A book like this--film noir to the hilt, urban fantasy, set in 1930s Chicago--depends on the voice, the strength of the narrator, as much as the premiA book like this--film noir to the hilt, urban fantasy, set in 1930s Chicago--depends on the voice, the strength of the narrator, as much as the premise or the bells and whistles of the setting. If the voice falls flat, or the narrator isn't intriguing, none of the rest much matters, no matter how interesting. And Mick Oberon makes a compelling and engaging narrator, so I was hooked. There are echoes or homages to other fiction out there (which is, let's face it, true of almost everything), but this book spins the tropes and archetypes off in fun new directions, and brings something different to the game.
Some readers seemed put off by the jargon, the heavy lingo and phrasing that shows up pretty much throughout the whole book. I suppose I get that as a criticism, maybe, a little, kind of (it sometimes is more thick sauce than spice), but for me, that really just helped ground the whole thing, reminding you this wasn't 1990 Chicago or 2132 Chicago, but post-Capone 1932 Chicago. Ari obviously did his research, and I respect and appreciate that.
Overall, it was a fun ride with solid action, wicked wisecracks, and a different take on urban fantasy, and and I'm sure I'll check out the next book in the series.
I read the Empire trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond Feist ages ago, and loved it. They did a wonderful job collaborating. But for unknown reasons, II read the Empire trilogy by Janny Wurts and Raymond Feist ages ago, and loved it. They did a wonderful job collaborating. But for unknown reasons, I didn't dig into a lot of Janny's solo efforts after that. I knew they were out there, and heard plenty of good things, but as happens with so many great books/writers on my TBR pile, they got buried in an avalanche and disappeared from sight.
But I just finished To Ride Hell's Chasm and it was fantastic. For me, good fantasy has compelling characters moving through a fully-realized world. A great plot helps too, but if the characters and setting are compelling enough, I'm usually hooked, even if the story meanders or takes a while to develop.
To Ride Hell's Chasm is a great blend of a wonderfully rendered world, down to the tiniest details, and a great story about bigotry, betrayal, staunch loyalties, and some unusual and interesting magic.
In some ways, the approach is "old school"--Janny takes her time with each and every scene, not overwhelming with unnecessary detail, but including so much layering and rich description you can really immerse yourself in this world. It feels alive and lived in; pretty gowns and filthy gutters; beautiful horses and ugly sorcery. It's obvious Janny took a tremendous amount of time thinking through every little thing included, how it contributed to the whole. Exposition and description can turn into quicksand sometimes in some books (passages upon passages of adoring attention to every frond in the forest), but it all feels artfully placed here, necessary, thoughtful. And I really appreciate that. It's incredible hard to do, but great writers make it look effortless.
But the most wholly-developed world is nothing more than pretty backdrop and landscape if the characters and their conflicts aren't engaging, and Chasm presents lively, believable characters driven by bigotry, prejudice, fear, love, fierce loyalty, rotten betrayal. I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone, but the characters seemed really grounded in this world, shaped by it, wrecked by it in some ways, and again, conveyed in a way that fit the setting.
The book feels exceptionally thoughtful and measured, like a fusion of Jane Austen and "Ellis Peters" with some extra blood splatters and grime for realism. Those who prefer hard and fast fiction like Abercrombie might not love the deliberate pace and delivery here, but for those looking for a well-crafted book that takes its time immersing you fully, To Ride Hell's Chasm is a treat and half. ...more
This is the best book Salyards has written to date. No joke. In the interest of transparency, I have to confess I have a mad man-crush on the guy. InThis is the best book Salyards has written to date. No joke. In the interest of transparency, I have to confess I have a mad man-crush on the guy. In fact, some might accuse me of stalking him. Which is stupid to admit, I know--if someone ever took Salyards out, I'm sure I'd be a serious person of interest.
Anyway, the book is pretty good. Give it a look. ...more