“An excellent novel that will pull you in with an imaginative world and fascinating characters. It’s one of those books that you won’t be able to stop reading, and it’s one of those books that definitely lives up to all the hype.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past and criminals disappear into thin air.
The murder of Dr. Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners.
Only one woman may be willing to peruse the truth – but it is likely to cost her everything.
Robert Jackson Bennett has been one of those authors who I really should get around to reading more of especially with the praise that he has received for all of his novels. As of the time of writing this review I have only read The Company Man, which I ended up really enjoying. However, it wouldn’t be until City of Stairs when I would return to Bennett’s work, and was really glad that I was able to check it out because I was quite simply blown away with it. I know I’ve been praising a lot of books that I’ve been reviewing lately, (Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams and Steven Erikson’s Willful Child) but the fact is, they’ve all been good books. And City of Stairs is certainly no exception to that rule as Robert Jackson Bennett steps out and knocks it out of the park.
The city of Bulikov once boasted the powers of Gods and had the ability to conquer the world. However, the mysterious deaths of its divine protectors has meant that the city has fallen into a shadow of its former self, and now Bulikov is simply just another outpost of a new world power with strict laws on censorship among other things.
This is where we meet Shara Divani. On paper, she’s an average diplomat sent by the authorities of Bulikov’s enemies. However, in secret, Shara is an expert spy, tasked with finding out who killed an innocent historian, Dr. Efrem Pangyui, who shouldn’t really have anything to hide. But little does she know that she’s about to stumble out of her depth, and the Gods themselves might not be as dead as everyone thought they were…
First off, there’s a lot of world building on display here. It takes the reader a while to get into the novel but trust me, don’t let that put you off. It’s well developed and well created, with some great attention to detail on display here. Bennett has, as far as I am aware, has never written an all-out fantasy epic before, with Mr. Shivers, The Company Man, The Troupe and American Elsewhere all being very different reads but it’s good to see that Bennett has continued his spectacular form across to a different genre from what we’ve come to expect from this writer.
Although the pace doesn’t quite pick up until midway through, City of Stairs is still an excellent success. You’ll find yourself immersed in the world that Bennett has created here and his characters are just as strong. Sigrud, Shara’s ally, is just as awesome and one of the novel’s clear standouts. Although Shara is the main character, Bennett makes his secondary cast leave a distinctive impression on the reader and that is excellent to see.
This is one of those books where once you get into it, you won’t be able to stop. It’s engrossing, captivating and engaging and is at this rate, on course to be one of the better novels of the year. There’s just so much good things about City of Stairs that it’s hard to ignore, and you’ll be blown away by just how awesome it is. There’s a good reason why everyone’s talking about this book, and believe me, you won’t want to miss out on the hype.
"A fun sword and sorcery romp with an excellently developed world, Blood and Iron is a good read that fans of the genre will enjoy, with some excellent character development that will keep readers entertained even when this book might not be the most original on the market today." ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Set in a richly-imagined world, this action-heavy fantasy epic and series opener is like a sword-and-sorcery Spartacus.
It starts with a shipwreck following a magical storm at sea. Horace, a soldier from the west, had joined the Great Crusade against the heathens of Akeshia after the deaths of his wife and son from plague. When he washes ashore, he finds himself at the mercy of the very people he was sent to kill, who speak a language and have a culture and customs he doesn't even begin to understand.
Not long after, Horace is pressed into service as a house slave. But this doesn't last. The Akeshians discover that Horace was a latent sorcerer, and he is catapulted from the chains of a slave to the halls of power in the queen's court. Together with Jirom, an ex-mercenary and gladiator, and Alyra, a spy in the court, he will seek a path to free himself and the empire's caste of slaves from a system where every man and woman must pay the price of blood or iron. Before the end, Horace will have paid dearly in both."
Jon Sprunk is a writer whose work I’ve been wanting to read for a while now so that when I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of his first new novel since concluding his debut trilogy, I dove straight into it and ended up really enjoying the book. Sure, it may be problematic in places and has plenty of flaws, but at its core, it is an entertaining, action packed and fun read that reads a lot quicker than most fantasy novels on shelves at the moment, and will leave you eagerly looking forward to future instalments in the Book of the Black Earth series.
If you read a sword and sorcery novel you’ll begin to notice that the genre shares a few things in common. However, despite the fact that Blood and Iron may not be the most original thing ever, like Paul S. Kemp’s Egil & Nix series for Angry Robot Books, it still manages to be lots of fun and incredibly entertaining – with the benefit of a richly detailed world that doesn’t come at a cost to the pace.
Meet Horace – a soldier from the west. He’s fighting in the Great Crusade against the people of Akeshia. However, something goes wrong and he ends up being pressed into service as a slave – before his latent sorcerer talents are uncovered and he becomes a member of the Queen’s Court. He’s also the main primary character of Blood and Iron – but not the only one. The third person narrative is split between Jirom, an ex mercenary now a Gladiator – and Alyra, a spy in the Court who uses the fact that she’s a slave for cover. Horace’s main struggle is against the empire, determined to free slaves from its iron grip.
Despite a relatively slow start, the book will pick up and move along at a quick pace once you get stuck into the narrative. I found myself flicking through pages desperately wanting to find out what happened next by the end, but despite this it took me a while to really connect to the characters. However, as well as the fun element that comes with the sword and sorcery genre – the book also benefits from a rich, fleshed out world that is one of the book’s highlights – you can see why it’s one of the first things that’s mentioned on the blurb. The comparisons to Spartacus are also justified as well, and it’s quite easy to spot the connection if you imagine what it had been like with a sword and sorcery twist.
Sprunk utilises a masterful narrative skill to keep readers engrossed in the series – people tired of all the characters in fantasy being white males will be relieved to see that there are several POC characters in this book as well – with narrative Points of View. Sprunk adds the diversity to a book successfully and gains bonus points in that regard.
