Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Labyrinth of Flame

The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer
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's review
Nov 14, 2013

it was amazing

I backed the kickstarter for the author Courtney Schafer to finished the trilogy after the publisher of the first two books imploded.

I've been reading this simultaneously with Anthony Ryan's The Waking Fire - this book's been finished in much shorter time as it's a shorter (though far from short) book, and I have a physical copy. When I'm forced to read on my laptop I'm very easily distracted.

Much like the first two (excellent) books this one is in essence a huge, complex, multi-part puzzle. Though even more so!

Schafer has developed an intriguing series of magic systems, spells, and enchanted items, all of which put various constraints on what the characters can and can't do. Much of the book involves the picking apart and putting together of this great puzzle to achieve the desired end goal. That sounds as if it could be a rather dry and technical exercise, but it really isn't. You have to remember that the puzzle parts include blood mages, demons, bone mages, secret temples, other planes of existence etc...

The books are also marked out by a lack of combat - nobody swings a sword, there are no macho heroes. This isn't a bad thing at all. It's quite refreshing and there's plenty of nail-biting action.

A third trademark of the series is the focus on mountaineering and climbing. In this book we're in a more desert-like area with lots of wind-carved stone spires, twisting canyons etc, all beautifully described and making me recall many of the photos Schafer posts on twitter of her own adventures around Colorado's mountains.

One thing I did note that I didn't think had been prevalent in the previous books (but I could have missed) is that in this book practically everyone in the story is painted as bisexual and poly-amorous. I've no problem with that and it makes the romance threads quite complex - it just seemed to have passed me by in the previous books.

Although the trilogy could in no way be described as grim or dark it's despite the content rather than because of it. The main villain is as scary and cruel as you'll find, his methods very disturbing. And the whole tale seems to involve our heroes at the very limits of their strength, exhausted, crippled, poisoned, miserable, desperate, with one thing going wrong after the next.

Even so, there's plenty of underlying hope. With the exception of the main villains pretty much everyone is goodhearted, kind, selfless, and self-sacrificing to an extra-ordinary degree. Even the ones who get in Dev and Kiran's way seem just to have chosen to sacrifice themselves for a different (not worse) cause. Once in a while the bastard in me did start to cry out for a selfish, cynical git to turn up.

Anyway, Schafer is an excellent writer and I really enjoyed the book. The story was compelling, clever, and satisfying. Hooray!

You should go and buy the first one. It's an under-appreciated trilogy that deserves a look.

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Reading Progress

November 14, 2013 – Shelved
November 14, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
February 18, 2016 – Started Reading
May 11, 2016 –
page 19
"Nice start. I always feel I'm in good hands in a Schafer book. The trilogy is really a big exercise in logical problem solving (albeit with spanners thrown into the works on a regular basis). Perhaps the author's engineering background showing through..."
May 27, 2016 –
page 309
"Great stuff, a mile a minute without actually getting anywhere! How the characters suffer :)"
May 30, 2016 – Finished Reading

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