August in Review: Sharp Ends, Blunted Keyboard Keys and Loads of Reviews!

Another month has passed, and with it I’ve grown a year older! Gasp, Filips age! I was shocked when I found out and I bet you are, too! At any rate, I had

I reviewed some fantastic books!

I read and reviewed a number of wonderful books. Let’s run down the list:

Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #2) by Brian McClellan

I missed my train station.
Brian McClellan’s Sins of Empire was among the finest novels published in 2017. I came to it blind, not having read Brian’s first Powder Mage trilogy, unfamiliar with a world that, soon enough would come to be one of the most treasured fictional realms I’ve ever resided in. I recall opening Sins of Empire up for the first time, on a train from Milano to Monza where I was living in March 2017. I’d bought the book on something of a whim, after glancing through a review on the r/fantasy subreddit. It’s a short trip, from Milano to Monza, barely twenty minutes.
And I missed my train station.
That’s the sort of magic Brian McClellan works into his writing. You forget everything but the page you’re on, and then there’s the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. His Powder Mage work is escapism at its finest, and it’s enchanting and addictive.

This was a wild read, and I wrote a review I was very happy with. Adding to that, to my utter amazement, the thread I made on reddit blew up! Even author Brian McClellan took notice and stopped by! One of the blogging highlights of August, even this whole year.

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski

I had a lot of fun with this anthology. It’s a retelling of some of my favourite fairy tales with one of my favourite gaming protagonists in recent times:

Ah, Geralt of Rivia, how I love thee. With the CDProjekt Red games behind us and the Netflix show soon to come, now is the best time to finally acquaint myself with Andrzej Sapkowski’s signature works.
 The Last Wish is an anthology chronicling six of the Witcher’s adventures, a seventh one interspersed between them. These are good stories, one and all – though a few are not without issues. Most of them are based on familiar fairy tales – “A Grain of Truth” incorporates many of the elements of Beauty and the Beast, while “The Lesser Evil” borrows from Snow White – offering a few different interpretations of that tale, in fact, each one darker than the last. Even those not directly based on existing material borrow from folklore; so, for example, the eponymous story, “The Last Wish” begins with the discovery of a djinn. That is, with the sole exception of “The Voice of Reason,” which, as the connecting tissue between all these other stories, is wholly the author’s own.

The full review is over on booknest.eu.

Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn. Man, that’s probably the first author whose work got me into sci-fi, however tangential Star Wars is to proper science fiction! For the full review, click here; and if you want a taste, read on:

This novel is a return to form for Zahn after last year’s Alliances. Not that I didn’t enjoy that – but where that book suffered over a few issues, the chief of which were underwhelming (for the most parts) sections during the Clone Wars. Treason works because it goes back to the basics element that make the Grand Admiral so compelling – he’s a brilliant tactician who studies his enemies through a variety of methods and then dismantles them one piece at a time, using not brute force but their own weaknesses against them. We never see the Chiss Admiral’s inner thoughts – even when we spend some time in his head, what we get is how he perceives the world, as an observer; impartial, almost. Analytical, disciplined and entirely too alien.

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie 

I love Abercrombie. So much, in fact, that I wrote a 2250 word review of this brilliant anthology! Here’s a review of one of the short stories within:

The Fool Jobs

Curnden Craw is among the last straight arrows in all the North. This, I learned reading The Heroes. However, you don’t actually need to have read that novel to have a grand old time with this. It’d work well enough as an introduction to Craw’s crew, even if you haven’t had the pleasure; this, for example, is the first time Craw himself sees Whirrun of Bligh in action. To those unfamiliar with Whirrun, think, ‘barbarian, possibly insane, with the father of all two-handed swords in his hands, crazy funny’. Craw’s Dozen is chock-full of memorable characters, several of whom different from those familiar from The Heroes.

Something else I loved was the irreverent take on sorcery – it’s signature Abercrombie and like the rest of the story, it’s chock-full of laugh-out-loud moments.

Wonderful, Craw’s Second-in-Command, is as wonderful as her name implies – and damn quotable, too:
‘…Don’t get too comfortable, though, eh? If the rest of us come to grief these Fox fuckers’ll track you down before our blood’s dry and more’n likely cut your fruits off.’
Raubin’s sigh rattled to a quick stop.
‘Cut your head off,’ whispered Never, eyes all scary-wide.
‘Pull your guts out and cook ‘em,’ growled Jolly Yon.
‘Skin your face off and wear it as a mask,’ rumbled Brack.
‘Use your cock for a spoon,’ said Wonderful.
They all thought about that for a moment.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just crude as sin but this exchange between the band of bloodied warriors and the cowardly courier bringing them their orders had me cracking.

