I'm afraid this book just didn't do it for me. Perhaps I'm missing something because lots of other people really seem to be enjoying it. Personally, iI'm afraid this book just didn't do it for me. Perhaps I'm missing something because lots of other people really seem to be enjoying it. Personally, it seemed like too many other better fantasy stories with too little development of any of the ideas that might make this something unique or interesting.
The style and feel of the story feels like a blend of the intriguing and allusive style of a Tanith Lee with the grittier, grimmer elements of the post George Martin generation of writers. Like both influences, there are plenty of sex references to remind us we are in adult fantasy territory. Sadly, unlike either influence, the story was, for me, largely unengaging.
The beginning of the book - over a hundred or so pages - introduces us to the four main characters and Smiler's Fair - a travelling town, a bit like a medieval Las Vegas on wheels - which is central to the story. One can see why the author wanted to introduce these elements but in fact this whole section feels unnecessary. There are events, things happen but they are largely unconnected to the main action. Almost all of them could usefully have been edited or edited out. Some feel wildly implausible, even within the terms of a fantasy adventure.
Our peasant boy with a dreadful destiny starts life as humble goatherd. Somehow he manages to lure a mountain lion away from his herd of goats by pretending to be lame and is also able to lure the lion in jumping over the edge of a cliff. Perhaps this is due to a supernatural power but it feels more like an author simply protecting a character regardless of likelihood. He then forgoes the opportunity to take the lion's pelt (which is presumably worth a fair amount of money) to deal with the birth of a kid goat (which we might presume is worth less and which there are more of). Of course, he might well chose to do both - help the birth and still get the pelt - but he does not go back or make any effort to recover it. This whole incident turns out to have no connection to the rest of the story, is entirely irrelevant to what happens but does feel deeply unlikely.
By itself, of course, that wouldn't be an issue but other hard to swallow aspects of the story follow hard on the heels of this: the same boy manages to construct the theory of Mendelian inherited characteristics in discussing goat colouring. Given he is a reborn god we might accept a degree of surprising intellect but its strange that his human ordinary and slightly dim step-father also appears to have a theory of inherited characteristics rather than, say, a belief these things are random, in the gift of the gods or simply having never thought about it.
I was in danger of giving up on this book. Had I not had to review it I probably would have done. It is fair to say that once the peasant boy is discovered by the King's agents and is chased across the fantasy world things begin to pick up a bit. Even so, however, the story did not grip me.
Part of the issue, for me, was that the four main characters are some of the least interesting. They remain ceaselessly bland, characters created to fulfil roles set for them. The author is clearly capable of much better as the contrast with more minor characters makes clear. A grossly fat young nobleman - once allowed to be more than merely a villainous presence - grows into a character that the reader is interested in. His story is one that engages us far more than the young woman he pursues. Similarly, a sorceress without any power but knowledge deserves more time than she gets.
There are potentially some decent ideas here but these appear undeveloped. Religion is presented in an interesting manner - there are real gods that interact with the world and there are also personal totems ('prow gods') that individuals seem to invest with their own power. These are intriguing hints but none of it is ever fleshed out enough to feel real. The servants of the moon god have somehow become underground monsters that force the land dwellers to constantly keep moving, but these too seem little more than half an idea: we are told too much about them for them to be mysterious, not enough for them to be something we can invest in.
Overall, a disappointment, then. What we have is a very good first draft but a poor finished article....more
'Eat Istanbul' is a recipe book of straight forward dishes, attractively presented.
It is full of beautiful photographs showing off the food to great e'Eat Istanbul' is a recipe book of straight forward dishes, attractively presented.
It is full of beautiful photographs showing off the food to great effect and of Istanbul itself; enticing and inspiring by turns, these are the sort of illustrations that draw you in and encourage you to give the dishes a go. When you do, the recipes are easy to follow and clear. The end results (from those I've tested) are tasty and satisfying.
Turkish food is often unfairly overlooked. We tend to think of grilled kebabs and little else. This book reminds us that there is much more to the vibrant food of this nation and of Istanbul in particular.
Whilst not an essential cookbook, I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in cooking food from Turkey, and the near east....more
Sword and Sorcery of Variable Quality - generally good fun.
Imagine the worlds of R E Howard and J R R Tolkein thrown into a blender, then set storiesSword and Sorcery of Variable Quality - generally good fun.
Imagine the worlds of R E Howard and J R R Tolkein thrown into a blender, then set stories in it with a touch of Howard, a whisper of Fritz Leiber and, perhaps, a soupcon of Clark Ashton Smith and you have an idea of what William King is up to here. When it works well, the results are truly excellent - it is like being transported back to reading these classics of fantasy when a teenager. Sadly, if not very surprisingly, it isn't all at that standard.
