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The Year Of Our War

(Fourlands #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,270 ratings  ·  100 reviews
A superb work of literary fantasy. In a truly original imagined world of breathtaking, sometimes surreal, beauty, fifty utterly alien but disarmingly human immortals lead mankind in a centuries-long war. Jant is the Messenger, one of The Circle, a cadre of fifty immortals who serve the Emperor, and the only immortal - indeed the only man alive - who can fly. The Emperor is ...more
Paperback, Orion, 369 pages
Published 2005 by Gollancz (first published April 2004)
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Showing 1-30
3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,270 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

All this talk of "Game of Thrones" is making feel a little jealous. No, I don't want to read them yet, they're too fat and Martin doesn't look like he's going to finish anytime soon and there's so many other things to read. Tempted? Yes. I want swords and battles and magic and weirdness. Fine let's look at some fantastic literature on the interwebs…

Miriam has this book on her Goodreads shelf. I have this book, too. That's right, I wanted to read this many mont
Daniel Roy
May 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Boy, does Steph Swainston's first book come with a lot of hype. The quotes on the cover and back of the US edition include such cutting-edge authors as Richard Morgan and China Miéville himself. After reading these glowing quotes and finishing this book, I have a theory about cover quotes: writers give them only to authors that don't threaten their supremacy.

I read the book based on a short but positive recommendation from Emerald City, having otherwise been totally oblivious to any kind of lite
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookshelf

The Year of Our War is a second world fantasy series set in a medieval like country, that is ruled over by an emperor who grants immortality to 50 of the worlds best. These immortals rule their lands and lead the fight against the invading insects. The novel follows Jant, the immortal court messenger, and drug addict.

To start with, this was a book that took me a bit to get into, but maybe half way through I suddenly started really enjoying it and rushed through. The writing is fun, the chara
Apr 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Shaphron by: My Husband
This is one of my all-time favoutrite books - the characters are intersting and develop thorught the book and then the series - my Husband is of the opinion that the trilogy is in fact about Lightning and not Comet at all, and any book which has such good character progression in someone who is not (at least nominally) the main character shows fantastic care from the author.

Along with the character development, the world itself, as well as the concept of a select immortal few (no spoiler here, t
Francesco Lanza
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Questo è un bellissimo primo libro d'una saga ormai ben sviluppata, il cui genere potremmo definire tranquillamente "weird fantasy": in un'epoca in cui il fantasy classico ma appestato da elementi grimdark che sono nati stantii, Steph Swainston ci presenta un mondo originale, ma che non si sforza affatto d'esserlo a tutti i costi. Se apprezzate Brandon Sanderson e la sua creazione di mondi con regole balzane, credo che la Swainston l'abbia fatto prima e meglio, e al contrario di Sanderson scrive ...more
Pavlo Tverdokhlib
The Fourlands are locked in a bitter struggle with Insects- a generic Zerg-like entity that came from nowhere and is devouring the land, killing its inhabitants- Humans and the winged Awians alike- and turning the occupied territory into Paperlands, based on the appearance of the dwellings they build everywhere they go.

To counter them, the Immortal Emperor uses his Circle of the Immortals- individuals granted immortality for being the best examples of the different Aspects of war to assist the
Althea Ann
This book came highly recommended to me by a friend, AND it had a blurb from China Mieville on the front cover. So I fully expected to love it.
But - I just couldn't get into it.
I suspect that the aspects of the book that many readers interpreted as 'highly original' and 'weird' I just saw as poorly delineated usual fantasy.
It took a long time to be told who the characters are, where they are, what's going on, what their motivations are... and I didn't really see a point, narrative-wise, to be so
This book features some terrific prose. The writing is honed to a level rarely displayed in debut novels. Features a unique idea, and a very well developed protagonist.Miss Swainston offers some very interesting insights into the mentality of a junkie. Although there is an inherent flaw to her unique idea of having giant insects as the enemy; they aren't all that interesting and they can't have a point of view either.
I Liked this one considerably apart from the weird secondary world. I have a pr
Joey Woolfardis
Sep 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The premise seemed quite good, and I'm sure that's what pulled me toward it in the first place, but the execution terrible. I couldn't really keep up with the plot and found all the characters to be two-dimensional and quite difficult to get to know. They were just names on a page. I also didn't like the odd, blasè way the protagonist's drug addiction was handled. He took drugs, spaced out for about five minutes and then was absolutely fine and could have conversations straight after? The drug a ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012, e-books
2 Stars

I tried to enjoy this highly imaginative fantasy by Step Swainston, but it never got a hold of me. The setting is awesome and the landscape and world building are all top notch. The war with the insects could have been amazing but only was just ok for me. The characters are colorful and a plenty but unfortunately I never identified with or even cared about the main protagonist.

Honestly, I decided not to finish this book as I lost my interest in it. Maybe I will come back to this book and
Predrag Djokic
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spent much of my time with Year of Our War kind of annoyed and disappointed, but now that I've finished it I find myself looking back more fondly than I expected. It's a clever dark fantasy with a vaguely punk sensibility and some New Weird elements, somewhere between Perdido Street Station and The Crimson Empire, though not quite as pronounced as either. There are a lot of things going for it, but they're consistently undermined by things working against them. The character work is compelling ...more
Simon Mcleish
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in May 2005.

