The Sword and Laser discussion

Night's Master  (Tales from the Flat Earth #1)
This topic is about Night's Master
186 views
Night's Master > NM: General discussion thread

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4282 comments Let's give Roberator his wish and stop posting in the announcement thread. So here's a general discussion thread to take its place.

I'm almost done with the book, now at 85% or so. My reaction: Whee oh whee oh! That's the "not my bag" alarm. This book was mercifully short. I anger-skimmed the part where (view spoiler)

I was fine in general where peoples' shortcomings lead to their doom, but where they were virtuous and still got screwed it increasingly bothered me. Then there was the constant thread of dazzled sex, coerced sex, sexual assault, and rape.

The language and construction were moderately interesting. It beats Dying Earth on that. But for both, the subject matter was just too violent and gross for me.

Tanith Lee has a constituency of fans who love her work. That group does not include me.


message 2: by Kenny (new)

Kenny | 31 comments This might be the first book for this book club I’ve started, and probably won’t finish. It’s prose is amazing but it basically feels like the Silmarillion with graphic sex scenes. The Silmarillion worked well for me because it was background on an already established work, the mythology for a world I already loved. This has just been a slog for me, not to say I can’t see why other people love it.


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments It took a while to get into the swing of the book, but I actually liked it. I can definitely see the comparisons to Dying Earth, which is also a book I enjoyed.

Some of the more flowery phrases were kind of wtf ("city gates opening to the conqueror"?) but at least the demons in this book behaved demonically, and I can appreciate that.

Not such a fabulous book that I will be seeking out more Tanith Lee, but I'm happy to have read one.


message 4: by Grimothni (last edited May 07, 2018 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Grimothni | 15 comments I agree with the above, this story didn't quite sate my Sword's hunger; and that phrase looks like I pulled it straight out of the text, so let me rephrase...

I found the book engaging without being enjoyable. Definitely a lot of thought from the author to create a world in which to set a series of stories, a mythos of sorts that reminded me of One Thousand and One Nights without the overarching Scheherazade plot. A bit too grimdark, very much too 70's in its sex scenes, too florid in the camouflage of the acts themselves.

(view spoiler)


message 5: by William (last edited May 07, 2018 09:49AM) (new) - added it

William | 434 comments My impression so far is: Beautiful language - repellent content.

I'm sure it's all intentionally horrific and meaningful - but when I say repellent, I mean like a magnet. I feel like there's a force actually trying to make me put the book down.

I've been meaning to give Tanith Lee a try for years, and I want to give her a fair try, but thinking of opening the book makes me shudder.

I'm really glad that this book was chosen - trying out different things is one of the best parts of Sword & Laser. Now I've had a taste of Ms Lee's work and that's great - I'm just not sure it's for me.


message 6: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2930 comments I've not read much so tell me, those who don't like it... how much of your dislike is the sex and how much is the setting or the non-sexual activities?


John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4282 comments There was some movement from 85% to the end and some moderately interesting developments, but not enough to save the book for me.


Melani | 183 comments Rick wrote: "I've not read much so tell me, those who don't like it... how much of your dislike is the sex and how much is the setting or the non-sexual activities?"

What non-sexual activities? I'm only kind of joking here. Just about every story revolves around sex (or rape, gosh this book has a lot of rape in it) in one way or another. I enjoyed the prose that Lee used, and the imagery she created, I appreciate the very diverse relationships she put in the novel, but in general the book as a whole was just not for me. Partly because the female characters, while well written, were extremely passive. Or evil, I guess there was one really active female and she went super villainous and was defeated by her vanity. Which isn't better now that I think on it. The book was fine. It was very 70s, but I'm not rushing out to get any more of Lee's books.

On another note. I was kind of bothered by the fact that this is an arabesque setting, clearly influenced by A Thousand and One Nights, but every character had pale or white skin, blond or red hair and blue eyes. I put it down to being simply a book of it's time, but it was something I started looking out for after the third or so character depiction.