The narrative is split between four main characters, two of each gender. Their meetings, interactions and development are very interesting to watch unfold – and Horace and company are very well developed. All four have a lot of attention put into their character growth and the end result is a success.
The book itself may be a little too predictable when it comes to the romance angle. It’s one of the problems in the book that should have really been improved on given the quality of the plot – and never feels as interesting as the main bulk of the narrative. This and the fact that there are multiple clichés inside also drag down the novel’s narrative in places – but despite this – Blood and Iron is still an engaging read.
Has it made me want to pick up the sequel? Sure, why not – I’ll certainly give it a try. However it doesn’t quite deserve to be at that top level of fantasy just yet, and it’ll be interesting to see how Sprunk’s work improves in future installments.
“An excellent novel that’s one of 2014’s best. Joe Abercrombie is one of fantasy’s strongest authors no matter the target audience, and Half a King is an incredible success that fans of both adult and young adult fiction alike will enjoy.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…
Joe Abercrombie is one of my favourite epic fantasy authors so there was no way that I was going to miss Half a King, the start of Abercrombie’s latest series, The Shattered Sea. His First Law Trilogy is amazing and the standalone novels of Red Country and Heroes have been superb as well. It’s good to see that Half a King was no different, and if for whatever reason you haven’t jumped on the Abercrombie bandwagon yet, then this is the perfect place to start.
Prince Yarvi, the main character of Half a King and its main narrator, is a crippled teenager who was put on the throne following the death of his brother and father. It’s a position that he never expected to be in, but when he was betrayed and sold into slavery, he’ll do anything to win it back. Suffering from a handicap since the start of the novel, it allows an interesting and unique lead character as rarely you will find a novel featuring a major character with a disability such as Yarvi’s. Abercrombie handles it incredibly well and gives it that strong voice that keeps the character sympathetic as well as packing enough punch to hold the story.
Despite the fact that Half a King may be young adult, it is certainly one of the darker young adult novels that I’ve read and that is no surprise when you consider Abercrombie’s adult fiction. Despite the darker tone, the novel is very much a coming of age tale, and you can tell that although it sounds like familiar ground (I mean, how often have you heard a coming of age young adult fantasy book been described to you before?) but Abercrombie adds an interesting twist that keeps this book feeling fresh and at no point over the course of the novel did it feel dull. Abercrombie has a captivating way of engrossing readers and he did not disappoint at all, and as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if Half a King were to end up in my Top 10 books of 2014 come the end of the year.
I breezed through Half a King in three separate sittings, limited only by the length of my bus journey. If I didn’t have a stop to get off, I probably would have kept reading (I almost did towards the end) because the novel reads like a thriller, and you’ll be turning the pages desperate to find out what happens next, which is rare in a fantasy where attention to detail can often bog down the pace. Not so with Half a King. There is plenty of world building and you get enough details to keep you going but don’t let that put you off. The balance is handled well and Abercrombie, a veteran author, rarely puts anything wrong.
There are so few young adult novels that manage to maintain a certain level of unpredictability all the way through and Half a King is very much one of those. Its constant twists and turns, ramping up to a higher level near the end, had me hooked from start to finish and I couldn’t see what was coming next. The fact that Abercrombie manages to juggle all of these elements as well as allow for some great character development makes Half a King a must read that can’t be ignored. It’s just that good.
Even if there was nothing new about the coming of age premise, the way Abercrombie executed the narrative made the book compelling and engaging. It focuses more on the characters than the plot, and gives plenty of room for Yarvi and the others to grow. The villains are fleshed out as well and it’s great to see what Abercrombie has done with this. It’s always a bit of a risk when an author moves out of his traditional stomping ground (yes, Abercrombie may still be in the fantasy genre, but young adult fiction is a different beast to adult fiction entirely) and the author has adapted confidently, handing the new element well. As a result then, this book comes highly recommended, and if you’re a lover of fantasy in general then you can’t go wrong with Half a King. Let’s hope the rest of The Shattered Sea continues to be this impressive.
“If this isn’t your most anticipated debut novel of 2014, then you’re doing it wrong. Traitor’s Blade may well end up going down as one of the strongest first fantasy novels of recent times – it’s an absolute stunner that you can’t afford to miss.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.
All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…"
Every so often as a book reviewer you stumble across a book that absolutely blows you away in terms of sheer quality. Brain McClellan and Brian Staveley and more have been relatively recent debut novelists and have really impressed with their first novels, but Sebastien de Castell absolutely steps up and knocks the ball out of the park with a stunning first novel in the Greatcloaks series from Jo Fletcher books, and instantly makes him a must watch author with his confident narrative that is a guaranteed place on many reader’s best of the year lists, even though we’re only in March.
Traitors-BladeThe book plants the reader in the head of Falcio, the first Cantor of the Greatcoats – an organisation that’s trained in fighting arts and uphold the law of the King. Once renowned as heroes, they’re now scattered and persecuted as traitors – having stood and watched whilst the Dukes took the kingdom, with their King’s head impaled on a spike. As you can imagine, the tables have turned – and the Greatcoats are far from what they once were.
The book itself is easily one of the most fun reads that I’ve had so far this year, and can claim that title as well as the bet debut novel. The book itself is a swashbuckling adventure romp, and will have the reader gripped to the page right the way through. There are clear hints of The Three Musketeers in the book itself – and there’s several instances of amusing witty banter throughout the book that works – not coming across as forced or out of place. The book shares more similarities with urban fantasies due to first person narrative with the short and to-the-point sentences rather than the long-winded often-third person structure that is a common theme in most epics.
