I found this book on a list of Hugo/Nebula award candidates and it had me at the title.
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entiI found this book on a list of Hugo/Nebula award candidates and it had me at the title.
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Pretty good setup actually, and the book drops the bombshell by page two. I was hooked right away and dragged through all 447 pages in 48 hours. I love when that happens. Most books are a bit of a chore and when you find one that isn't... well it's great.
But while griping, GE isn't your typical action novel. Addison/Monette's writing is gorgeous. Not in a highly stylized way, as the prose is straightforward and easy to follow, but there is a certain elegant tone. This is a tight third person from the Emperor's point of view and his voice deserves credit for a large part of the charm. What isn't so easy to follow is the byzantine (and authentic feeling) names of the courtiers. Or the near pervasive use of the formal first person. We were required to use all of our mental facilities to remember the large cast, to differentiate members of the same family by small suffixes, to decode their genders and marital relationships from their formal prefixes, and to remember that under different circumstances or times the same personage may be called by entirely different names. Not entirely unlike our royal experiences with Anna Karenina.
Back to the informal first person. Despite these challenges, and the near absence of any action, and a certain lack of agency on the part of the protagonist -- the book is great.
The world feel is both complex and realistic (in a fantasy) way and our immersion into the emperor's like-able little self and his intriguing situation highly entertaining. The slightly naive tone is perhaps a feature. The author is quite adept in her use of detail and language to sketch (it's not ponderously descriptive) this detailed realm. She hints at a jeweled nobles and scintillating chambers. The names are unpronounceable but evocative. The world feels Renaissance, with a bit of steam tech, a hint of World of Warcraft, a touch of humor, and a lightly used magic and mysticism. An elvish venice minus the canals.
The Emperor Maia is sympathetic and engaging, although perhaps his narrative ability to gauge the meaning and veracity of others borders on magical. His staff and friends are often charming, if not always overly complex. He tries to do the right thing, and it generally work out for him, which is hard to resist.
The author seems almost afraid of action. My biggest gripe with the novel is the curt and abbreviated action (all two scenes of it) and the perfunctory "resolution" to the central drama. The whole mystery pretty much resolves itself in about 2 pages without the protagonist doing much. In fact the action makes him nauseous. Then we are granted a nice long dénouement where everything is wrapped up neatly, including just about every relationship in the book. It's forced sure, but the artful and artificial structure of the novel softens the blow.
The bottom line: if you like the immersive quality of fantasy, and don't mind pawing through some long elvish names, this is a lovely and absolutely first rate novel.
I should note that Katherine Addison is actually Sarah Monette, a well regarded but lackluster selling fantasy author. As she herself says on her blog, "because publishing is deeply, deeply weird" she was unable to sell this rather lovely little novel under her own name, but "brand new debut author" (aka pseudonym) Katherine Addison could. Obviously: a) all those readers who didn't buy her previous books have committed to memory her actual name, and would never buy her new book because of the ill feelings brought on by not noticing her earlier books. b) There is a telepathic hate list of poor selling authors imprinted in the brains of all would be readers. c) Telepathy is not used, but instead racial memory is a fact and not selling well is an archetype. Or d) genius buyers at book store chains are easily fooled by name changes.
I stumbled across this short oddball novel last night, grew curious, given that it sold a million copies in Germany, and was made into a film -- so reI stumbled across this short oddball novel last night, grew curious, given that it sold a million copies in Germany, and was made into a film -- so read it today in an hour and a half. It's not very long. I'm not even sure it's very good, but it was very quick. The film version recently toured Sundance, so you can get a glimmer via the preview.
Wetlands is a sort of literary equivalent of Human Centipede. In some ways, it's so perverse you just can't help reading/watching. There are two things going on in this tight little first person tale. First is Helen's "unusual" (many would say grotesque) point of view and its inherent fascination -- and I have to admit, it's perversely fascinating. Second there's an attempt to make the delivery of said POV actually have a meaning.
