Sure, I'd said. It's licensed fiction. It's genre-defining licensed fiction. Everyone knows Drizzt, the Drow outcast. AndI couldn't get through this.
Sure, I'd said. It's licensed fiction. It's genre-defining licensed fiction. Everyone knows Drizzt, the Drow outcast. And R.A. Salvatore came across well in an podcast I'd listened to.
Give it a Rey. How bad could it be?
Let us start with the opening. Not the obligatory fantasy cold open, although there is one for all the good it does (you're supposed to hint at deeper dealings in this sort of prologue, mysterious happenings and dark portents. Don't blurt out This Is The Demon King, He Wants The Evil McGuffin).
No, this is an actiony book of daring do. So move on to... Drizzt's journal? In which he spells out what he thinks of the other characters in the book?
No, no, no. You don't do this. Show us through interaction. Don't have him say what The Halfling and The Dwarf and The Woman are like. Yes, by the way. The Woman. I got a third of the way through the book, and there was one which wasn't a generic "wench" for the villain. Cattie-Brie is on camera once, flirt-mocking The Barbarian. I want strong characters of both sexes in fiction, and from what I saw of her this probably means less Cattie-Brie.
There are things that can be told, rather than shown. But it should never be as fundamental as the characters interacting with each other. This is a severe problem, and probably the reason I gave up on this, as well as The Sword of Shannara: exposition is hard sometimes, and sometimes you just have a character recite the history of the world to another because it would feel awkward to have it all come from the narration. But never, never, never narrate characterization and relationships between primary characters, since that is what your fucking book ought to be built on.
Ok, back to the main-thread.so we've gotten through the prologue, and what I guess is a sorta epigraph. At last we are coming to Chapter One, and the protagonist of our novel: Akar Kessel.
A point I read in, of all things, Orson Scott Card: Start with your lead. If you begin a novel with a scene between a cabbie and their fare, it had better be about the cabbie and the fare, because the reader is going to assume it is. So if you're going to open the story with an incompetent wizard who is tricked into killing his master, it ought to be the story of that wizard. Not as the bumbling sidekick, not as the villain's catspaw. Main. Character. We could get everything we need out of Akar Kessel in one scene in chapter three, without all the other wizards who go north to kill one of their number then go back south, without doing anything except taking up space.
Now, at last, we come to chapter two, and we finally meet Drizzt, our hero. Almost being killed by two random yeti. Because it can be as epic as you want, with barbarian hordes and giant crystal cities in the snow, but apparently you still need to roll on the wandering monster table.
There are other sins here: facts are repeated when the audience understood them the first time; the narration in this is also pretty bad, a seemingly traditional, limited third person, that switches within sections, possibly even sentences, like a body-hopping psychic monster; a magic warhammer is made with a mithril head, even though mithril is basically iron strong and aluminum weight and why would you want a warhammer with a smaller mass?!? And the fact that Ten Towns is apparently a group of communities that number perhaps five thousand, that can only farm for a small harvest and make all their money exporting scrimshaw, is a miracle of economics.
Look. There clearly is a market for this thing, given how successful Salvatore has been. Just because I couldn't get through this doesn't mean you won't find some good in it.
But I'll be damned if I can see it.
I've had two write this three times. Thanks, GoodReads. This probably shows how much I wanted to get this out on e-paper....more
So, you've read the Dresden Files, and ate them up: the strong voice, the clever plotting, the careful blend of action, humor, world building, and jusSo, you've read the Dresden Files, and ate them up: the strong voice, the clever plotting, the careful blend of action, humor, world building, and just a hint of pathos. And you want more. What else have you been up to, mister Butcher? So you pick up Furies of Calderon, the first of the Codex Alera, and... Well, it's not *bad*. The thing is, the things that make the Dresden Files such a compulsion are almost wholly lacking here, while the things one hoped would be added... aren't. The voice of Harry Dresden, snarky, knowing, transporting you into the world? Gone, replaced by the conventional third person limited rotation, Tavi's voice more or less indistinct from Amara's. The plot lacks the smooth unfolding structure that Dresden's mystery framework allows for. Instead, we get what feels like a main character who more or less blunders through the narrative, taking initiative in small ways but saving the day somewhat haphazardly; while the epigraph makes unintended consequence the theme, we don't want a character who relies on coincidence and other people telling him what to do as much as is found here. Oh, and then there is the Kord sub-plot, a sequence that starts out feeling like an attempt to be Dark and Edgy like George R R Martin and ends up feeling more like that bit in 24 where a character spends a couple episodes being menaced by a cougar since they need to be doing something in the episode. Finally, we come to the world. Fantasy is ultimately about building a world. Dresden's Chicago is... well, it's Chicago, with layers of the wyrd underneath. It works in part because we know what to expect with Chicago, and the city is more or less functioning normally at the time. We don't know what Alera is like at the start, and Butcher is so quick to get to the plot that we don't really get to know it. Look. The book is fine. I may be making a bigger deal about flaws because I expected more. It's still entirely possible that I'll pick up the second book, which I'm sure will be an improvement; Jim Butcher does seem to get better as he builds momentum. But this first look into the furies signified little to nothing....more
The one thing that can be said for Scar Night: it does not retread paths already turned into six-lane super-highways. The Tower of Shadows, for instanThe one thing that can be said for Scar Night: it does not retread paths already turned into six-lane super-highways. The Tower of Shadows, for instance (a worse book, and one I read right after this one) takes place in Fantasy Kingdom 17, and features a pirate cove, an enchanted port city, and a genuine, do-gooding knight, for God's sake. Where does Scar Night take place?