If you’re not sold on the book already then it’s publisher - Jo Fletcher Books should really sell it for you – it’s rare that you’ll go by the publisher over the author but Jo Fletcher have not put out a bad book yet – at least in my perspective. Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne novels have been exceptional, as well as Stephanie Saulter’s Gemsigns. So far this is pretty much the only publisher that I’ve read that has a 100% track record with me as a reader – and almost anything that they put out will catch my interest regardless of the genre. Only a few other publishers can do that as well – Angry Robot and its imprint Strange Chemistry are two more. So whether this is your first Jo Fletcher book or you have read every title – one thing’s for sure, Traitor’s Blade manages to feel fresh and gripping despite having a relatively unoriginal premise.
Also, it’s rare that I point this out in a review, but how awesome is that cover? I didn’t even need to read the blurb before tearing into this book once it arrived, and it instantly stood out from the crowd of to be read books with its striking design. If I’d been browsing in a shop this would have definitely been an impulse buy – and it’s something that based on the sheer quality of the book I’m not looking like regretting any time soon.
The action is well written and there are a variety of fight scenes that don’t feel odd or cumbersome – running smoothly with the strong, page-turning pace of the rest that the rest of the novel provides. We get to see a superb level of plotting on display as well – something that quite a lot of debuts suffer with. The book also wraps up with a strong conclusion – and means that it will be a long wait for the next book, which based on the quality of this one – will certainly have readers coming back for more.
The characters are well developed, interesting and flawed. It’s no surprise that Falcio is the most memorable character of the lot – but there are a lot of other fleshed out characters as well. The book doesn’t fall into the trap of casting women in merely ‘damsel in distress’ roles either, and puts them in a variety of roles.
On the whole then, Traitor’s Blade is a stunning debut novel from Sebastian de Castell that has already guaranteed its place on the Best of 2014 lists and could possibly end up as the best debut novel of the whole year – it’s absolutely incredible stuff.
“A very promising fantasy debut that impresses with a confident narrative, however it suffers from poorly written female characters and plenty of repetition and a tendency to over explain certain elements. Despite this though, The Emperor’s Blades for the most part, is actually an incredibly solid read.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.
Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.
Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.
Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral."
Another year, another epic fantasy debut. Some have been successful and others have been a disappointment, but Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades, the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhwen Throne series, is a mixture of both worlds. On one hand, it has a great plot with an enthralling narrative that will really hook you in. It’s compelling, and the world is well developed with some mostly good characters. But nothing is perfect though and The Emperor’s Blades actually slips up in multiple areas such as its treatment of female characters and its use of repetition.
TheEmperorsBladesMost fantasy books that we’ve seen have started with the death of a King/Emperor/leading Monarch and this book picks up the paces, focusing on his children who are intent on uncovering the conspiracy. You get Valyn, a aspiring warrior of the Kettral, who is probably the most likable of the three siblings. There’s also Kaden, sequestered for eight years in a mountain monastery in order to learn the discipline that he needs to become the next Emperor as well as keep him hidden from the enemy. And there’s Adare, who is the sister of both Valyn and Kaden and gets the least amount of pagetime in the book that spends most of its focus looking at the struggles of Valyn and Kaden, and as a result she comes across as the least developed character of the lot.
However, there are problems, namely when it comes to the competency of the lead characters, Valyn and Adare in particular. Yes, they may not waste time doing what many fantasy novels struggle to avoid, having the characters whine and angst for most of the novel doing pretty much nothing else, because they at least get the job done, working hard to see it through. However, the competency is where the biggest issue is with the principal leads – Valyn lacks the ability to make important decisions, and he also suffers from the fact that he’s not a great team leader – something that you’d expect a character who has years of training as one to be good at. The other culprit is Adare, and what is frustrating is that in the few pages that she gets – she isn’t able to put her political skills to good use, unable to control her impulsiveness when it comes to speaking in public. Like with Valyn, Adare is experienced and highly schooled, or at least that’s what we’re told, but we don’t really see much proof to back it up. It’s a case of telling and not showing.
It seems for every bad thing about The Emperor’s Blades though is that there is something to enjoy about it. Staveley’s world building is very strong – richley detailed and you get a good sense of what’s going on – the book doesn’t struggle in the establishing of the scene – you’re thrust right into a fully-realised world that you can tell has been developed beforehand rather than just made up on the spot, as Staveley goes deeper into the world in one book than many fantasy writers do in a whole series, and whilst yes it does mean that the wordcount is long, it’s balanced by the fact that the pace is pretty quick. There aren’t any moments where you want to skip a few pages ahead because parts of the book has become too boring – it’s engrossing and highly captivating reading as a result.
And it isn’t long before we’re back at a negative element again. One of the biggest problems, if not the biggest in The Emperor’s Blades is its handling of female characters, and this is where it will be a make or break for the reader – some will enjoy the book regardless but others will be completely turned off by it.The only two women who are mildly tolerable are viewed with scorn and suspicion by the respective narrators, whilst the rest are treated either as damsels in distress or people to have sex with. It’s a vital flaw that prevents The Emperor’s Blades from reaching the four-star count or higher, which is a real shame as if there had been a few more developed female characters the book could have easily been one of the better novels of the year given its quality in other areas and this is something that any future books in the series need to turn around.
There’s nothing new brought to the table in terms of originality, and crucially, despite its many flaws - The Emperor’s Blades still manages to be mostly well written with confidence and has all the ingredients to create a novel that will be enjoyed by a great many. However, if you want strongly developed female characters and don’t mind large amounts of repetition, then this book isn’t going to be for you.
Review closer to publication date. This was my second Terry Brooks book and in all honesty I liked the first one more but the name of the title escapeReview closer to publication date. This was my second Terry Brooks book and in all honesty I liked the first one more but the name of the title escapes me. This was a decent read though, just I'm still struggling to see why Terry Brooks gets so much praise. Maybe I'll have to try out some of his earlier books. ...more
“Whilst not living up to its full potential, Heartwood is nonetheless a solid book. However its biggest strength is also its greatest weakness, as the first novel in the Elemental Wars is all about worldbuilding and as a result everything else suffers.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace.