The first works. The second doesn't (for me).
Helen is a girl who likes sex, avocados, and bodily fluids. She has a particular fondness for anything "dirty." She spends the entire novel in the hospital reminiscing. She's there for a shaving cut gone particularly bad, in a place where the sun don't shine. And she falls in love with her male nurse for no particular reason. During her mental wanderings she explores all aspects of her particular "tastes" for what one might consider the gross. No body fetish is left untouched. No fluid unspilled. No orifice is safe. She likes it all. Wallows in it really. Roche has a knack for this -- and we have to wonder about the warm wet corners of her own mind -- but it's quite effective. Probably shocking for many. Really. I'm not easily shocked, but I was impressed by the lengths to which she went (as an author). I'm not sure I've ever read anything short of a twisted internet story quite so NSFW.
I'm fairly convinced the above ick factor was the major driving force behind the book. And the resultant buzz behinds sales. That and it being Germany. Not that any of this offended me -- I can not be offended by such things -- but the author tried to give meaning to this poor disturbed teen's emotional state by interjecting a "plot" involving her divorced parents, her one sided attraction to her nurse, and her need for attention. In general, the dialog is impoverished and no one other than the narrator/protagonist has any development. So when what seems to be a totally one sided affair reverses on the penultimate page, it felt entirely forced and hollow.
So in terms of the book's conventional character arc the novel fails miserably. But it does succeed at painting this oddball, fascinating, rather perverse character portrait. And I "enjoyed" my 90 minutes.
Apparently, Jim Butcher started this novel (and series) after being dared to write about Roman Legions and Pokemon. It's clear from Butcher's writingApparently, Jim Butcher started this novel (and series) after being dared to write about Roman Legions and Pokemon. It's clear from Butcher's writing that he has a sense of humor, but in running with that "premise," he certainly brought the story in a direction designed not to give his agent and editor seizures. The Roman element pretty much ends at some Latinate names, sandals, and officers called Centurions. The "Pokemon" manifests itself as a thoughtful but conventional elemental based magic system.
Furies is normal third person past with a number of specific points of view laced through a medium sized cast. The characters vary, include both genders, a kid, and even a villain (who is reasonable enough in his thought processes that his side, while not exactly sympathetic, makes sense). The prose is that kind of deft, workmanlike style that feels like it isn't a style. It's not artsy, but it never gets in the way either -- nor is it overwritten. There is less humor and casualness here than in The Dresden Files, but it's still there, giving this a lightish tone for High Fantasy. Not comic, but informal in a way foreign to heavier traditional fantasy authors like Martin, Jordan, or Sanderson. Nor does the book have the edge found in recent entries like Weeks or Abercrombie. To me, it feels like 90s fantasy: generally safe.
But this novel works, and works well. Kind of A- on every front. No real weaknesses. Perhaps the worldbuilding itself is a little thin, but the characters are good (not Abercrombie's Glotka good, but good) -- and certainly likable. The pacing is fast. The action solid. The magic system quite good, falling into the "hard style" of magic where the rules are fairly well defined. Mystery isn't central here. Nor is a sense of great wonder. But boy do the characters manage to get themselves into a constant series of predicaments. And just as they do, the point of view changes, forcing us to read along furiously (haha) to find out what happens.
So is this great literature? No. Does it redefine the general? No. But it's really solid escapist fantasy that delivers on the fun. I already downloaded the sequel.
Frankly, I picked up The Maze Runner because it was made into a"major motion picture" --academic interest (visa via Untimed kicked in). It was a funFrankly, I picked up The Maze Runner because it was made into a "major motion picture" -- academic interest (visa via Untimed kicked in). It was a fun enough little adventure, an easy read, but boy... flaws.
First, there are the good things (and there aren't many):
The premise is intriguing. Cool "setup."
The pace is fast.
There is a good amount of sci-fi mystery (even if kinda botched at the end). There are a lot of "rules" to the world building, which I like.