Tasha I've been a fan of Lee since childhood. I haven't read her in years though. I was thrilled when this book was chosen; I hadn't read this one yet!
The writing style certainly feels like Lee. So does the subject matter. I overall liked this book, but not as much as others of hers. It makes me wonder if it is just this book, or if my interests have changed.
I loved Biting the Sun, the Paradys series, and The Secret Book of Venus series.


Colin Forbes (colinforbes) | 524 comments Maybe I didn't listen to Tom and Veronica closely enough, or I didn't read the book blurb properly, but I started the book expecting it to be a novel with a straightforward narrative structure, which it's not. It's a collection of loosely linked, quasi-mythological stories - not unlike Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology, which I finished reading recently. (But with much flowerier language!)

Once I had reset my expectations accordingly, I found it easier to stick with. It's just not the book I thought it was at the outset.

Should get it finished in the next couple of days.


message 11: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1254 comments Melani wrote: I was kind of bothered by the fact that this is an arabesque setting, clearly influenced by A Thousand and One Nights, but every character had pale or white skin, blond or red hair and blue eyes. I put it down to being simply a book of it's time, but it was something I started looking out for after the third or so character depiction

This bothered me too, and I only made it to page 14... I think if this were published today, people would cry cultural appropriation (and would probably have something to say about all the rape too). As it is, I guess you just gotta shrug and say “well, it’s of its time”.


Stephen Richter (stephenofskytrain) | 1391 comments I am taking it slow. So far, 40% in, I like the three stories as they remind me of tales of mythologies.


message 13: by Julie (new)

Julie (3x5books) | 110 comments Kenny wrote: "This might be the first book for this book club I’ve started, and probably won’t finish. It’s prose is amazing but it basically feels like the Silmarillion with graphic sex scenes. The Silmarillion..."

Spot on. I'm 20% in AND in the middle of a Silmarillion reread. Like Tolkien, Lee seems a bit inspired by Norse myth (there were some major Brísingamen vibes happening in one particular story, plus some Silmaril-esque enthrallment), but with 111% more (view spoiler). Leaning toward a Lem.


John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4282 comments ^ I am so glad to hear (not really a spoiler but refers to spoiler protected item)(view spoiler)


terpkristin | 4222 comments I've got a lot of the same frustrations as I've seen in this thread (no real plot, etc). But I've started looking at it as a compilation of short stories...it's helped (so far, anyway), but also helps justify putting it down after each chapter...


message 16: by Julie (last edited May 10, 2018 04:39PM) (new)

Julie (3x5books) | 110 comments John (Taloni) wrote: "^ I am so glad to hear (not really a spoiler but refers to spoiler protected item)[spoilers removed]"

I love Saga, which kind of features that sort of thing, but it’s handled better. It’d be hypocritical to Lem it for that. It’s just the squicky cherry on top of this uncomfortable sundae. TBH, a lot of grooming/coercion/rape rendered in florid prose isn’t what I’m looking for in an original mythological fantasy. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


message 17: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2930 comments Stephen wrote: "I am taking it slow. So far, 40% in, I like the three stories as they remind me of tales of mythologies."

Exactly. Just as in mythology the gods and demons are capricious and not human, viewing us more as playtoys than beings deserving of respect.

I"m at the same point, about 40% in and I don't understand the criticism of there being a lot of sex (there's one scene, the first in the book, so far) and while the story's dark, I can't see people who love grimdark stuff finding this too dark at all.


message 18: by Iain (last edited May 11, 2018 01:44PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1530 comments OK, just finished the audio book which was well read. The prose is enjoyable and sounds like it is written to be spoken. The rhythm of sentences flows very well. The only down side of the audible narration was that the narrator could not do accents and defaulted to a 12 yo girls voice for all the women which jarred with the subject matter (not exactly sexy).

