I listened to half the series as an audiobook. Add one star for the audiobook as this was very well done (and you can affReview Summary: Disappointing
I listened to half the series as an audiobook. Add one star for the audiobook as this was very well done (and you can afford to miss a large portion of narration without really missing much of the story).
Frankly that only reason I continued with the series was that fact that the world building wasn't half bad. You have a lost roman legion who setup a new society on another world/dimension where nature spirits manifest themselves a "furies" which are controlled by a communities of citizen sorcerers with a eugenics style breeding program to maintain and/or improve this power over their environment. Stir in several conflicts with barbarians (mongol style hordes, wolf men and ice men), and you do get an interesting backdrop for a story.
Book 1: The characters themselves seemed to be little more the exaggerated caricatures with very little nuance and emotional control. Sadly, this is a very similar style to how he wrote the Dresden Files, of which I am a fan; however, the style doesn't extend well into the epic fantasy motif. Too many characters and no enough obvious limits on plot development (a common probably with fantasy). After awhile, it felt like the "good" guys were perpetually "preaching" a limited point from a very weak straw-man position. It quickly grew tedious when it became apparent that the author was simply building his story from a collection of tropes and cliches. I truly found very little that was a unique contribution and that is where the bulk of my disappoint lies. All-n-all, it would be an okay youth fantasy story (right in the middle of the pack here).
Series: The main problem that I had with the series was that the storyline kept repeating with little to no character development and very limited world development. After about the 3rd or 4th time hearing that the enemy slammed into the defenders with "ruinous" effect, I had flash-backs to the Princess Bride when Montoya states "You keep using that word; I don't think it means what you think it means."
As a military fantasy ... the series is a complete failure (though perhaps my own military experience and awareness of military history makes me too hard here). I also found the over-arching plot development to be lacking discipline, as the protagonist and his allies frequently gets written into a corner where the author must break nearly all bonds of credulity to save them ... presumably to show of how clever they are. I just didn't see it that way; frankly this style of story telling is why fantasy as a genre has such a bad reputation....more
This book comes across as a highly formulaic effort for a basic fantasy story. If you have been around the block once or twice, you will recognized muThis book comes across as a highly formulaic effort for a basic fantasy story. If you have been around the block once or twice, you will recognized much of it. As one book club reader put it ...
Chris wrote: "When I read it, I thought of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser"
To which I would readily agree. Two altruistic thieves (it is fantasy after all); a big hulk of a fighter/swordsman complimented by a small, wiry side-kick. The former an unstoppable combatant juxtaposed against the talented shadow (and true thief of the pair). The word play between these two protagonists is really what made the book for me … and what initially drew me into the story to begin with (I read the free online excerpts). The rest was fairly predictable … at least I though it was. I was interested enough in the story to buy the sequel for the kindle and stormed through that as well (much better story actually) where I discovered that the author had really used a lot of the predictable storyline to hide a few twists of his own that were also quite fun (like an ancient wizard who is either an infamous evil or great champion (all we really know is that our heroes needed his help) … we find at a bit more about this in Avempartha. This also sets up an imperial church as a potential bad guy (without trying to hide any moral judgment about what is clearly modeled off the roman catholic church … everybody‘s favorite whipping boy these days). There were also a few unique fantasy concepts here that I found very interesting.
The story lost points in two places … for the most part, the author does a good job of not over-explaining things that happen in the story; however, the addition to the party of a monk with a photographic memory with the better part of the history of the world in his head was an obvious device for info-dumps; to which the author was not completely immune. Although the character was somewhat endearing (if fairly sappy), I would have like to seen a bit more skill weaving into the story and having the other characters discover/reveal smaller pieces. Finally the ending was less then satisfying for me … it seemed to rush through a good portion of it and did not appear to be as well thought out as the rest of the story (perhaps my inner engineer just could not suspend enough disbelief to buy into the whole tower scene). Still … this was a most excellent debut (I am already waiting to get book 3 of 6 in the series … it doesn’t get much better then that :-)...more