Because this is a male author, he's not sentimental.
It's better than Twilight.
Then there is the bad:
The writing is lousy. The prose is clunky. Dashner LOVES to repeat words awkwardly, and despite being short, the book is terribly really definitely overwritten.
Tell city. Not so much show. Even dialogue is often "told." For an action book, the actual "action" or combat is barely choreographed. Instead it's told in a hand-wavy way.
Oh, the actual dialogue is often ridiculously stilted. There is the silly (but perhaps clever) way the author has replaced all the swear words with equivalent "slang" like fuck -> shuck. shit -> clunk. etc. This way he can have boys swearing left and right and keep his "PG" (MG?) style. The young audience curators can be fussy about profanity.
The characters are marginally developed. For example, the main "girl" is in a coma until about 80% and then has barely any personality or dialogue. Nobody is very interesting or different. The characters don't really act like real people a good bit of the time. They have no complexity.
There is no action (and marginal chemistry) between Thomas and Theresa (and, who names a cute girl Theresa? That's a nun name).
The protagonist is too perfect and pretty much great at everything. His POV loves to point out the obvious.
The mystery is all mysterious. But major things like "The Maze" aren't well explored. Then near the end a whole bunch of answers are just dumped in and everything shifts negating the setup. There are a lot of good and interesting elements, but they aren't well explored.
The puzzles are lame.
We, the readers, are told how to feel. The emotional situation is there, but the emotion not really warranted.
Reading it, I often felt like rolling my eyes. But I did manage to finish, and toy with the idea of reading the sequel. Probably mostly because the Sci-fi is okay. Considerably better than most dystopian drivel (like this one). I think the author actually read some Sci-fi. And he's a guy. I'm generalizing, but female authors are usually better at character and male authors at world building. Big generalization. More like a 40/60 kinda thing.
I'm betting the movie is better than the book -- which is a rarity.
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fearare Patrick Rothfuss' excellent "normal" high fantasy novels. The brand newSlow Regard is a novella seThe Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear are Patrick Rothfuss' excellent "normal" high fantasy novels. The brand new Slow Regard is a novella set in the same world, featuring a minor character (Auri, the fey girl at the University). This intriguing little book sits completely aside from the main series of novels. But it should not be read on its own.
Properly, Slow Regard feels like a short story. A long one, but Rothfuss is a verbose writer. Or perhaps it's a poem. It lacks most of the things that stories (particularly novels) normally have. In Rothfuss' own words there is no: conflict, dialogue, or action. It has one character. It's very beautifully written. This isn't much of a surprise, as Rothfuss is one of fantasy's most artful prosesmiths. Basically, this is an exploration of Point of View, specifically Auri's more than a little schizophrenic/OCD POV. It captures that masterfully, being simultaneously beautiful and heart-wrenching. Rothfuss deftly slips us into her strange world view. Pretty much he wrote it for himself, but some of us will enjoy it as well.
Does it work? Mostly. As a portrait of madness? yes. As entertainment? the prose carried me through about 3/4 of the way. I started to falter at the 10-15 page "soap making adventure." Ultimately I liked it. The story has an ethereal quality that is rare and delicate. But would I if I wasn't a writer and fond of technique? I'm not sure. It's not so long that one can't power through.
I would have liked to see a little more (some) fantasy. As written, Auri's worldview could be entirely psychological. There is one dark hint that something bad happened to her at some point -- but I'm not sure. I would have liked to learn a little more about the world and the "lore." We don't. We learn about the basement and the vast collection of empty rooms and small trinkets that Auri "cares for."
You'll have to judge for yourself if Slow Regard is for you. If you loved Rothfuss' other books (as I did) and also have a fondness for arty "plot-light" creatives like David Lynch or Terry Gilliam (as I do) you'll probably love it. If you require something to actually happen in your stories... well, maybe not.
