A long time ago, a coworker recommended the Kushiel series to me because I was reading Confessor, and she said Kushiel's Dart and the series afterward...moreA long time ago, a coworker recommended the Kushiel series to me because I was reading Confessor, and she said Kushiel's Dart and the series afterwards were very good fantasy.
Oh, boy, was she off.
Calling this "fantasy" is a bit of a stretch. Only two characters display anything that resembles magic, a key element in any serious fantasy realm. It reads more like an alternate history of France, with politics and S&M elements thrown in.
Phedre no Delaunay, the main character, is a born submissive: she feels pleasure in pain. Subsequently, she is trained to be beaten, then listen to the pillow talk afterwards. Yay.
I didn't hate the book because of the sex, or the implied sex, or the whole "I like to be whipped" atmosphere around Phedre, though. I disliked it because of the major flaw that seems to crop up every time I read a fantasy novel written by a woman: no action.
When you reach a scene where there is fighting, Phedre, without fail, starts off with "I can't describe what happened next..." then skips to the end of the battle. Even a sloppy description would be better than "I have no idea what I was seeing, so I'll just tell you who won."
(...and it's invariably a protagonist. So much for suspense.)
Do not get me wrong: I have absolutely no problems with female authors in general. If someone knows of one who can write a great battle sequence, let me know, and I'll drop nearly everything to read it.
That's a pretty damned big "if," though.
The big draw of the book is the characters. They possess a depth rarely seen in mainstream fantasy, and even the villains are somewhat easy to relate to. I really wish several of the antagonists had survived to populate book 2, so I would have incentive to actually read it.
Bottom line: if you like a lot of implied sex, S&M, and politics, you might enjoy this book. If you come for anything resembling action, skip it.(less)
After reading several reviews, I'd like to clear a few misconceptions:
1.) This is not a good book to introduce you to WH40K. If you want a good entry...moreAfter reading several reviews, I'd like to clear a few misconceptions:
1.) This is not a good book to introduce you to WH40K. If you want a good entry point to the galaxy according to Games Workshop, get the Ultramarines Omnibus, the Space Wolves Omnibus, or start reading the Horus Heresy novels. They introduce the WH40K galaxy in much better detail.
2.) This is a book about war. It's not a kid's book, where a happy ending is almost mandatory; rather, it's ending is perfect for what the book is trying to communicate. I read 3 series by another, unrelated author in an unrelated universe, with wonkier endings than this one has, and they worked.
What it does right is tell the story of an Imperial Guardsman from induction, through part of basic training, to his very first day in combat. There are no frills, but plenty of symbolism is present: his homeworld is warm and colorful, yet the planet he fights on is cold and grey. It's basic, but again... it works.
What it doesn't do right is jump around in the beginning. You see nearly nothing of Arvin Larn's basic training. You know almost nothing of his social life before or during his Guardsman days. Worst of all, it almost loses the reader before they even reach the battle.
Once Scanlon gets you to the fight, though, he does an amazing job of painting the scene in the grimmest possible terms. This isn't honorable warfare, or even glory and heroism: this is dirty, muddy, bloody trench warfare in its basest form. The generals are incompetent, artillery is inaccurate, and it all ends in tears.
This isn't high literature by any stretch of the imagination. This is just an entertaining read to kill a few hours (maybe 15 of them?) between serious books, or a change of pace from reading paeans to the Space Marines. If you like 40K, you'll enjoy this book; if you don't, or have never tried reading in the 40K galaxy, it's still an interesting book.(less)