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The March North

(Commonweal #1)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Egalitarian heroic fantasy. Presumptive female agency, battle-sheep, and bad, bad odds.
ebook, 297 pages
Published March 6th 2014 by Tall Woods Books
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Graydon Saunders is one of those ancient Usenet RASFW refugees, like me. Some of that crowd wandered off to other parts of the Net and continued their commenting ways. A few wound up as SF writers (Jo Walton, Ryk Spoor, etc). Graydon is one of the former who has abruptly become one of the latter.

(If you're reading this post *on* Usenet, joke's on everyone who left, right?)

(If you're Graydon, sorry about that "abruptly". Seems that way to the rest of us, mostly.)

This is a strange book, and not ju
Nick Fagerlund
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is basically a military SF story but set in an unusually gonzo fantasy world. The protagonist, a brigade captain out in the boondocks, gets some cryptic orders and a transfer of some unusual units, the combined message of which being "there might be an invasion happening but we're not sure; here's 100% of the power we could spare without panicking the whole country and/or wrecking our ability to survive the OTHER ongoing crisis. Hopefully it's overkill, glhf." Spoiler alert, there is defini ...more
David Tate
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
If David Weber's endless infodumps make you want to scream, this might be the military fantasy for you.

Here's an author who doesn't coddle the reader, telling him exactly what to think and feel and expect. On page one, you're dropped into weirdness squared -- something extra bizarre is happening to people that you would already consider bizarre enough. Explanations happen, but in bits and snippets. A picture builds. You discover that words that you thought you understood (Line, Standard, weeds,
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Fredrik by: Leif Kjønnøy
Okay. This was not the easiest book to get a grip on, and it's probably not going to be the easiest book to describe, but I'm gonna give it a shot! Cause it's worth reading.

First, imagine that you're reading Master & Commander, except without any of the introduction to workings and terminology of a Napoleonic war era British navy sailing ship provided to the viewpoint character dr Stephen Maturin. Instead, it would be like reading the first person account of the operation by captain Jack Aubrey,
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books, fiction, fantasy
I feel like I'd better review this book after the author was nice enough to walk me through how to buy it from him. (Google Play is occasionally extremely unintuitive.)

This one actually took me several tries to get into -- I can imagine people bouncing off it -- but when I actually sat down and tried to read it today I read it straight through. It's military fantasy with no gendered pronouns (no, really), an interesting look at systems of government, obvious affection for the smallest details (y
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: very-good
This novel was really polarizing.

On one hand, it contains magic magic. I love that. Sorcerers in this universe are forces of nature by themselves, immortality is basically a given, and they could and have in the past destroyed armies, landscapes and nations by themselves.

On top of that exposition is kept to a minimum, which turns many aspects of this setting into intriguing pieces that I enjoy putting together.

That being said, there are too many things that remained confusing, that I missed, or
Jefferson Retallack
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Dense and fascinating. Probably best reread.
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I read books that make me very happy, so that I have to focus a lot to find reasons why other people would not be into them. *The March North* is not that kind of book.

Don't get me wrong: I like *The March North* a lot – but it's also immediately clear why people would not agree with me. The good part is: If you make it past the first page with a smile, you'll get through the book and possibly even like it. If you bounce off the first page, you won't miss out on anything. Saunders is c
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: scribd, 2015
Wow, how to describe this book?? Mostly it's a book about the following: battles; sorcery; magic; changeable and probably intelligent landscapes; demons; battles (again) and the aftermath of battles; sorcerers, but nothing you would see in Harry Potter, oh no; and a giant battle sheep named Eustace.

The first time I started reading, I was confused, and stopped. I could tell there was a story there I wanted to read. But the author drops you right into the story with almost no explanation or expos
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book, then read the two sequels, then reread the two sequels, then reread the trilogy - so, retrospectively, five stars.

The main attraction is the world-building: Take our world, add magic that lets a small number of people be Evil Overlords - and let a quarter-million years pass. The resulting world is *not* a medievaloid world with a thin patina of plot device. It's a world that's had a long time to evolve, and societies that have had a long time to learn how to survive a toxic mi
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: signal, indie
There's a story about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. It's said that, if you want him to like your presentation, you should write it up without including any background information -- just assume that he already knows everything about your chosen field. And then, after you've done the writeup, you should delete every third paragraph. He'll stay engaged by filling in the gaps in your story, and that way your presentation won't be boring for him.

This book reminded me of that story. The world of thi
May 26, 2014 marked it as gave-up
Maybe it didn't help that when I started this I was reading in fits and starts on a research trip; but then I put it aside in favour of comfort reading during travel and never went back to it. Possibly just not the right book at the right time in the right circumstances rather than anything wrong with it. ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this in 3 days, read the sequel, then immediately bought the other books in the series (4 total so far) and went back to re-read the first (this one). It is everything I like in military fantasy, and a very interesting look at how a decent society might survive in a setting plagued with sorcerer-kings.