I usually don't read "straight" historical fiction (i.e. without magic), but I was drawn to The Last Kingdom by a comment George R R Martin made aboutI usually don't read "straight" historical fiction (i.e. without magic), but I was drawn to The Last Kingdom by a comment George R R Martin made about how it contained some of the best battles he'd read. This is the first volume in the "Saxon Stories" (there are at least 8) and chronicles a fictional earl during tumultuous 9th century England. This is the same period as the excellent TV show Vikings and has a number of overlapping historical figures. Basically, Saxon England was divided into a number of kingdoms and continually raided, invaded, and settled by waves of Danish (vikings, although technically that only refers to raiders). This is an intensely interesting period, detailing a clash between two different very dark ages peoples. The Saxons are a heroic society transforming into a priestly one. And the vikings are just straight up heroic warriors. I don't use this term in the modern sense of the "hero" of a story, but in its more traditional sense of meaning societies dominated by the charisma of individual warrior leaders. The Last Kingdom itself is first person, written in a fairly narrative (lots of telling) style. It's tight, personal, and intensely fast paced without being even slightly exploitive. The whole thing feels very appropriate to the ideas of the time. The narrator, while a Saxon, grew up among the Danish and reflects the warrior ethos. He is disdainful of the weak, of the church, and values the traditional warrior traits of pride, honor, strength, and courage. In these circumstances they aren't trite, or a caricature, but a reflection of this very traditional mode of masculinity -- still admired -- but not at all in alignment with the outward values of our modern society. Perhaps this is why medieval fiction, inclusive or exclusive of the fantasy, is so appealing. I'm pretty certain I wouldn't want to actually hang with any Danish Earls, but they sure make for good fiction. There is a lot of history in these novels, and Cornwell has clearly done his research. He sticks closely to actual events (as close as can be managed due to our conflicting and incomplete sources). But the details don't bog the story. Our narrator is skillful woven into the tapestry of events such that both the political complexities and the way of life are chronicled in a personal and immediate way. If this period, or even heroic societies in general, interest you, this is a really excellent series.
Best Served Cold is a stand alone fantasy set in the same world as his more ambitious First Law trilogy. None of the main characters or plot from thatBest Served Cold is a stand alone fantasy set in the same world as his more ambitious First Law trilogy. None of the main characters or plot from that larger work appear in this novel, but a whole host of minor characters do, often in much expanded roles and the overall style and tone are very similar.
First a note about that. This is very adult fantasy with its share of graphic sex and a whole lot of gritty violence. In fact, one of the great pleasures of Abercrombie is his strength at describing combat. He loves both sieges (all four of his books I've read feature them), duels, and melees. He has a particular knack for blow by blow combat -- literarily. He doesn't spare you the crunch of bone, the spray of blood, but makes it seem very accurate and visceral. His protagonists take a beating -- again literally -- and come out worse for the wear (if sometimes swift recovering). Each battle has its clever turns and reversals. The only thing you can expect is a bit of the unexpected.
This is also fantasy without a ton of life saving, healing, resurrecting magic. What magic there is is mostly used for disguise, or more often as more amped up lethal methods of slayage. All this makes the stakes fairly high.
Abercrombie is also a very good prose smith. He has a particular style, full of stylistic word repeats, witty turns, and a sort of darkly comic tone. Don't get me wrong, these are pretty serious books, but the tone is a bit ironic. His characters are extremely interesting, highly flawed, sometimes self aware, and often quite amusing. Best Served Cold's prose is just ever so less slick than the First Law, and somehow its tone just a tiny bit less sarcastic. Then again, maybe it's just the absence of Glokta, a character from the longer books who really is exquisitely crafted (and darkly funny).
Like the bigger work, there are multiple POV characters. The story is told in rapidly shifting tight first person. Some of the characters are more likeable than others, but all are pretty fun to read. The opening chapters are very effective in particular with Monza, a female mercenary captain, who in the first few pages is betrayed and horribly maimed. Abercrombie loves a good crippling and swiftly builds sympathy for her this way -- but then he throws it mostly to the side by avoiding her POV for quite some time. The story still focuses on her, but its told by others. This felt like a significant lost opportunity.
