in slick, witty, bitter, revealing dialogue.
These books deserve a bigger readership. The range of reviews tell me that (as with any book) not everyone likes them, but if you liked my work, you may well love these. The 1st book has an average rating of 3.76, but the 53 of my readers/goodreads friends who've read it give it an average 4.11.
Certainly if you liked book 1 you will LOVE book 3.
One thing I didn't want to do was give you Jorg again in new clothes - I didn't want to put the reader straight back through...moreWell... I kinda liked it.
One thing I didn't want to do was give you Jorg again in new clothes - I didn't want to put the reader straight back through the emotional wringer and build another defiant young man. But I do enjoy writing in the first person and the Broken Empire feels as though it's big enough to host a few more tales yet. So I give you Jalan Kendeth, who owes his inspiration of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman (of the eponymous Flashman (1969)) just as Jorg owed his to Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (1962).
The opening line is:
I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play, or bravery.
Other picks include:
I’ve always viewed boats as a thin plank between me and drowning.
Humanity can be divided into madmen and cowards. My personal tragedy is in being born into a world where sanity is held to be a character flaw.
‘Utter waste of time.’ I nodded at the juggler.
‘I love jugglers!’ Snorri’s grin showed white teeth in the cropped blackness of his beard.
‘God! You’re probably the sort that likes clowns!’
The grin broadened as if the mere mention of clowns was hilarious.
So... this book is a fantasy book but with very little effort you could map the plot and characters onto a number of real world scenarios and write it...moreSo... this book is a fantasy book but with very little effort you could map the plot and characters onto a number of real world scenarios and write it as a noir detective thriller. The book could, for example, take place in New York in the 30's with the lead and many of the other characters being veterans of WW1 and the various gangsters and cartels being ... gangsters and cartels.
With that said the book is neither harmed nor overly helped by being a fantasy - the main benefit is simply presenting to fantasy readers a kind of story they will be unused to seeing if they don't stray outside the genre.
The beauty of this book, like its predecessor, Low Town/The Straight Razor Cure, is in the writing. Polansky writes excellent well-observed prose. On top of that you've got a good, convoluted, tightly plotted whodunnit with twists and a set of varied and interesting characters. We see it all through the eyes of the Warden and so it's him that we learn most about - and he's a complex fellow.
The thing with 'noir' is that it was such a big thing, done so often in so many movies, that it became impossible to do anything more in the genre without piling cliche on cliche. Perhaps that's the best argument for putting this all in a fantasy setting. Polansky can't avoid the cliches (nobody can) but in a new world with magic nibbling at the edges and swords in place of tommy-guns the whole thing feels fresher and we're more forgiving.
The dialogue is on point, capturing the noir feeling - though I admit that by the end I was wishing the Warden could have at least one conversation without the taut one-liners and quickfire wordplay.
These are minor quibbles. It's a great read and I commend it to your attention. Be aware of what you're getting though - a bleak, atmospheric read, a complicated tale with adult sensibilities and precious little by way of silver linings. One of the great joys of it are the incisive observations on human nature that the Warden gives us, honest and without sentiment and framed in a way that makes you pause to appreciate them. Under different covers, with a different spin, Polansky might well find himself being accused of literature here and being put forward for prizes.
This is an unusual book - not because of the subject, though I can't remember reading any Viking fantasy of late (apart from the one I'm writing) or i...moreThis is an unusual book - not because of the subject, though I can't remember reading any Viking fantasy of late (apart from the one I'm writing) or indeed ever. Sure fantasy abounds with 'Northman warriors', beards a-bristling, who crop up with sometimes annoying regularity in everything from George Martin's A Game of Thrones (& subsequent books) to the recent Grim Company by Luke Scull. But actually honest-to-Odin Vikings with names like Audun Arinbjarnarson and Ulfar Thormodsson ... that's unusual.