Also, tea, knitting, and battlesheep.
Satya Prateek
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is written in a style that's intentionally obscure and/or frustrating. Expect to go into it thoroughly confused and come out with a sort-of, almost complete understanding of it. But if you enjoy military fantasy and are okay with books that don't coddle you, you should really read this. ...more
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Raj by: Banhe
Shelves: fantasy, ebook
I got this book recommended to me by a friend as the opposite of grimdark fantasy. I enjoyed quite a lot of it, but I did have some trouble with it at times. For a start, I understand the book was self-published, which is all very well, but I do feel like the author could have done with an editor at times; many passages felt obtuse and I had to read them several times before I had a decent idea of what they meant. Something else that I found grating was the deliberate refusal to provide genders ...more
Ry Herman
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, war-stories
This book is very popular in some circles; my feelings about it were very mixed, but I enjoyed it enough that I'm going to err on the side of that and give it four stars.

On the plus side, I did like being dropped into an unfamiliar world without explanation or context and having to glean what was going on by inference. It's also a very interesting world, with a lot of thought clearly going into the construction of it (although I thought it was interesting that Jane Fletcher explored some of the
I really wish I could give this book a higher rating. The writer did some interesting things with magic, world building, and gender, but the lack of explanation, and the all around obscurity for the sake of being obscure makes it hard to be more enthusiastic.

The magic system is unique, and far more intriguing than the typical Tolkien-esque knock-offs. It feels like the writer did some deep thinking about what the world would really be like if magic was abundant, and could be used by nearly every
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Egalitarian, optimistic, humanist fantasy, with military things but that isn't militarist. People trying to build and maintain a society you'd actually want to live in, in a real hellscape of a world (think nuclear post-apocalypse tropes but with magic, and you're in the right vein). It's a challenging read, it's first person, you jump straight in, and have to figure out the world because the characters generally don't stop to explain it, and the writer has a habit of writing long, mu ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, ebook
This one was OK. There were some aspects that I liked, but I think they were outweighed by the bad parts. I did really like the way that there were almost no personal pronouns, so you don't actually know whether most of the characters are male or female, and it's quite clear that it doesn't matter. I quite liked Halt. At the same time, none of the characters have much depth or development. I didn't find the book particularly well written, and you're left to figure out an awful lot on your own. E ...more
Jesse C
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Really interesting. Reminds me a lot of the Django series, but with a magic system reminiscent of the calendrical system from NineFox series. Writing is quite opaque at times. Even after reading a sentence multiple times it can remain impervious to understanding. Feels like a book where a good copy-editor would have earned their money. But it was quite enjoyable nonetheless.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is extremely dense, and it throws you right in without any introduction. I had to read and re-read sections before I understood, and am still realizing things on my third re-read. Not light fluffy reading at all.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good, different enough from the usual fantasy tropes to be interesting, but mostly in a mechanical sense. Less so in terms of plot or characters. Still an enjoyable afternoon though.
Marna Nightingale
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first book of the Commonweal series and I still love it.

Vasil Kolev
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nice read. The only issue I had with it is the language, it's pretty hard to follow sometimes. ...more
Dec 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Nice, interesting... but ... the terrible writing ... is it English?
Sep 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Written in a fashion I do not care for.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of The Black Company, CJ Cherryh, military fantasy
I found this book incredibly dense, in the exact same way CJ Cerryh's "Rasulka" was dense. Saunders goes for the same narrative style she used there (and that I remember from her run in Thieves' World - the characters don't bother explaining what they consider mundane details, and given the fantastical nature of the world Saunders has built, the reader is often confused as to what exactly is going on. Careful reading slowly draws a picture, though, and it's worth the effort. There is a lot of dr ...more
Bryn (Plus Others)
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spec-fic
I was biased to enjoy this, as I followed Saunders' writing on Usenet long, long ago and thus knew his mind to be full of fascinating ideas and unexpected ways of looking at things. And this book did not disappoint! It is clearly inspired by The Black Company series by Glen Cook, which is about a mercenary group in a world with super high-powered terrifying sorcerers; thatbook is definitely in the gritty grim dark grouping of fantasy, unusual for its time, and was a favourite of mine when I was ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
The odd writing style might be the biggest highlight, that's why I bought this based on the Kobo sample: written as if English were still an inflective language; it reminded me of Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake without the artificial spellings.

On to the world: The Commonweal is well-realized as is every little aspect of military life down to materiel and transport and coordination of infantry with spellcraft, which is cool. Also a society in a secondary world fantasy that's egalitarian, uses the Fre
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Supremely detailed, highly-embedded high-concept military fantasy. Lashed with competent characters, subtle hints, and blood-curdling ancient horrors which look like your grandmother. The plot was certainly enjoyable, the narrative drives hard, and the dry gallows humour was carried off well.

One thing I'm not sure about is the style. I'm not sure if it's the slightly pointed omission of all gendered pronouns, heavy use of semi-colons or the frustratingly varied mashup of conversational and acad
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