There are also a lot of reoccurring themes and even "types" of characters. Shivers, along with Monza the most important character, shares a great deal in common with Logen Ninefingers. Say one thing of Joe Abercrombie, say he's consistent.
Overall, a fabulous fantasy action book with very human characters, but just a hair less great than the First Law trilogy. Also, while the novel is quite stand alone, it does explain/reveal elements of the world already explained/revealed in the earlier books, and certain major plot motivations could seem extremely mysterious to those reading it first.
After a 3+ year hiatus, I return to Brandon Sanderon's epic fantasy world. And if any new fantasy can be considered epic, it's certainly this one. PlaAfter a 3+ year hiatus, I return to Brandon Sanderon's epic fantasy world. And if any new fantasy can be considered epic, it's certainly this one. Planned at 10 books the first two are each over 1,000 pages! But don't let that scare you off. For fantasy lovers this is some serious entertainment.
As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, that book possessed some (minor) structural problems partially addressed in this excellent followup. Two point of view characters (Kaladin and Shallan) dominate the narrative, and while last time the ratio was about 70/30 it's now closer to 50/50. This improvement feels more balanced. Both stories are gripping and don't let up -- during those parts I didn't want to put the book down even for a minute. There is a small percentage of the story told from the POV of other major players. While not quite as good, these at least remained in the same theatre of action. Unfortunately a few "interludes" with one-off stories from people all over the world remain. These stand outside the main narrative flow and are a tad annoying. As an editor I probably would have cut/shortened most -- but they aren't too long.
I loved these books, but be aware this is no Game of Thrones with a fairly realistic world. It's alien. Full of strange creatures, terms, politics, magics and a dizzying and complex mythology that is as mysterious to the characters as to us. Therein lies one of Sanderson's many strengths as he doles out the answers to the mysteries at a satisfying rate without giving away the whole kit and caboodle. The writing itself is clear, confident, and polished. Not literary exactly, but quite first rate. And for a book with such a byzantine plot and titanic length, highly engaging and fast paced. There is a good amount of action and it's very well described. The powers of the Shardbearers and Surgebinders are pretty epic and you can really imagine them whirling through the air in complex battles. During the most exciting parts (usually near the end of the various "books" that break up the long story) the various narratives converge and alternate back and forth more rapidly in a tense and well engineered way.
All and all, I'm not sure these books are for everyone as they are imaginative to an extreme, but if you like made up worlds this is one of the best. It's highly complex, well designed, elegantly plotted, well told, and just a darn fine fantasy read. Few writers have the imaginative scope required to create such an exotic beast. The Stormlight Archive harkens back to Eddings, Jordan during their glory days -- but somehow much more modern.
Most of the good things about books 1 and 2 of the Gentleman Bastards are also true of The Republic of Thieves. The latest installment serves up gooMost of the good things about books 1 and 2 of the Gentleman Bastards are also true of The Republic of Thieves. The latest installment serves up good fun, great characters, and all that. Lynch again moves the setting, this time to the city of the Magi, Locke's bitter enemies from book 1. It brings into the foreground Locke's mysterious and absent former lover/rival. Again the story is told both in the present and in flashback.
The two timelines don't fit together entirely harmoniously. The present focuses on a contest/rivalry between Locke and Sabetha (his former lover) while the backstory details their childhood relationship and a long episode where the Gentleman Bastards crime gang played Elizabethan Actors for a summer. Partly, this addition feels gratuitous, like the pirate episode in Red Seas Under Red Skies, and certainly it exists because Lynch read a lot about this period and wanted to include it. It's also (IMHO) the best part of the novel. We get to see a few of our favorite dead bastards alive and well (the twins) and (briefly) Chains. Plus, it's just a fun romp and a bit of a caper.