The opening short story is in the really very good category. Guardian of the Dawn introduces the central character, Kormak, his world and his quest. It is punchy and crisply told but manages to sketch a background that hints at much more. Best of all, it does more than simply provide the obvious. Kormak's duel with the enemy is not quite the one we might have expected. It is possibly the best thing in here.
The next book - really a collection of linked short stories - is rather less good. Stealer of Flesh has plenty of pulpy action but often indifferently told, although the stories do pick up after the first couple. The author's notes reveal that he wrote the last couple of short stories here first and then filled in the rest. It feels as if there was less interest in some of these stories that were designed to fill in the gaps.
The remaining two books - Defiler of Tombs and Weaver of Shadow - are proper novels, albeit short ones. One deals with necromancers and barrow wights, the other with elves and giant spiders. Both offer not only plenty of action but atmosphere and world building. Both provide entertainment. These two books most clearly show their roots in a specific sort of sword and sorcery style fantasy, for both good and bad. There is fun to be had, but certain allowances, in terms of the conventions of these sorts of stories and what the author can get away with, have to be made. ...more
Ford's first Steelhaven book delivered fast paced and exciting action. The action and adventure was sufficiently gripping that it was easy to overlookFord's first Steelhaven book delivered fast paced and exciting action. The action and adventure was sufficiently gripping that it was easy to overlook the flaws - weak character development, too many changes of viewpoint and a fantasy backdrop that never came fully to life - because the reader was bowled along by the multiple frantic plot strands. This - the second book - offers rather less by way of constant action and, as a result, the problems, the same as before, are more obvious.
The action picks up immediately after the first book: the old king is dead and the city of Steelhaven is threatened by not only an invasion of marauding barbarians but internal divisions and problems, from waves of refugees to fourth columnists to rivalries between organisations and individuals. That is a promising brew but somehow Ford never quite capitalises on it.
Part of the issue is the dizzying changes of viewpoint - each chapter from a new character's perspective. The result of this, and the fact that Ford writes very short chapters - is that we rarely get any real character insight or development. The characters rarely surprise us or show signs of life beyond the demands of the plot.
We even gain a new plot strand and a new set of characters, in the shape of southern tribesmen from the fantasy world's equivalent of what appears to be Africa. The vagueness about the world they come from - a few hints of grassland savannah, tribal life and a previous existence as fighting slaves for an evil empire - is an effective way of quickly sketching a background but never truly brings it to life. This is part of a wider issue that the world as a whole never properly convinces. Each plot thread seems to exist by itself. The world of the Queen is full of discussion of mercenaries, soldiers and preparations for war but these rarely bleed into the world of the other characters. Any trip through the streets of a city preparing for battle would see men being trained as levies in the street, barricades being thrown up in tactically important streets and conversations between everyone would be dominated by the threat. This is not reflected in the background as we see it, however. The Thieves' Guild/organised crime lords do not even mention the potential destruction of the city until almost the last few pages - one might have thought that their minions, at least, might have been interested in what was going to happen.
All of which means that the plot engines have to be firing on all cylinders to power us through the story and - for me - they were stuttering for most of the book. Part of the issue here is that the great threat of invasion never really comes to life. We never once get to see the invaders or the desperate defence against them. There was time and space enough to show us some scenes from the front - that Ford does not weakens the book. More importantly, the book never really surprises us. Too often each short chapter pans out in an entirely predictable way. By no means every scene works this way and - towards the end in particular - Ford effectively rings the changes at times, but all too often there is a deadening lack of tension. There is a point, about halfway through, where an important character is almost kidnapped. If the attempt was successful then the whole story would have been dramatically reshaped - how might people have reacted? Would the city have crumbled? Who might have stepped into the shoes of the absent character? I for one wished that Ford had been brave enough to truly mix things up.
This is not a bad book but, sadly, not a particularly great one....more
Slightly odd picaresque fantasy story. It has been sometime since I read it.
Occasionally it hit on something refreshingly different or striking - a sSlightly odd picaresque fantasy story. It has been sometime since I read it.
Occasionally it hit on something refreshingly different or striking - a scene with pleasure boat revelers dressed as monstrous creatures sticks in the memory. At its best there is plenty of undemanding fantasy fun - more in the mold of Sword and Sorcery than heroic epic. It is inconsistent, however, and distinctly uneven. Sadly, the beginning seemed rather better than the ending.