After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall…
The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land."
I’ve read lots of Angry Robot novels now and it’s rare that you’ll get to see a miss from them. I think I’ve enjoyed pretty much every novel from the publisher that I’ve read aside from maybe one or two that haven’t stayed long enough in my memory. Where does Heartwood come into this though? Does it fall into the hit category or the miss category? It certainly sounds like an interesting read, after all – who doesn’t love a bit of knights in shining armour fantasy every now and again? As it turns out though, Heartwood is difficult to place in either category. I’m going to say that in parts, Freya Robertson’s first Angry Robots book novel is amazing, but in other parts – it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I’ll discuss the positive parts of the book first, however.
The biggest strength of Heartwood is its vivid attention to world building. The world that the characters inhabit is fully fleshed out and fully detailed over the course of the novel, and the reader gets to learn about several things, certainly more so than your average fantasy novel. The first seventy pages or so are pretty much devoted to fleshing out the world before the plot actually kicks into gear, but it’s at this point you have to stop and ask yourself – when is there too much worldbuilding? Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The answer in Heartwood’s case of course is a resounding yes, because although I liked the fleshing out of the world, the rest of the novel fails to meet the standards that Robertson has set herself with her strong world building and detail. This as a result has made more than one reader that I know not get through the book, but I was able to keep going anyway. It’s almost possible that Heartwood was just not the right sort of book for me despite the appealing aspect that fantasy brings to the table – and I’m sure that there are people who will and have enjoyed this novel more than I will.
To give you a detail of the extensive attention that Robertson has paid to the world building, let’s look at the countries that the world is divided into. Each have their own unique culture and features that are in some ways, less subtle than others. For example there’s one country, the inhabitants of Wulfengar are essentially evil. They’re all generalised under one banner – all women must serve the more dominant men etc and whilst stereotyping sometimes does help the reader get a better picture of what’s going on not all of it is done, and for the most part the world building may be good, and as mentioned before, it’s one of the novel’s saving graces – it’s just places like this where it doesn’t always hit the mark. Positive angles of the world development include elemental magic, with the purpose of knights being designed to protect a holy tree that holds the world together. There are several parts where the action scenes throughout the novel are quite good as a result, but there’s never really anything that really elevates this novel from a decent read to a spectacular one.
Of course, with magic – you always have to be wary of deus ex machina, and that is something that in parts, Heartwood suffers from. It’s used as way of speeding up resolutions and doesn’t always work, robbing the story of perhaps would it could have been if magic hadn’t played a good role. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good magic system in the veins of Brandon Sanderson, who always pays careful and deep concentration to them – but it doesn’t really work when the magic is used to wrap up elements of the plot as smoothly as it does here. And then there’s another problem that the book suffers from – the characters. They weren’t really engaging and captivating and I never felt compelled to root for any of them with the same support that I’ve rooted for other, more realised characters in the past. I finished the book recently and none of the characters created any lasting impression on me as a reader, which is a real shame considering some characters who are so well rounded that I never once forget their names.
There is still an audience for this book, however – despite its many flaws. I think another achievement of Heartwood that despite the fact that there’s more flaws than positive elements that I’ve listed above, it still remains a fairly strong read despite this. Whilst it’s nothing too special or even good, it’d be undeserving to label Heartwood as a bad book. I’ve read bad books before (Dan Brown’s Inferno and Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire) and Heartwood certainly doesn’t fall anywhere near those standards. It’s probably just not my cup of tea – even if I did enjoy parts of the world building and some elements of the storyline. And I’ll admit that I am interested in picking up the second book when I can as well – hopefully now that the worldbuilding is out of the way Robertson can improve on this book’s failings and create a better second act. Therefore it comes with a very cautious recommendation.
“An excellent second act in the Riyria Chronicles. Michael J. Sullivan’s The Rose and the Thorn manages to be even better than The Crown Tower, making this book, and the duology – one of my favourite reads of 2013.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
As soon as I finished The Crown Tower I knew I had to get into the second instalment sooner or later, and thanks to NetGalley, I didn’t have to wait, even if I did end up taking a break in the middle to read a different novel, after all – I didn’t want this series to be over too soon. Fans of the first book, or readers of The Riyria Revelations waiting to see if both novels are strong before delving in will be pleased to know that The Rose and the Thorn is just as excellent as The Crown Tower, and I don’t think Michael J. Sullivan has written a bad book yet with this spectacular second outing (story-wise, not publication wise – this is now their seventh novel) for Royce and Hadrian, allowing for a stunning conclusion that not only wraps things up very well, but leaves readers eagerly wanting to read The Riyria Revelations, whether they have or haven’t already read it. Even though I’ve read all of them, that ending really wanted me to embark on a re-read, especially as it wraps things up nicely, really setting the stage for Theft of Swords.
"TWO THIEVES WANT ANSWERS. RIYRIA IS BORN.
For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, the two thieves return to Medford but receive a very different reception — Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn’t realize is what the two are capable of — but she’s about to find out.
The Riyria Revelations and The Riyria Chronicles are two separate, but related series, and you can start reading with either Theft of Swords(publication order) or The Crown Tower (chronological order)."
The characters have always been one of the high-points of this series for me and the main focus of Royce, Hadrian and to a certain extent Gwen DeLancy works wonders for the book, with some great character development that takes the characters from their early days in The Crown Tower to Theft of Swords, and actually proves that this is one of the rare cases where prequels written after the main series actually work. Whilst the first book may have focused on the origin of Royce and Hadrian’s partnership, this fleshes it out a bit more, really developing the key figures that continue to grow as characters over the course of the main Riyria Revelations series.