And that's sort of the problem with the main story. The back and forth with Sabetha was great, but the "caper" wasn't really a caper. Both rivals are chosen by the Magi to run two sides of a strange election process -- which is entirely trumped up and serves as a human proxy for the nearly all-powerful Magi. It just never felt very real, urgent or exciting.
Still, it's an enjoyable book, and if you enjoyed the other two, read it. But The Republic of Thieves is a notch below its predecessors, perhaps 4 stars instead of 5.
The first book in this series,The Lies of Locke Lamora, was one of the better novels I read last year. Red Seas picks up right afterand avoids SophomoThe first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was one of the better novels I read last year. Red Seas picks up right after and avoids Sophomore Slump by switching up the scenario and the location fairly substantially. Our heroes have left their Venice-like hometown of Camorr and venture off to a new city (Tal Verrar) and a new (and even more elaborate) scam with even bigger stakes.
The first third of the novel is Oceans Eleven in the Renaissance, and it's real good fun. The world is enormously detailed and Scott Lynch is very sharp with the dialog. He has come into his own in this second book, as it's wittier than ever. There is a very slight overwriting to the style, but you get used to it quickly and the huge novel flies along. The dynamic between Locke and his partner/friend Jean is fabulous and they are very well drawn characters.
This is aided enormously by a series of flashbacks. In the first novel, which also crossed two timelines, it was a little confusing which was which. This time around, Lynch has clearly labeled the flashback chapters. Because the novel begins essentially in the middle of the current heist, these are used to fill in the setup and the complex relationship between the two men. Walking a delicate line, Lynch has to maintain his suspense by NOT telling us how exactly the heist is actually going to work. We are tolled out bits and pieces until the very end.
Then about a third of the way in we take a hard tack to starboard and enter a high seas pirate tale. The entire middle act is shipboard and has less to do (directly) with the heist of the . At first I was like woah, but hell, I like pirates and this was good fun. Somewhere in Lynch's brain there exists a different novel, about half the length, without the whole pirate part. You can tell this was self indulgent, that he really researched period nautical life and wanted to really use it. From a structural sense, the pirate thing isn't even necessary, but because this world and its characters are so rich, and it was so fun, I think it's a net win.
Hell the whole act of reading a fantasy novel is escapist, who cares if it's too long as it's a great read -- which Red Seas absolutely and definitely is. A pure pleasure and a work of delightful fantasy. Plus, so strong are it's characters, that it actually has a good bit to say on the nature of friendship.
Oh, and if you really like pirate fantasy two other favorites of mine over the years are On Stranger Tides and Wyvern.
The simplest pitch for The Lies of Locke Lamora would be Thieves World Venice. Fantasy often borrows heavily from history, and LLL is no exception. I'The simplest pitch for The Lies of Locke Lamora would be Thieves World Venice. Fantasy often borrows heavily from history, and LLL is no exception. I'd place the era as roughly 17th century. The book is set entirely in the fictional city of Camorr. It's got canals, bridges, Italian names, a Duke (Doge), nobles, masks, and pretty much all the trappings of the real Venince. It's also got sorcerers, alchemy, and giant towers built of indestructible Elderglass.
Like the brilliant Perdido Street Station, LLL features the city as character. This outing isn't quite as purely imaginative, but also isn't nearly as weird, and far more approachable. I'm a big Venice fan anyway, and so I very much enjoyed the feel. There is a nice balance struck here between atmosphere and pacing. LLL is a fast book with a lot of flavor. The underworld and the city proper are both excellently realized. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses into a well developed religion. Camorr is a city of 13 gods, and as such borrows more religious spirit from antiquity, but at the same time Lynch colors it with an extremely Renaissance/Baroque feel.