However, it's not the subject that makes the book most unusual - it's the writing style. The prose is fairly standard, good, solid, does the job. The point of view though - the set of eyes through which you see the story - changes rapidly from one character to another, continuously, through the whole book. You often get two or three paragraphs from one character here, a page from another on a boat miles away, then a page from a third, and half a page from a fourth. This could be disastrous but Snorri Kristjansson made it work for me. The effect is to give a different experience of what is, when boiled down, a week-long attack on a smallish town. The price paid is that it's hard to connect emotionally with any single character and hard to become too interested in their schemes, but on the other hand you get a much more sweeping view of a grand conflict and if you're not connected so strongly to the characters you certainly connect and understand the events. In a way it feels like a different 'cinematic' treatment where we flash about rapidly watching the battle unfold.
The battle is the thing here. A lot of axes divide a lot of flesh into smaller pieces than required for good health. Blood runs in the streets. Longships plow the waves. The old gods are invoked. The White Christ too.
The ending was a surprise. It certainly left me mulling it over, wondering if I liked it or not and whether me liking it was really the point.
[I should note that there are longer sections with single characters. I don't want to overstate the 'jumping', just acknowledge it.]
This is, in my opinion, a good book. I'm glad I read it. It's far from perfect. A number of plot lines confused me. Things happened that I can't really explain the reason for. The focus felt misplaced sometimes and some characters rang less true than others. However, it's something new both stylistically and subject-wise (fantasy-lite Vikings written by one of their descendants), and certainly if your fantasy reading is starting to feel a bit samey you should give this one a go.(less)
I read the last four or five chapters in one go and really enjoyed all the threads converging in a good old fashioned siege/punch-up.
The Grim company...moreI read the last four or five chapters in one go and really enjoyed all the threads converging in a good old fashioned siege/punch-up.
The Grim company has been described as part of a new wave of fantasy, led by writers such as Joe Abercrombie (I've not read Abercrombie so I can't comment on any similarities). To my mind though it actually feels quite retro, albeit with bad language. There's plenty of talk about 'realism' these days - and this book didn't have that George RR Martin 'real feel' to it for me. That's not a condemnation - fantasy doesn't have to go down that path - the only similarities for me were the gore, and the fact that things very often don't turn out rosy.
We have a large cast with all manner of characters, the two main points of view being a barbarian/northman hero who strikes a note somewhere between L. Sprague de Camp's aging Conan note and Terry Pratchet's Cohen (much closer to the former), and a young trainee hero with inflated ideas about his own skill and importance. The northman felt comfortably familiar, the slightly crap hero took a me a while to enjoy but I did warm to him and he's certainly the more original.
I might even call the book a romp - despite all the death and disaster Luke's tale actually felt rather upbeat to me - perhaps because of the good humour and stoicism of one of the main protagonists and the comedy value of the other.
The best part about The Grim Company is Luke Scull's imagination, which is darn good. I loved many of the ideas, the gods cast down by men, their corpses littering the world, the various magics of the magicians who did it, and the way they govern the world in the aftermath, the magical powers/skills of their underlings... it's a great playground for fantasy.
The story wanders through a variety of violent situations wherein our scattered characters kill monsters, bad guys, good guys, and neutral guys before being slowly drawn back together for a grand finale. This for me was the high point where a lot of the build-up pays off.
Two small quibbles at the end involve (slight spoilers):
(view spoiler)[ i) one character suddenly seeming to be stronger than a magically augmented juggernaut
ii)another major figure making a journey of weeks - meeting one of our heroes and _in that minute_ being called all the way back, thereby giving us some dialogue but avoiding the conflict (hide spoiler)]
A lot is left unexplained/unexplored and in the dying pages even more questions are raised, so there's plenty of go left in the story yet - which is good because there's a trilogy to fill.
Luke Scull has a very distinct style and an imagination bursting with intriguing ideas. It's definitely worth giving him a chance to see if his tale can sink its hooks into you! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)