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

A really fun Discworld novel, even if I didn’t enjoy this particular B-plot as much as some of the others in previous novels. For my full verdict, click here:

The star of this book is Susan sto Hellit, the granndaughter of ol’ bonebag himself. Susan, an orphaned girl in an all-girls school, is called to the greatest Duty ever — to fulfill the shoes of her grandfather, of whom she remembers next to nothing. Susan is sixteen, and taught to trust the ways of logic — a ludicrous enough preposition in the Discworld, but what can you do, education ruins young people nowadays, wrote the 23-year old. When she’s forced to take on her grandfather’s mantle as the personification of Death, Susan who is now mid-way between an abstract concept and a human being (difficult preposition, as I well know, being on the crossroads myself), she rebels at the unfairness of it all, the terrible cruelty of senseless death.
Meanwhile, in good old Ankh-Morpork, Imp y Celyn is a lute player from Quirm, a young lad come to search for the greatest city on the Discworld. Pity him, finding Ankh-Morpork instead but what can you do — sometimes, the trouble finds you. What trouble is, in this case, is a guitar with music in it. And not just any music, but music with rocks in which is to say, rock music. And the Discworld is far, far away from ready for such a thing. Music is a rhythm, the rhythm of life, of all the universe — and an overwhelming one, at that, the sort of force that’s bound to stir up human hearts and minds. And it does, oh how it does.

The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang

…Which apparently has more than 16 THOUSAND hits! What?! Here it is!

I’ve found my favourite standalone fantasy novel of 2019.
I always have difficulty speaking about the fantasy books that win me over as completely as The Sword of Kaigen has. When you come across greatness, your first instinct is to fall silent.  But damn it all if I’m a slave to my instincts! I’ll talk about M. L. Wang’s latest novel, hell, I’ll scream about it from the rooftops if that’ll get anyone to listen!
Before the screaming begins, here’s what you need to know: this is a fantasy novel inspired by Japanese warrior culture with modern-day elements which are more often talked about than seen – satellites, planes, info-com devices and broadcasting towers, to name a few. The magic system is elemental, reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender but with the added benefit of being aimed at adults and not constrained by a PG rating*.

I read some great articles, essays and blog posts

I spoke at length about these here and here, and you should, too! I regret not having the time to write more posts like these over the last few weeks — I haven’t really read too many articles, I’ve prioritised indies and audiobooks lately.

And still more reviews, these ones tiny, tiny, tiny!

I spoke about The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White, Of Mice and Men, and Marx the Humanist, all in one succinct post. I really enjoy writing tinier reviews sometimes — the big ones demand hours of concentration and in-depth study and mini-reviews allow me to speak about books with frank brevity, which is a different kind of fun altogether.

What’s Next?

I’ve got quite a few really fun reads ahead of me — Red Country and A Little Hatred by Abercrombie, The Dragon Republic by the brilliant Rebecca F. Kuang, as well as the excellent Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray ; God of Gnomes , Wrath of Storms by Steven McKinnon, and eventually, as soon as I’m done with Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun in full, I’ll talk plenty about that, most likely in October. There are yet more indies I would like to cover — time will tell when I’ll get to Banebringer‘s prequel, Sweetblade by the wonderfully talented Carol A. Park. And many, many more.

On the graphic novel front, I finished Monstress Vol. 03: Haven by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, as well as Wic/Div: Year Three by Kieron and McKelvie and will eventually talk about them too, right over here on the Reliquary.

Oh, and lest I forget, I’m part of a book tour on September 11! Looking forward to telling you all about this month’s victim A Different Time!

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie – Book Review Excerpt

This review is posted in full over at booknest.eu! It’s my longest ever review, and I’m wondering whether to publish each of the short stories as a separate blog post over here at the Reliquary. What do you think?

Anyway, here goes:

Abercrombie’s prose is exceptional. His First Law novels are as successful as they are not only because of the unforgettable characters and the breathtaking twists, or because of the brutal world he’s created, one of the sheerest bloody realistic depictions of a world I’ve ever encountered. He’s one of my favourite authors, and for good reason – I’m not pledging to be impartial, but I will do my best to contain my enthusiasm over the next few paragraphs! Okay, lots of paragraphs. Lots and lots of paragraphs.