The novel is fairly focused. No Game of Thrones, LLL concentrates on a single hero and a few of his friends. It's written in a slightly bizarre third person omniscient, without a heavy distinct narrator, but feels free to flit around between time and characters (even if it hovers 90% on our protagonist, Locke). Interludes discussing historical aspects of the city or flashing back to (mostly) relevant childhood events in the lives of our heroes are frequent. While these stray from the spine of the story, they are entertaining and add depth. There is some slight of hand played with the chronology. Occasionally some action is undercut with the preparations for the same action in a way which is a little confusing.
At the prose level, Lynch is a good writer, with some style and flair. He does a nice job dotting the text with certain archaic words that lend flavor, but all the while keeping the text modern and lively. And he has a knack for deft and humorous descriptions. At the same time, there is a hint of anachronism. LLL isn't a Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell with pitch perfect historical tone -- but it is also much faster paced and transparent to the reader.
The action of LLL is part heist, part swashbuckling adventure, part orphan tale. Like a Venitian Ocean's Eleven, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Oliver Twist all rolled into one. The tone is quippy and cavalier, but also contains a dose of nastiness and torture (night that I mind). The dialog is full of zingers -- many hit, some miss. And often it sounds oddly modern. The plot is easy enough to follow but has a certain byzantine quality -- and more than its share of deus ex machina -- but essentially it all works. The action is fast, furious, and easy to follow. A dizzying mix, but one that works well.
I pounded through the second half (at 752 pages, hardly a novella) in one sitting. Flaws aside, it's fun and ambitious without being overwrought in scope. All in all, The Lies of Locke Lamora was no chore, instead a genuine pleasure, and certainly the best fantasy I've read this year!
Structurally, this book borrows heavily from The Name of The Wind. It opens with a box story about a famous military man and then slowly dolls out tStructurally, this book borrows heavily from The Name of The Wind. It opens with a box story about a famous military man and then slowly dolls out the (first) chapters of his long career, beginning with his schooling. Blood Song is well written, with solid practical prose that doesn't get in the way. There is none of the elegant and overwrought voice of the aforementioned Rothfus, or the descriptive nuance of Martin, but it's well written.
Even though the scope is big, this is a more focused story than A Song of Iceand Fire or A Wheel of Time. We follow our single hero fairly tightly (even if his life meanders). Except for the occasional return to the frame story there are no other points of view. Al Sorna, our protagonist, rises within a kind of military-religious brotherhood perhaps most akin to the Knights Templar. The world building is very solid and the author clearly knows something about the late medieval period. There are several religions and nations and they clash in a fairly realistic way.
The overall effect is one I'm still processing. I liked the book. A lot. It's one of the better epic fantasies I've read lately (and that is my favorite genre). The first third is great, during the youth and training of our hero. Some of the characters are excellent. My biggest problem is from about the 50-94% point. Here Al Sorna is commander of a big military expedition and the narrative became a little harder to follow. It's not that I couldn't tell what was going on from scene to scene, but they didn't fit together seamlessly. Unlike the earlier sequences, they also didn't seem to have the weight that I think the author was intending. There is similar stuff in The Name of The Wind (not so military), but it resonates much more emotionally in that novel.
I'll explain what I mean. Al Sorna has this "unrequited love of his life" (just like Kvothe and Denna in TNOTW), but their interactions, while fine, lack the heavy sense of tragedy of Rothfus' superior novel. It's not bad, but it just comes off a little weak.
The end of the book is good. There are two big "fights." But the sequencing felt a bit disconnected. And that's basically the thing with this novel. It needs editing. The parts are good, but the sum doesn't reach greatness.
As an after-note, I'm a little mystified as to how this book has such incredible ratings on Amazon. At this writing: 1003 total, 863 5-star, 108 4-star, 22 3-star, 7 2-star, and 3 1-star. This is very very slanted toward 4-5 star. Now, it's got enough good stuff going for it to be a 4 star novel, and epic fantasy unfortunately is full of some serious duds. But an average of 4.8? This is higher than A Game of Thrones which is the best series start in the last 20 years. I can't help but wonder what weird factor is going on here....more