The Year of Our War, Steph Swainston's debut, does everything a genre novel should: it brings new life to familiar ideas, and has something unusual about it. The unusual aspect is not the plot, which is typical of the genre: the empire under attack from faceless hordes (known as Insects, which on occasion gives the story the air of a fifties B-movie) and can only be saved by the heroic acts of a small number of people. There are some interesting f
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read the first two Fourlands when they came out, but they fell off my radar somehow, which is annoying, because I really liked them, and now I like them all the more after years of Grimdark fantasies all over the place. So it's great to revisit the Castle and the Circle and rediscover what made them so fresh and exciting. Set in a world under attack from hordes of giant insects, united by an emperor who grants immortality to fifty individuals chosen for excellence in a particular field or skil ...more
Larry Crawford
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Year Of Our War” is the debut fantasy novel by British author Steph Swainston. It is a highly impressive book, even ignoring the fact that this is her first novel. It is highly original, entertainingly plotted and very well written.
It is set in “The Fourlands”, a setting which is unusual mix of medieval society with some early-20th Century trappings such as semi-industrialised cities and tabloid newspapers. The population is divided into two categories, the immortal Eszai and the mortal Ze
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I'd like this book at first, but the longer I read, the more it started to grow on me.

The basic premise is a world overrun by ant-like Insect creatures. God has left the world to men, but before he left, he gave an Emporer immortality. In turn, the Emporer granted a few mortals immortality. Their job is to fight the insects.

The main protagonist, Comet Jant Shira, is an Immortal, who because of his ability to fly, is named The Emporer's Messenger. Oh, and Comet's also addicted to t
Steen Ledet
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloriously imagined world but the story fails to grab me until the end.
Sadie Slater
I remember picking up and putting down Steph Swainston's debut novel, The Year of Our War, several times when browsing the SF section in Borders back when it first came out and was being talked about and reviewed; I thought it looked interesting, and I wanted to read more SFF by women, but I wasn't quite sure if I would actually enjoy it enough to give it shelf space. I eventually bought it on Kindle last year, and having now read it I agree that it was interesting, and it's good to read more SF ...more
Salman Mehedy Titas
Bought this for $2 at a book sale (mint condition, hardcover.) Now I'm thinking of ways I could've better spent that money.
Aug 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
In the distant past, god created the Fourlands, and then left the immortal emperor San in charge while it journeyed elsewhere. Two thousand years before the story opens, the world was invaded by the Insects, pony-sized ants (basically) which devour everything in their path and cover conquered territory with giant papery nests. In turn, San created the Circle, 50 individuals granted immortality for each being the best of the best at their specialty (thus we have the Sailor, the Archer, the Messen ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans de China Miéville
'El año de nuestra guerra' fue la primera novela que escribió Steph Swainston, un libro lleno de aventuras, con un punto malicioso, humor sórdido y algo de macabro en algunas de sus escenas, pero ante todo es un canto a la imaginación.

La acción se sitúa en la Cuatro Tierras, que están gobernadas por el Círculo del Castillo, presidido por el emperador San y sus inmortales. En este mundo habitan cuatro razas: los eszai o inmortales; los zascai o mortales; los rhydannos, extraños y veloces como fel
Jul 18, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No summary of the plot, because I didn't finish. I hardly managed to get through more than the first 50 pages, and that was a slog.

So, reasons. The opening is the worst I've read in a long time. We begin with our protagonist buying a newspaper in the first sentence. Which he then reads for the next page. This is info-dump at a wince-worthy level (and to make matters worse, the article he's reading isn't even interesting). Why not start in the middle of---or at least closer to---the battle that h
Daniel Fehrenbach
Pretty good start to a new/weird fantasy series. Setting is a world (maybe continent?) made up of several semi-independent areas that are under siege from an ever increasing horde of massive killer insects. Timeframe seems vaguely Renaissance-ish. The flip is that 'god,' (not capitalized in the story) who made this world has left it, and left it in the hands of a 'circle' of immortal beings lead by an Emperor. The immortals are made up of each person who is the best is the world at a particular ...more
Malice De'Ath
May 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: high-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Efehan Elbi
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read "The Year Of Our War" years ago, borrowed from a friend, and then once again just recently. Its taken me a while to understand why I adore it so much. There are plenty of reviews that tackle the contents, which run a strange mix of fantasy and reality together, whimsy and shocking violence.

But for me, its Steph Swainston's style.

Whether by design or not, her writing keeps me consistently on edge, never quite able to expect what is coming in the next sentence. Its disconcerting, and some
John Owen
I found this book hard going, and am delighted to have finally finished it. It very nearly ended up in the rubbish bin a few times. My trouble is that the basic premise of the book, a world constantly at war with vast implacable hordes of giant insects, is just lame. Rather like the similar premise of Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS, where the Bugs are extra-terrestrial hordes of implacable monsters, and just an excuse to riff on a militaristic theme. Swainston's world is a constant battlefi ...more
Tim Poston
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many things to praise in this book, that lovely bit parts are easily ignored:

"What was that?"
"Fibre toothed tiger. He can't bite you, it's like being mauled by fluff, but I've seen him pounce the length of the courtroom."
When you start to read this book, it's like someone spun you around and placed you in an unknown location, amongst a bunch of strangers. There are different species, but you don't know what they are or the differences between them, everyone seems to have several different names or titles, and you don't know what they mean or who is who...and so on and so forth.

This disorienting beginning, is a detterent from forging on. You do get a lot of answers in the end, but some things are left unexplained
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]My only substantial complaint is that I thought the book was too short for the large number of characters jostling for narrative attention. But various other bits worked really well for me; the narrator with his drug habit, the defenders against an inhuman menace turning on each other, the tension between mortals and immortals in a world where immortality is won by challenge. At first I feared that the habit of yet another unexpected revelati ...more
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