I’ll say a few words about each of the short stories in the collection, starting off with whether it’s recommended or downright necessary to have read any of the First Law stand-alone novels to get what’s going on.

A Beautiful Bastard

Colonel Sand dan Glokta is a bastard. To anyone who’s read the First Law trilogy, that’ll come as no surprise. He’s a damn likable bastard too, owing to the fact that he tends to wax poetical about life and it’s many and terrible injustices, which Glokta goes on to perpetrate in the course of one of the finest fantasy trilogies. A Beautiful Bastard is before all that, before the Gurkish got their hands on the finest fencer of the Union and ruined his body. Hours, if not minutes before, to be exact – this story takes place on the day when Glokta’s self-aggrandizement leads him to lead a doomed defense on a bridge being overrun by the Gurkish.

The story draws you in quickly enough, and then it thrashes you around with one of the finest descriptions I’ve ever read:

But Glokta was an utter bastard. A beautiful, spiteful, masterful, horrible bastard, simultaneously the best and worst man in the Union. He was a tower of self-centred self-obsession. An impenetrable fortress of arrogance. His ability was exceeded only by his belief in his own ability… Glokta was a veritable tornado of bastardy, leaving a trail of flattened friendship, crushed careers and mangled reputations in his heedless wake. 
His ego was so powerful it shone from him like a strange light, distorting the personalities of everyone around him at least halfway into being bastards themselves. …most committed followers of the Gurkish religion were expected to make the pilgrimage to Sarkant. In the same way, the most committed bastards might be expected to make a pilgrimage to Glokta. …He had acquired a constantly shifting coteries of bastards streaming after him like the tail after a comet.  (5-6)

This is exactly the kind of Abercrombie prose that shines and glitters on the page. The ironic undertone, the sheer emotional charge of it; and at the end of the day, it encapsulates his character at this point in time so well.           

And of course, if the description wasn’t enough, Glokta finds a perfect way to show how much of a spiteful bastard he is to the only true friend he’s had, Goleem West, who just so happens to be one of the finest side characters Abercrombie wrote in the original First Law trilogy. Oh, and there’s Corporal Tunny who will be known to anyone and everyone familiar with The Heroes. He’s the best. And the worst.

This story was the perfect kick-off to an anthology filled with Abercrombie. My score for A Beautiful Bastard is 4.5/5 – because it’s the perfect comfort food of First Law stories, because the style and voice and prose are as sharp as the pointy end of Glokta’s steels but it doesn’t add any new, unknown dimensions to the tried-and-tested Glokta mix.

Small Kindnesses 

Do I need to read any of the standalone First Law novels to get what’s going on? Nope, this one is quite alright with First Law trilogy knowledge, or even without it!

“Small Kindnesses” introduces us to Shev, a thief of great skill and some renown, and to Javre, The Lioness of Hoskopp. A young Severard (one of Sand dan Glokta’s right-hand men) makes an appearance too, though it’s hardly something more than a cameo. Shev’ though barely entering her twenties, is already tired of the thieving life and is actively trying to get out of it when, of course, the local crime lord’s son has to drag her back into it. So Shev does a job – and she does it fairly well, top marks for the way the action scene is written and for Shev’s crabby luck – but some people just aren’t happy at all with what they get, and our thief ends up in a tight spot. There’s a lot going on in here, and Javre and Shev have incredible chemistry as soon as both are on the page together and conscious. 

What’s even more excellent is, the story of Shev and Javre doesn’t end here – no, this is just the beginning of some of the wackiest adventures in the First Law universe! We’ll get back to them when we get back to them. 4.5/5 – because I know how much more hilarious the pair’s adventuring is about to get.

THE GREEK MYTHOLOGY BOOK TAG

You read it here first, folks. I’m doing a book tag! I saw this tag done over at Bookdragonism and I decided I HAD TO HAVE SOME OF THAT ON ME BLOG! It’s about books, it has so many needlessly convoluted categories and I love every single one of them, so let’s crack those knuckles and get categorisin’!

Zeus (God of the Sky) – Favorite Book

Giving me the impossible choices first, eh? Whichever one I pick would be followed by wheeping, regret, a minute-long search for forgiveness from my own personal gods and an eventual acceptance that I will never find the favourite book this category demands.

It’s Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

If you haven’t read Abercrombie…you should. It’s better than doing drugs, I’ve been told. That said, running out of Abercrombie novels is an agonising experience.

