Enjoyable, occasionally irreverent history of invented languages, somewhat in the vein of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything in that i...moreEnjoyable, occasionally irreverent history of invented languages, somewhat in the vein of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything in that it focuses as much on the personalities behind the languages as the languages themselves. Also the majority of the book is about auxlangs (auxiliary languages meant for international usage) rather than artlangs (languages created for fictional worlds), but then artlangs rarely aim for perfection :)
All it really needs is an updated edition, covering the recent resurgence of interest in conlangs thanks to David Peterson's work on TV series such as Game of Thrones and Defiance. Still, a must-read if you're a serious conlanger!(less)
Short, but interesting. Glad to say I already implemented some of the suggestions in my current series (multiple members of a given group, diverse opi...moreShort, but interesting. Glad to say I already implemented some of the suggestions in my current series (multiple members of a given group, diverse opinions amongst a culture), but there's food for thought to take forward into my next project.(less)
Another great instalment in the Eli Monpress series, this time focusing on Josef as much as Eli. We find out a lot more about the swordsman's past, as...moreAnother great instalment in the Eli Monpress series, this time focusing on Josef as much as Eli. We find out a lot more about the swordsman's past, as well as the wider history and geography of the world, and it definitely has a more epic feel than the earlier books, even compared to The Spirit Eater. There was also a revelation about the cosmology of this fantasy world that took me totally by surprise - I'll have to re-read the series one day to see if it was hinted at in earlier books and I missed it.
Only downer is the somewhat cliffhanger ending, though I guess that just means I'm going to have to read the final volume sooner rather than later!(less)
I think The Thousand Names can best be summed up as “Sharpe does Napoleon’s Egyptian campaigns with a dash of Indiana Jones”. It’s a pretty low-fantas...moreI think The Thousand Names can best be summed up as “Sharpe does Napoleon’s Egyptian campaigns with a dash of Indiana Jones”. It’s a pretty low-fantasy story, at least for the first three-quarters of the book, focusing mainly on the day-to-day life of soldiers in a desert campaign. The tech level of the setting is roughly equivalent to late 18th/early 19th century Europe, with armaments including muskets, bayonets and a variety of cannon.
The star character has to be Winter Ihernglass, a young woman doing the historically well-attested thing of disguising herself as a man in order to join the army. As someone who has written a character very much like this, I enjoyed seeing Wexler’s take on the theme. Winter is hardy, resourceful and determined, but we never forget how vulnerable she is (though thankfully without any rape!); a truly strong female character who feels utterly realistic.
By contrast Captain Marcus d’Ivoire feels a little bland, but that may be because he has a lot less at stake. Sure, he’s under constant threat of death in battle, but so is everyone else. It isn’t until close to the end of the book, when he begins to suspect there are skeletons in his own family closet, that there’s a reason to think he might have an interesting personal arc ahead of him.
The book itself is something of a slow burn, and the second quarter consists almost entirely of a detailed account of a battle between the colonials and the rebels. Although I’ve studied a little military history, I’ve never gone into the minutiae of battle manoeuvres so I found these scenes hard work, trying to visualise all the details of the terrain and the troop deployments. Hence although these chapters are well-written, I confess I was relieved when the scale switched back to the individual characters’ level.
One thing that did slightly bother me was the worldbuilding. Despite its Afghan-sounding name Khandar is pretty much your standard North African/Near Eastern stereotype, with its self-centred puppet prince and his colonial allies ousted by a coalition of his own army and a bunch of religious fanatics, not to mention horse-riding desert raiders led by a mysterious masked character (The Desert Song, anyone? Or am I the only one old enough to remember that musical?). None of these elements is bad in itself, but together they feel a bit too much of a coincidence. Wexler tries to get away from identifying them racially as Arabs by giving them greyish skin, but it’s such a minor difference (and being visual, too easy to ignore in a book) that it feels like a token effort. Perhaps if we’d seen more of the Khandarai than their magic, there would have been enough cultural differences to throw the stereotypes into the shade, but the reader can only go by what’s on the page.
Flaws aside, this was a great book; it’s always a good sign when I find myself really looking forward to my next reading session. Like Brian McClellan, Wexler has released a prequel short story (“The Penitent Damned”), which I will definitely be checking out whilst I wait for the sequel, The Shadow Throne.(less)
I'm a bit conflicted about how to rate this book - on the one hand it's a very good example of its kind, on the other, I think I've somewhat outgrown...moreI'm a bit conflicted about how to rate this book - on the one hand it's a very good example of its kind, on the other, I think I've somewhat outgrown the sword'n'sorcery genre. Also, whilst a laudable reaction to traditional S&S, the anti-misogynistic message towards the end was a bit heavy-handed for my liking, and the resolution kind of misses the point, tbh.
Still, a fun, fast-paced read, and Nix is a likeable protagonist. I dare say I may pick up the next one when I need a bit of light entertainment!(less)