The Rose and the ThornThe Rose and the Thorn deals with a lot of characters introduced in this sequel that weren’t given as much page time in the first that might prove a bit daunting to readers who have not read the main series, but Sullivan allows for an interesting split on the focus between all of them, to the point where you never feel like there’s too much or too little of one character. The fleshing out of the characters and seeing their origins before the main series really is pulled of superbly, and I think that all people who want to write prequels for their main series could learn something from The Riyria Chronicles, as both novels in this duology are executed with very minimal flaws and easily provide the reader with some of the best fantasy works to hit shelves this year. The Rose and the Thorn will be in the upper half of my Top 25 novels of 2013 for certain, as not only is it a great tale on its own, but it also manages to beat The Crown Tower.
I was slightly surprised at just how different The Rose and the Thorn was from The Crown Tower. More world-building is on display here, but the book still manages to move along at a very fast pace after an initial slow start, where we find ourselves introduced to a completely new character, Reuben Hilfred – whose story seemingly follows a separate thread from the main events until later on in the book when you start to see things coming together, and his tale is an interesting break from the main event of Royce and Hadrian. The plot is strong and consistent throughout, and despite the fact that this may be a prequel, there are several twists and turns that you won’t be able to see coming even if you’re familiar with the Riyria Revelations.
The richness of the setting is great, as is the content of the overall storyline and The Rose and the Thorn proves to be a stunningly executed sequel that as I’ve already stated, resides among the best work that I’ve read all year so far. People who have read book one but not the Riyria Revelations should enjoy it as equally as those who are reading this in chronological order. Let me know if you’re reading this novel without knowledge of what happens in the main series – I’d love to hear if you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have – as so far, I’ve only heard perspectives from readers who have read the Ryria Revelations and your reaction to this as a newcomer would be pretty interesting.
THE RIYRIA CHRONICLES: The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn ...more
“An excellent novel that should please fans of the Broken Empire Trilogy and newcomers to Mark Lawrence’s work alike. You really should check this out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.
The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.
After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.
I really enjoyed the debut trilogy by Mark Lawrence, his Broken Empire novels – and was really looking forward to see where he would take Prince of Fools, the start of The Red Queen’s War series – and thankfully, he didn’t disappoint, with this novel serving to be another strong contender for the most enjoyable books of 2014 – with a confident narrative that doesn’t disappoint.
Prince-of-FoolsWith the return to the world of the Broken Empire, Lawrence instead shifts his focus to a prince with slightly less ambitions than Jorg Ancrath – Jalan Kendeth, a grandson of the Red Queen, who is one of the most dreaded rulers of the Broken Empire – and has been at war since she was crowned. However, Jalan is completely unlike his ancestor – a drinker, gambler and womanizer, and a far different character to Jorg. He’s tenth in line to the Throne, but unlike most members of the Monarchy in fantasy series – is content with what he’s been given.
Jalan is a character that undergoes a lot of growth over the course of this novel, and the fun is in witnessing his transformation. He joins up with a Norse Warrior after escaping a death trap set by the mysterious Silent Sister, the Red Queen’s Greatest Weapon – and sets on a journey across the Broken Empire. The Norse Warrior is called Snorri, and acts as a good companion to Jal’s endeavours. As before, the book is told in first person – and we get to see Jalan’s growth the most of all. He’s a very different character to Jorg the more we learn more about him – and it’s great to see that we haven’t simply been giving a carbon copy. He’s flawed, but has a level of morality and loyalty that don’t make him completely despicable – and serves as a powerful lead character who carries the narrative well.
The book serves as more of a straightforward fantasy read than the previous trilogy, but balances a strong element of horror to keep a fresh feeling. At the same time, the plot manages to be great, well balanced and action packed – with there never being a dull moment, with a greater exploration of the Broken Empire in a way that can appeal to both newcomers to Lawrence’s works as well as old ones – if you want to jump in here then this is as good chance to get involved as any.
If The Broken Empire was an epic, conquest-driven series, The Red Queen’s War is shaping up to be focused more on the characters – both Jalan and Snorri get developed very well and it’s interesting to see their journeys throughought the book. The interaction between the two characters is great to read as well, with some strong dialogue pulled off by Lawrence.
Fans of the previous Trilogy will no doubt be already up for buying this book, but it’s newcomer friendly and easily accessible. It’s powerful, entertaining and deeply engrossing – and comes highly recommended. When this book hits, if you don’t have it preordered already, you’ll want to go and grab this one as soon as you possibly can.
“Paul S. Kemp provides an entertaining and enjoyable ride through the lives of Egil & Nix. Another strong contender for the most fun book of the year, people who loved their first outing won’t be able to put this one down.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve had A Discourse in Steel sitting on my Kindle Fire for a while now after receiving an eARC, and for some reason, I never really got around to reading it until recently, despite the fact that I enjoyed the first book a lot. However, rest assured - A Discourse in Steel is as equally as enjoyable as The Hammer and the Blade, providing a fun romp that’s written with the confidence of a veteran author, and indeed – Paul S. Kemp is no stranger to fiction – his previous works include a Star Wars novel (Decieved, which I really enjoyed), a Black Library short story in Time of Legends, and has even been interviewed on The Founding Fields. So, if fun, action-packed page-turning adventures in a fantasy setting is your thing, then you should really enjoy this sequel.
"Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!
But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.
And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…"
The plot of A Discourse in Steel isn’t complicated, and it’s pretty easy to follow, allowing Kemp to avoid being bogged down by attention to detail, and info-dumping, thus creating a fun sequel that doesn’t fall into the trap of spending more time exploring the world than actually bothering with a plot. It’s some of the best written fast-paced fantasy that I’ve seen, and if you’re looking to be drawn in and finding yourself unable to put the book down, then A Discourse in Steel and its predecessor will be the perfect books for you. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop – and for the first time in a while, I was actually looking forward to bus journeys (where I read most of my eBooks) to finish this, and as a result, came very close to missing my stop more than once.