I really disliked the subject matter. Demons are capricious and evil. Unfortunately, in these stories they obeyed no rules at all. This meant that al the human characters were stuffed no matter what they did.

I also hated that the human characters for the most part had no agency at all. Once something happened that was it. You either managed to stay good (the blind poet) or more likely, you became a bitter rage monster. Not one character seemed able to survive the events.

I was also thoroughly sick of hearing about perfect, slender pale beauty. Bah!!!


(view spoiler)

First and last Tanith Lee for me.


Ivi_kiwi | 87 comments I liked it. I regarded it from the start as a collection of short storys so i was not bothered by a lack of overall story arc.
I pictured the setting as kind of roman empire age.
The sex parts: i did enjoy those and i think they were nicely written.
Some parts were actually funny, ...
well i thought there were funny as they were so completly over the top.


message 20: by Elise (new)

Elise | 3 comments Kenny wrote: "This might be the first book for this book club I’ve started, and probably won’t finish. It’s prose is amazing but it basically feels like the Silmarillion with graphic sex scenes. The Silmarillion..."

Agree completely. I Lemmed this after 3 chapters. The characters were boring (although the Demon Lord did act the way I expect a Demon would act) and the humans were vapid. If anyone needs a copy, I will send this to you.


message 21: by Jen (new) - rated it 1 star

Jen | 230 comments John (Taloni) wrote: "^ I am so glad to hear (not really a spoiler but refers to spoiler protected item)[spoilers removed]"

That part squicked me out too.


message 22: by Tina (new) - added it

Tina (javabird) | 726 comments Ok, I started this a couple of days ago and I'm abandoning it after the first chapter. I think this should have had a trigger warning at the *top* of the thread.

I get some people might be into books like this, but I'm not sure why this was a book club pick.


message 23: by David H. (new) - added it

David H. (farrakut) It was a book club pick because Tanith Lee is a renowned author with a large body of work that hadn't been read before. Unfortunately, maybe we should've started with another book instead. Not sure why they picked this one instead of The Birthgrave or Wolf Tower or The Silver Metal Lover.


Joseph | 2333 comments Well, having read more than my share of Tanith Lee (she's long been one of my favorites), I think we'd have almost been guaranteed to hit at least a certain amount of potentially troublesome content unless we went with one of her YA books or something -- the narrator of The Birthgrave, for example, has this somewhat distressing tendency to get abducted/captured by warlords, tribal chieftains, etc., and then fall for them, possibly after some mistreatment.

Myself, I'm in the second major section of Night's Master and although I'm recognizing now that there are troublesome aspects to the story (stuff that didn't register, or at least not as much, when I was reading these books in the 1990s), I'm still very much enjoying luxuriating in the language and the imagery.


message 25: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2930 comments Man, some of you had better never read classical mythology. And for 'graphic sex' - yes, the first chapter has that (well, not graphic but explicit). I'm at 40% and that's the ONLY sex scene so far.

Look, I get if this triggers some of you due to personal experiences, but how many of you read grim dark stuff? If you do, why is it that graphic violence is OK, but sex is taboo?


message 26: by William (new) - added it

William | 434 comments Rick wrote: "Look, I get if this triggers some of you due to personal experiences, but how many of you read grim dark stuff? If you do, why is it that graphic violence is OK, but sex is taboo?..."

I think probably a lot of people aren't into "grimdark" (it's a bit grim and dark for me), but if you are, that's OK. Also if you are into Demon Lords looking pale and doing unpleasent acts - well good for you.

As for the mythology - yes I have a degree in Ancient History so I read a load of mythology and, oh boy, yes, those gods were busy. I can't say I read "those" passages for fun though.

I just don't like lots of non-consensual sex in my recreational reading.