On top of a bottomless chasm, in a city which dangles down on a series of thick iron chains. Which is a dark, kinda cool image. The rationale for this: the god of Chains, Ulcis, dwells at the bottom of the abyss, and is recruiting the souls of the dead (the dead are lowered to the bottom) in order to raise an army that will wrest open the gates of Heaven which have been barred to mortal souls. Oddly, when I was first writing reviews of this and Tower of Shadows, I didn't realized that both authors rewrote Paradise Lost. Of course, we all know there is only one true Fantasy rewrite of Paradise Lost, and neither of these bozos are Phillip Pullman.
Given how many people fall to their deaths over the course of the novel, you'd think they'd just build on the sides of the chasm. But that's a minor quibble, I suppose.
The real, central flaw of Scar Night is this: no one, and I mean no one, ever seems genuinely happy with their lives. I don't mean that the book itself is depressing: I've read books that made me weep (March, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bridge to Terabithia), and Scar Night doesn't come close. But a book, especially a dark book, needs the light, to establish what is at stake, or what can be lost. But when everyone in the city of Deepgate, and all the characters in the novel, seem utterly, pathologically joyless, it leaves me wondering why I should care whether or not the whole thing falls into the abyss. And this is deliberate; one character keeps commenting about how everyone (besides him; he's not happy, but he's differently unhappy) is already dead on the inside; they're just waiting to stop moving so they can join the army of their god.
One other thing: Alan Campbell's vies of religion is warped. Let's just ignore the idea, that is uncritically advanced, that everyone in Deepgage is only living as a prelude to the afterlife, or the nature of the gods in Scar Night, which would provide some spoilers without really advancing my argument. The book has two competing faiths. Most of the characters, again, live in Deepgate and pay homage to Ulcis, the God of Chains (the title doesn't really mean anything, as far as I can tell, beyond the fact that he had the city be built on chains). The rest worship Ayen, the Goddess of Light who (as has been discussed) closed the gates of heaven. What exactly do these two faiths do? Well, the church of Ulcis runs Deepgate, while those of Ayen are a bunch of barbarian nomads. Oh, and they go to war with each other every few decades, like Crusader clockwork; this appears to be the only thing the faiths inspire in their followers.
While it might be reading too much into it to say Campbell's point seems to be that religions are power hungry memes which do nothing but cause conflict and push people apart... Hey, I'm a lit major; reading too much into things is all I'm trained to do. So: Campbell's point seems to be that religions are power hungry memes which do nothing but cause conflict and push people apart.
Oh, and occasionally play a conflicting, confusing part in whether or not the world ends. Y'know. For those who care.
I mean, I'm an semi-athiest who read The God Delusion and who frequents Free Thought Blogs, and i thought he was taking it more than slightly too far.
Final note: this is a book where there is apparently a detailed understanding of genetics and chemistry, to the point that at the climax, we see a giant fleet of war-zepplins bombing the hell out of some sort of super-tank. In this case: why, why, why, is the most advanced personal we see a crossbow? What the hell kind of tech-tree puts incendiary bombs before muskets? ...more
Epic. Bunch of ideas, not a standard fairyland. Rules work well. And yet, don't really find myself wishing to an exalted campaign, or wondering what AEpic. Bunch of ideas, not a standard fairyland. Rules work well. And yet, don't really find myself wishing to an exalted campaign, or wondering what Alon-ke Seon would do, the way I do other characters I've played. ...more
First: it should be noted that this may be the most well written RPGs on my shelf. Injokes, callbacks, even the running gag about how Harry, the coverFirst: it should be noted that this may be the most well written RPGs on my shelf. Injokes, callbacks, even the running gag about how Harry, the cover of every Dresden Files novel aside, isn't a hat guy. Good sift all around. The rules are simple (the magic rules need to be read twice if you've bought spell casting powers) and (for the limited.number IOC sessions I've had) made an enjoyable, character driven game...more
Interesting world. Although I'm still not sure about the spren, sort of a animist spiritual being that embody everything from rot to fear to creation)Interesting world. Although I'm still not sure about the spren, sort of a animist spiritual being that embody everything from rot to fear to creation) and the biology (most of the animals are crustacean or something, the plants are all fungi instead?). It's interesting, but I'm not sure if there's a point or if they're just odd for oddness's sake. Good characters, for the most part. Although Shallan, the only woman viewpoint character until almost the end (and there were maybe three others of note) had an annoying trait of being "witty", which mostly involves her taking compliments literally and turning them to insults and I'm sorry but Touchstone she ain't It's odd. I read it, I liked it well enough, but u couldn't tell you whether I'll pick up anything else in the series, or any of Sanderson's other books. Which sound like three stars if ever I've read it. ...more