A Discourse in SteelEgil and Nix are as charming and as likeable as ever, and they’re really rootable protagonists. Nix himself has dropped out of a mage school, and Egil is a high priest, allowing for a fun duo that exchange a lot of witty banter over the course of the novel. This is easily one of the more entertaining books that I’ve read recently, and proves that you don’t have to write grimdark fantasy in order to tell an entertaining novel. Whilst this may be the second book in the series, if the author gets to tell more – it’s clearly not going to be the last, and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to more tales of Egil and Nix, and the world-building that is thrown at us in future books (whilst I mentioned earlier that it doesn’t overshadow the story, Kemp does manage to craft a very interesting world for the characters to inhabit).
The dialogue between the characters is clever and fun, and one of the highlights of the book. Kemp knows how to write humour and writes it well, and the style that fans loved in Hammer and the Blade will find that it hasn’t changed at all here, with a compelling plot that allows for a great variety of action sequences, escapades and adventures from Egil and Nix. Every situation they find themselves in they always seem to be capable of finding a way out – and as a result, A Discourse in Steel allows for a really entertaining read.
If you want a return to the lighter side of fantasy and are tired of all the grimdark novels that are hitting shelves recently (sure, some of them are good – but it’s nice to have a break once in a while), Paul S. Kemp’s Egil and Nix series will be perfect for you. Fun, witty, clever and enthralling – this is one series that you’ll love once you give it a chance. Kemp is easily the writer to look out for on the sword and sorcery scene at the moment.
EGIL & NIX SERIES: The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel ...more
“An awesome, epic book. Unputdownable, engrossing and enthralling. A top notch Fantasy debut.” ~The Founding Fields
If you’re a fantasy fan, chances are you’ll have probably heard of David Gemmell and more than likely read at least one book by him. I can say that I actually own three of his Druss the Legend novels, but have only ever found the time to read Legend, which I really enjoyed. I don’t know why I got around to reading the next two books, but I still couldn’t help but marvel at his work. Naturally though, fans of David Gemmell will be wondering if Stella Gemmell can match the high calibre work of one of fantasy’s finest authors. And does she succeed? Yes. The City is mind blowingly awesome, managing to be one of the better books that I’ve read so far in 2013. It’s one of those novels that I couldn’t put down, and I came away wanting to see what book Gemmell could put out next.
"Built up over the millennia, layer upon layer, the City is ancient and vast. Over the centuries, it has sprawled beyond its walls, the cause of constant war with neighbouring peoples and kingdoms, laying waste to what was once green and fertile.
And at the heart of the City resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a small number have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to stop the ceaseless slaughter is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the rotting, flood-ruined catacombs beneath the City where the poor struggle to stay alive to the blood-soaked fields of battle where so few heroes survive, these rebels pin their hopes on one man. A man who was once the emperor’s foremost general. A man, a revered soldier, who could lead an uprising and unite the City. But a man who was betrayed, imprisoned, tortured and is now believed to be dead…"
There is of course going to be comparisons made to David Gemmell, but it’s important to note that The City manages to be very superb indeed. Whilst Stella Gemmell has co-authored the Fall of Kings with David Gemmell, she’s never quite written a book on her own before, and The City ensures us that she can produce a top quality work on her own, rich with originality, strong characters and a captivating plot. Of course, this book is epic fantasy, but Gemmell manages to create a wonderful world in which it takes place. She captures everything from soldiers to Emperors and more, with a wonderful understanding of how characters work and what makes them tick.
All good epic fantasy books are immersive and The City is no different. The world-building is literally superb, with a believable creation enhanced with an inspiration from various eras of History, with most notably, a Roman-edged organisation of such things like military, and social standings, with a great tale that tells a tale that’s a lot more complex than David Gemmell’s Legend in plotting, with deeply flawed yet likeable characters and places them in a world that is as believable as the one that we live in.
The characters are, like the worldbuilding, a joy to read, but not quite as stand-out with times when they don’t feel as distinctive or as memorable as they should have been, probably due to the fact that we have a ton of POVs on display here. However. the amount of characters on display here also adds to the storyline, we get a wide range of perspectives to which we see the events unfold from, as the book deals with themes such as loyalty, revenge, honour and more – allowing for a complex and well crafted tale that mounts a strong challenge for one of the best fantasy novels of 2013.
The book also has the benifit of being a standalone, and the reader is not left hanging on waiting for a sequel as is common with most fantasy novels from debut authors. It’s refreshing to see an epic fantasy book that can be told as a single volume, and with such a sheer quality that is displayed here. If you’re a fan of the genre, then you should certainly consider picking this book up, for it is top notch.
“A well-researched, well-developed book – The Thousand Names manages to impress a lot. Count me in for Book 2.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.
To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men and lead them into battle against impossible odds.
The fates of both these soldiers and all the men they lead depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning. But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural—a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.”
I don’t get to read and review enough military fantasy outside of the Warhammer Fantasy Universe and The Thousand Names came as a welcome treat for me, especially as it’s a subgenre that I really enjoy. The book has been receiving high praise for quite some time now, and the book seemed like right up my street, as the start of a series by newcomer Django Wexler. When this book came up on NetGalley I leapt at the chance to request it, and got stuck right in. Here’s what I thought:
To kick things off, let’s look at the main characters who (apart from Janus) share the third person narrative. At first, they might seem like traditional fantasy stereotypes – the honour-bound tough guy Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, the woman-disguising-as-a-man cliché in Winter Ihernglass, and the ambitious and enigmatic Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich. With the description I’ve just given you, take away the names and they could be anyone that you’ve seen before in any other fantasy book. However, what Django Wexler does well is that he really fleshes out the characters, making them memorable, flawed, likeable and very interesting to read about. The book has to deal with character development, world building, plot movement and pacing at the same time and it manages to get the characters spot on, handling the clichés so well that they would become clichés if they were written by someone else less talented. And it’s not just the characters that are handled well, either.