I think it was great that this was a pick, I enjoyed learning about an author - even though I found out that this book wasn't my cup of tea, well that's great, I found that out, I expect a lot of S&L members will enjoy it and I'm really happy about that.


message 27: by Rick (last edited May 14, 2018 12:59PM) (new)

Rick | 2930 comments @William - I guess my point about grimdark is that it seems to be a subgenre that a lot of people cite as a favorite judging by authors that people talk about in What Else Are You Reading threads. But those books are violent and savage and to the degree that someone likes those but objects to this, I'm curious about the reasons why - not in a 'justify yourself' way, but in a 'why is one ok and the other disturbs you' way.

I'm also just at a loss for why people talk about the sex so much but I'm not done, so perhaps the back half of the novel has a lot more of that. As it is, this very much feels like an author writing in a mythological mode and because of that I'm taking the demon activities in the same vein as the gods in Greek and Norse myths - they're not human and it's a mistake to expect them to be bound by human mores but the contrast between them and humans illuminates the nature of each.


message 28: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1254 comments William wrote: "Rick wrote: "Look, I get if this triggers some of you due to personal experiences, but how many of you read grim dark stuff? If you do, why is it that graphic violence is OK, but sex is taboo?..<\i>

I think probably a lot of people aren't into "grimdark" (it's a bit grim and dark for me), but if you are, that's OK. Also if you are into Demon Lords looking pale and doing unpleasent acts - well good for you.

As for the mythology - yes I have a degree in Ancient History so I read a load of mythology and, oh boy, yes, those gods were busy. I can't say I read "those" passages for fun though.

I just don't like lots of non-consensual sex in my recreational reading.."
..."


I have copied-and-pasted William's response because it's exactly my response too - right down to also having a degree in ancient history!

I would also like to add that there is, for me, a BIG difference between sex scenes and rape scenes. I am perfectly happy to read graphic and extended scenes of consensual sex, but even a non-graphic rape scene sends me on the express train to Nopesville.


message 29: by Oleksandr (last edited May 15, 2018 02:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud Ruth wrote: " I am perfectly happy to read graphic and extended scenes of consensual sex, but even a non-graphic rape scene sends me on the express train to Nopesville. "

I think that the rape as it exists in our world is an extremely heinous crime. However, in this 200 page book this scene took less than 1 page (0.5%) and it was relevant for the development of the character. For comparison a story about a dragon, who kills scores of people is longer, but 'who cares about killing, its fantasy"


message 30: by Allison (last edited May 15, 2018 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Allison Hurd | 227 comments I totally understand wanting to avoid rape in stories and don't blame anyone for reading it that way. I agree there was a lot going on with that first scene, but I felt she was extremely careful of us, the readers, and spent considerable effort making it clear that between them, in this world, it was consensual. It's...possibly problematic, (view spoiler)but for me, personally, the context and the care shown to readers made it way less hurtful than similar issues in Octavia Butler's books, for example.

Also, yeah the second scene was a bit weird, but it's a myth, and if that's the weirdest it gets then we haven't even hit classic Greek myths weird yet!


message 31: by Iain (new) - rated it 2 stars

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1530 comments Ruth wrote: "William wrote: "Rick wrote: "Look, I get if this triggers some of you due to personal experiences, but how many of you read grim dark stuff? If you do, why is it that graphic violence is OK, but se..."

Grim Dark does not romanticise the violence. It adds a horrible realism to the violence that is absent from a lot of fantasy and gives a more accurate reflection of the cost of the violence. The violence in Joe Abercrombie's books is secondary. The reason it is grim dark are the complex characters of a type you would never find in high fantasy (where common means the lost heir to the crown working in a stable). In his works there is more respect for women than in Night's master ((view spoiler)).

Nights Master romanticises problematic sexual relations. From the incestual opening scenes to the many instances of sexual violence. Making it pretty makes it worse. This is up there with Thomas Covenent levels of icky.


Tasha Iain wrote: "Ruth wrote: "William wrote: "Rick wrote: "Look, I get if this triggers some of you due to personal experiences, but how many of you read grim dark stuff? If you do, why is it that graphic violence ..."