The book started life, I understand, as a Warhammer tie-in novel in the late-80s. Those familiar with the gameworld, from a misspent youth, will recognise the similarities between the book's alternate medieval Germany and the game's Old World Empire. Some fun can be had trying to spot occasional editing slips that appear to reflect an earlier draft of the novel....more
Probably Abercrombie's best since 'The Blade Itself', 'Red Country' once again puts a slight twist on the fantasy epic and manages an ending that stanProbably Abercrombie's best since 'The Blade Itself', 'Red Country' once again puts a slight twist on the fantasy epic and manages an ending that stands up with to the rest of the story (a problem his other books suffer from)....more
In 1941 RKO produced movie version of 'The Gay Falcon' starring George Sanders and Wendy Barrie. If you haven't seen that film, it is unlikely that yoIn 1941 RKO produced movie version of 'The Gay Falcon' starring George Sanders and Wendy Barrie. If you haven't seen that film, it is unlikely that you'll be interested in this short story and, if you haven't seen that movie and the numerous sequels it spawned, then one of the main reasons to read this, the tale they based it on, is probably removed. If you have, there is a chance to read a relatively amusing short, see how the film version was changed from this and without shelling out too much.
When RKO produced the film, they transplanted the stars Sanders and Barrie from the successful series of Saint movies. Leslie Charteris, author of The Saint, was apparently asking for too much money but they wanted to continue the formula. Charteris sued, so blatant did he feel the rip off was. Reading the short story it was based on wouldn't have changed Charteris's opinion. In fact it becomes obvious that the script writers have done a lot to change the story away from the more Saint-like aspects of the original story - no fiance for romantic misunderstandings with, for example, no comic sidekick and no vow to give up crime solving.
What we have instead is a very Saint like set up: Gay Falcon, otherwise known as The Falcon, is a lone crime fighter based in London, taking commissions where he can (making a living "by engaging in dangerous enterprise", in a line Tom Conway was also given from this original tale in one of the later films) and with a similarly strained yet close, baiting and teasing but friendly relationship with a police inspector from Scotland Yard. The tone of the writing does its best to imitate Charteris's unique blend of hardboiled crime with light and witty humour. At times it succeeds, at others it falls rather flat. Some sentences ought never to have been committed to paper: "It should be pointed out that the tall intruder must indeed have lacked all sensibility, for even when addressing the lady he did not remove his hat, which was of weathered felt, the colour of rain on Piccadilly, and worn at an angle over his left eye which might have been called debonair anywhere but in a lady's bedroom."
The story, for what it is worth, is not particularly good. Because the story begins with a case being almost closed there is little room for development. The denouement has all the contrivance one might expect from a story of this sort. The solution makes little sense if thought about. In essence, it is much like one of the weaker Saint stories, then.
Overall one might conclude that the script writers for the movie considerably improved on the raw materials. That said, this is not a bad story and offers a short and often amusing distraction. In many ways this is the perfect justification for the ebook. Without Kindle it is unlikely that this would ever have been republished. Now, for a very modest sum anyone who is interested can find and read it. And that's got to be worth something....more
Set in the days just after prohibition as criminal gangs look to switch their activities from bootlegging to kidnThoroughly Entertaining Saint Story.
Set in the days just after prohibition as criminal gangs look to switch their activities from bootlegging to kidnapping, 'The Saint in New York' puts Simon Templar up against New York's worst. The Saint books always offer breezy wit and charm - this is no exception. There is also a certain element of grit here too though: a police detective offers a justification for brutality in a corrupt system. When first published it must have had an element of reportage of real world events about it as well as the wish fulfillment that one man might, with a little luck, clear up the whole mess. Little wonder it was a great hit with the public both sides of the Atlantic.
This is good quality, easy to read, superior entertainment....more
A very creditable new Bond from William Boyd. I think I prefer it to Sebastian Faulks effort a few years ago.
Both Boyd and Faulks appear to know theirA very creditable new Bond from William Boyd. I think I prefer it to Sebastian Faulks effort a few years ago.
Both Boyd and Faulks appear to know their Fleming and both stick closely to many of the key ingredients of Fleming's writing and have a sharp eye for the oddities of Bond's personal habits. Boyd brings something of himself to this book, however - this is not simply an attempt to recreate Fleming's Bond. It is, therefore, something a little more interesting than simple pastiche.
Some of the criticism appears to come from the fact that Boyd has added his own elements to the story. Other criticisms seem to arise from the fact that many readers of this aren't that familiar with Bond as Fleming wrote him: Bond's salad dressing recipe is perfectly in keeping with Fleming's books where detailed instructions for scrambled eggs and cocktails occasionally slip in....more