The world building on view here is fascinating, but I did have a minor issue with how Wexler handled it, but let’s get the positives out of the way first. The world of Khander is a desert-setting and something that readers don’t often see in fantasy novels nowadays, and could easily be comparable to a Middle-Eastern country a four or five centuries ago if you were looking for an example. The military theme of the book is really enhanced by strong, in-depth research allowing for an interesting background where you’re not thrown off by elements that feel out of place for the setting. And another thing, the setting actually plays a part in the book. I’ve read some books where the setting never seems to slow the characters down, and they never really take into account any of its hazards or how it affects them. This book doesn’t fall into that category, you’ll be pleased to hear – the setting plays an active role in the book as the characters have to deal with the desert terrain which becomes a problem quite often. The culture is explored in some depth here too, but (here comes a problem that I had with the book) we never really get to see the ‘other side’ if you will – aside from a few minor POV sequences that could have been fleshed out a lot better to the point where we could have even had a major character POV. However, All major POVs (think Marcus and Winter) are from the characters on one side of the war, and we never really learn a lot of the other side. Sure, this would have probably hampered the pace and meant more pages, but I’m hoping that Wexler can explore this in future novels.
The book itself moves along at a fairly solid pace, even if it does take a while to get going. I know I talked in the above paragraph about adding stuff into the book, but Wexler probably should have taken a few things out in order to trim it down a bit. If we’d have got straight into the good rather than the build-up, this book could have saved quite a number of pages. And of course, with the decision to use clichés, there are a few predictable outcomes that prevent this novel reaching amazing status. However, that doesn’t stop it from being very, very good – and despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Thousand Names a lot, and I can’t wait to see where Wexler takes the reader with future books. The Shadow Campaigns series is certainly something to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing where Wexler can take us with book two, which I will certainly be on board for.
“An excellent book. Unputdownable, engrossing, spectacular – you won’t want to miss this.” ~The Founding Fields
There’s a lot of grimdark fantasy out there at the moment. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie, and Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy are three of the more notable books from the subgenre. However, when I approached Herald of the Storm, I approached it not with the sense that this would feel like a rehash of books that we’ve seen before, but with a sense of anticipation. Ford’s Kultus was well received by my fellow Founding Fields reviewers Commissar Ploss and Djinn24, and it was mostly well received elsewhere from what I’ve seen. And Herald of the Storm has already been receiving some pretty good praise so far from what I’ve seen. So I went in with anticipation, and the end result? Well, the end result was good. I actually really enjoyed this book.
"Welcome to Steelhaven… Under the reign of King Cael the Uniter, this vast cityport on the southern coast has for years been a symbol of strength, maintaining an uneasy peace throughout the Free States. But now a long shadow hangs over the city, in the form of the dread Elharim warlord, Amon Tugha. When his herald infiltrates the city, looking to exploit its dangerous criminal underworld, and a terrible dark magick that has long been buried once again begins to rise, it could be the beginning of the end."
There are several things to love about Herald of the Storm. If gritty fantasy is your thing, then you’ll enjoy it. Sure, whilst it may be in the standard fantasy format, debut novel in a trilogy to boot, the book’s setting is somewhat different than most. Rather than follow a variety of characters across the entire world, Richard Ford chooses to hone in on one city, or to be more accurate – a cityport. Steelhaven, and populates it with a vast amount of inhabitants, fleshing each of them out and developing them into more than just your average one dimensional, stock fantasy heroes.
Although the narrative is divided between multiple characters, The principal character is Janessa, daughter of King Cael, and focuses on Janessa’s role when Cael is, at the start of the story – off fighting a war. And therefore, even though the larger responsibilities of government are left to councillors of her father, Janessa still has to deal with the smaller scale bureaucratic duties. Many of the other seven characters however, could easily fit stereotypical roles, which by saying this would almost make me hypocritical by going back on my earlier statement about them being one dimensional and your standard heroes. But they’re not. Ford has taken a similar approach to what Whedon took with Firefly, and deliberately work within these predefined roles. However, it’s the strong level of storytelling that Ford brings to the table here – with some great character interaction, and some fantastic character development over the course of the book, and at the end – leaving the reader eagerly awaiting more, and what’s more – you’ll care about these characters. You won’t treat them like they’re just talking plot points designed to advance a story, you’ll treat them like genuine people. They’re that well developed.
Of course, in a grimdark fantasy, you’ll expect action – and that’s exactly what Ford gives us. It’s unrelenting, gritty, and moves along, taking no prisoners. Creating attention to characters as well as the action and handling both in a way that still leaves plenty of time for worldbuilding, Ford has managed to create the perfect balance. Whilst there may not be one ongoing, main plot thread that tangles all the little extras together, the book is very good at exploring different, subplots across the city. What we don’t get is a sense that there’s an overall story, but that’s pretty much one of the few issues that I had with Herald of the Storm, the only thing preventing it from getting top marks. However, with two books left, there is plenty of time to develop a main plot thread, but with the way that Ford handles everything else, you almost won’t care.
Therefore, despite its one small issue then - Herald of the Storm is a strong opener, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting Ford’s next book set in the city of Steelhaven.
“A wonderful third novel shows that Peter V. Brett can live up to expectations and provide a thrilling read that makes it a strong contender for best novel of the year already.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m a huge fan of Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle, having been hooked on reading it a couple of years ago when I discovered the first two novels on a buy-one-get-one half price deal in Waterstones. The cover art looked awesome and they really stood out amongst the crowd, so I quickly snapped them up and devoured them – really enjoying the books. And then, the waiting began. So naturally, when this book was eventually published recently, it wouldn’t be too long before I managed to get a copy. The day that I got the book request from NetGalley approved didn’t just make my day, it made my week. I almost instantly started reading The Daylight War, and well, loved it. As I’ve mentioned in the quote, I’d even go so far as to call it one of the best novels of 2013 already, it’s certainly up there.