I don't think making it pretty makes it worse. I have trouble with any realistic depictions of violence and rape. When it's in a bizarre setting it feels more detached. I didn't have a problem with the rape in Lord Foul's Bane either; I disliked that book for other reasons.


message 33: by Rick (last edited May 15, 2018 03:07PM) (new)

Rick | 2930 comments Obviously I don't condone rape or sexual violence but this is yet another instance of SFF folks really being very narrow in what you all can read and tolerate. It's puzzling to me not because I condone the stuff in the book, but because I'd expect a genre audience to be able to understand the difference between fiction about a demon world and condoning that behavior in ours.

If one is only accepting of fiction written with modern sensibilities, appropriate representation and no truly alien characters, that's a very limited slice of SFF. Do I want good representation, an absence of bigotry and no abuse? Well... yes, especially in the actual world. But our genre explores other possible and impossible worlds. It's unreasonable to expect a story about a demon dominated plane of existence to conform to current western mores.

As for grimdark... while it doesn't prettify the violence, I still think it's odd to be able to read about explicit, ugly violence but be all "ugh, no, sex...".

Obligatory PS: Of course any individual may have had experiences that cause certain things to trigger them badly. I get that and am not attacking that reaction. I'm speaking more generally, as this isn't the first reaction I've seen here or elsewhere where SFF geeks seem to have a real issue the the truly alien.

PPS: One really important point for me is that this is obviously a kind mythological writing vs a regular novel. I'd be FAR less accepting of some of this stuff if it was the usual "Let's give the woman main character a traumatic background... Oh, I know we'll have her be raped/Let's make the evil guy bad by making him rape X" kind of trope. It's KEY that Azharn and his world are a different plane and very alien and god-like.


message 34: by Jade (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jade (darthjader) | 1 comments I wasn't at all sure how I felt about this book, until I reached the end of Book 1 and (view spoiler) and I realised that I must have become emotionally invested at some point without even realising. Well played, Tanith Lee.


Joseph | 2333 comments Finished it earlier this week and am now in the early parts of Death's Master (second in the series) and I have to say that I still love it, mostly for the language and the setting and the imagery. Although yeah, I do recognize an awful lot of aspects of the story that are problematic to say the least.


Fervor | 1 comments Finished the book, Did not have empathy for any of the characters. Was so tired of the words, "fair thin and silver" Then to end the book with the 7 daughters seemed like a publisher wanted it in the book, not the author.


Jason (jkb) (jkbe) | 79 comments The styling can be off putting but I did enjoy the read. It was good and definitely felt like it was 1001 Arabian Nights. But all in all as poetic as the language was it was sometimes hard to follow where I was and when. I don't think it's the fault of the author nor the narrator I just don't think it was a good audio book to listen to in the car. It would have been better if I set aside time and listened to it in my home office.


Matthew (masupert) | 215 comments I am not quite finished yet, but I am really enjoying this book. The style and prose is so different than anything else I have read recently. I like that it is challenging me and this brings back a lot of memories to when I read Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes back in high school. Everything about the subject matter and the way this is written goes against the sensibilities that we may expect in a modern book. The sensuality and sometimes brutality seems right at home in a greek myth. The gods are vengeful and it is really cool to see how heartless they truly are sometimes.


message 39: by Sarah (last edited May 30, 2018 12:09AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sarah (thesarahpalooza) | 13 comments There was all the elements of a book I would enjoy in this, and yet I struggled. I think it was listening to it as an audiobook, while on a train during peak hours, and all the poetic language.

While I understand where people are coming from by being turned off by the sex/rape stuff, its inclusion made sense to me in the setting Lee created.

Also, agree strongly with the people that got sick of the lack of diversity with the characters. These demons are supposed to be creating havoc all over the world, but everyone seems to be slender and white... Unless Lee is suggesting demons don't mess with POC? At least someone was giving us a break!


back to top