On the night of a new moon all shadows deepen.
Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.
Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.
Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.
Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.
The book opens with a flashback, like The Desert Spear before it, only this time, rather than focus on Jardir, we’re focusing on Inevera, nearly thirty three years before the current events of the series, and we get to see her life as a child. However, we don’t spend as long with Inevera as we did with Jardir and soon we’re back with the promised couple, Arlen and Renna. It’s interesting to see that Renna is starting to follow Arlen on his path, despite the fact that she is meant to be the only person keeping Arlen in the world of men rather than having him thrust into the world of demons. Leesha gets a pretty heavy chunk of the book as well as her character is expanded upon much like the rest of the dramatis personae that we have seen grown over the course of the series so far. Renna Tanner gets a bigger role to play in this book than in the previous novels, and her character really develops here as she struggles to make herself able to keep up with Arlen, who is now more focused and in control of everything than he’s ever been, and it’s really interesting to read just how much he’s changed as a character since The Painted Man (or The Warded Man in the USA), as well as other characters who have undergone various developments.
As from what one might suggest by the title, the action sequences and the pace are increased in this book from the previous novels. Peter V. Brett has managed to capture the ability to hook the reader in and keep them turning the pages, and I was not be able to put this down although I did have to keep an eye on the charge of my Kindle Fire at times. The great thing about reading this novel on the Kindle Fire was that I could take it anywhere without carrying a massive hardback book around, therefore I was able to quickly load it up and start reading whenever I had a spare moment. A few may have complained about pacing issues in previous novels, but I think Brett has nailed it here. The Daylight War’s action scenes are nicely handled, as well as the book’s plot. And it ends on a cliffhanger as well. A very, very awesome cliffhanger that had to force me to put the book down for a few moments and think, “Did that just happen?” It’s a serious gamechanger in the series and proves that nobody, not even the main cast is safe.
And you won’t see it coming, which is especially good as many stories with Chosen One cliches are predictable and quite dull in places. This one isn’t though, as Brett weaves a powerful tale with a strong narrative, and whilst I may have initially believed this series to be a trilogy, I’m glad to see that there are more than three volumes. There isn’t any real drawbacks with this novel as a whole that I found, although I know that others have different opinions to me and have indeed read at least one negative review of this book. But for me, The Daylight War will most likely be the book to beat for 2013, and it truly is a terrific read.
THE DEMON CYCLE: The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War. ...more
“Gritty fantasy has a new and enthralling addition to its ranks. If you’re a fan of Joe Abercrombie or George RR Martin, then this is one you’ll want to have under your radar.” ~The Founding Fields
I first came across this book after hearing about it on Civilian Reader, and upon finding out that it was pretty cheap on the Kindle Fire (only £1-ish), I decided to snap it up and give it a try. After all, I love gritty fantasy, but with so many already established names in the genre, what new things could Scull bring to the table that we haven’t already seen before? I was interested to find out, and I ended up tearing my way through this debut tale. However, it’s not without its flaws though, and I’ll explain what they are towards the end of the review.
"This is a world dying.
A world where wild magic leaks from the corpses of rotting gods, desperate tyrants battle over fading resources, impassive shapeshifters marshal beasts of enormous size and startling intelligence, and ravenous demons infest the northern mountains. A world where the only difference between a hero and a killer lies in the ability to justify dark deeds.
But even in this world, pockets of resistance remain. When two aging warriors save the life of a young rebel, it proves the foundation for an unlikely fellowship. A fellowship united against tyranny, yet composed of self-righteous outlaws, crippled turncoats and amoral mercenaries. A grim company, indeed…"
As expected, The Grim Company is the opening volume in a new Fantasy trilogy, which bears the same name as its title. If you’ve any doubts about it being a weak addition to the already established ranks of dark fantasy then you should put them aside, for Luke Scull has crafted a debut tale that will keep you hooked right the way through, with a strong story, interesting characters, a harsh outlook on the world and a very interesting plot. Whilst this may not be the most original debut ever, The Grim Company’s biggest achievement is easily making you feel like you’re not reading an Abercrombie-knock off. The book is firmly its own novel.
Character wise, Scull delivers some tried and true archetypes such as Davarus Cole, a man who believes that it’s his destiny to be the leader, the most awesome character of them all and lead the people against the evil that oppresses them. However, Cole is actually not all that likable, and comes across as a bit of an arrogant prick at times, with a warped view of how things should work and often ignores what is happening right in front of him. We also get the likes of Eremul the Halfmage, a sorcerer spared by the evil ruler Salazar that followed a purge which left other magic users in disarray, Brodar Kayne, a man who was once Champion of the Shaman and is now in hiding from his former master, among others, who are an interesting cohort that, along with the plot of overthrowing the lord ruler can sometimes echo Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, but obviously with a gritter tone.
If you were put off by Abercrombie’s novels or are one of the few people who don’t like A Song of Ice and Fire, then The Grim Company will probably not be your cup of tea. Even though the book comes across as too cliche from the description that I’ve just given you and the blurb, especially with the evil leader being named Salazar, you’ll find that Scull is in familiar territory, he knows what waters he’s treading in as do you. The book also benefits from being action packed, engaging and truly a page-turning read, and once you’ve started, you won’t stop. There are however, as mentioned earlier – a few shortcomings that prevent The Grim Company from matching the likes of Abercrombie and company.
The author tries to get across a very grim setting in his book, but sometimes, the dialogue comes across as awkward in places. It also doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, for we’ve seen everything in The Grim Company before. There’s nothing that screams new and original, however – if you want a fun read from one of the hottest debut authors of 2013, The Grim Company will probably be your best bet. I was considering giving The Grim Company a slightly lower rating at the start of the review, but I’ve decided that I’m actually struggling to find that many flaws in the book as I attempt to pick it apart in this review.