What’s Best Served Cold about? A brilliant general by the name of Monza Murcatto is betrayed by her contractor and left for dead only to survive under the unlikeliest circumstances. From this point onwards, Monza gathers up a team of murderers, poisoners and unhinged mercenaries to exact her revenge on the men who betrayed her.

It’s the Count of Monte Kristo on drugs!

Poseidon (God of the Sea) – A book that drowned you in feels

The end of Fitz and the Fool’s adventure was the most I’ve cried over a book in…well, since just about any other Robin Hobb novel. There’s something about the way she writes that squeezes every emotion out of me; Hobb takes her time to build up these real, three-dimensional characters full of emotion…and then she drops the hammer. It’s not G. R. R. Martin twists I’m talking about here, it’s something that runs much deeper, a succession of events that touches you so profoundly that it changes you.

Hades (God of the Underworld) – Favorite Dark book

Have you heard the good news? The Black Company will soon have a TV show of its very own, helmed by Eliza Dushku. If that doesn’t excite you, you might not be familiar with The Black Company and the influence it has had on the fantasy genre. This is the series that, more than any other, paved the way for the grimdark subgenre of which some of my favourite books are part of. Steven Erikson, writer of the great Malazan book of the Fallen, drew inspiration from the Black Company — as have many others, myself included. The Black Company’s first three books are an absolute fantasy classic written in a prosaically economic style and filled with unforgettable characters.

Hera (Queen Goddess of Family and Marriage) – Cutest Couple

Josh Erikson’s Hero Forged series of urban fantasy novels is one of my favourite discoveries of this year. Fate Lashed, the second book in the series, continues the fantastic dynamic between main character Gabe and his special succubuss friend, Heather. They’re not quite a couple per se, but they’re cutter than anything I’ve come across, that I can promise you. The dynamics between these two characters are the emotional center of the series and…it’s one of the best relationships I’ve come across in many, many years of bookwormin’.

Athena (Goddess of wisdom and Battle Strategy) –Favorite intelligent heroine

Art by: sgcassidy

One, Monza Murcatto from the aforementioned Best Served Cold. Two, Tattletale and Skitter from one of the most brilliant works of fiction to ever grace the Internet, Worm. Skitter and Tattletale are each brilliant and dangerous on their own, the two combined become an unstoppable force. Skitter controls bugs, her ability allowing her to pick up and unpack the information they relay to her. She’s also got a tactician’s mind, allowing her to use all that info to deadly and glorious effect! Tattletale, meanwhile, has an amazing powerset that’s…the coolest. I won’t spoil it in case you decide on reading for yourself but the two of them together…wildfire.

Gaea (the Great Mother a.k.a Dirt Face) -Favorite world building book

I have difficulty believing anyone could ever surpass the sheer scale of the world created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemon. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is amongst the most ambitious stories ever told; its scale is mind-boggling and humbling. I burned through the flagship ten-book series and have barely touched the world since, but there’s nothing quite like this dark, gothic world, filled with unforgettable characters, breathtaking magic, and a message of mercy, humility and salvation that’s like nothing I’ve ever read.

Aphrodite (Goddess of Love and Beauty) – Most gorgeous cover

Benedict Patrick weaves wonderful folktales in his Yarnsworld. The novels in that world get better and better — Benedict is one of those authors whose skills you can observe growing further and further, and that’s wonderful. In addition to that, he’s got a brilliant cover artist! The cover above is stunning, isn’t it? The other covers follow this template but each one has a twist of its own, and they’re all the sort of thing you want to make a poster out of and stick it up a wall! Oh, there’s an idea to offer Benedict…

Ares (God of War and Battle) – Most Violent Book you’ve read

The Malazan Book of the Fallen, again. The violence here is brutal, and worse. It reflects the best AND worst of what humanity is capable of; but every time violence is used, it is used for a purpose. Often, brutal, horrible things happen in the world of the Fallen; it’s a dark place, filled with merciless and powerful individuals.

Hephaestus God of blacksmiths and flame) – Hottest book you’ve ever read

*Sniggers uncontrollably*

Artemis (the Virgin Goddess of the Hunt) – A Heroine who doesn’t need a man to save her

I’ve waxed lyrical about Monstress over and over. Maiko Half-wolf is one of the most badass protagonists currently in print — hard-headed, possessed of incredible willpower and broken by the horrors she has been through. Anyone stupid enough to take on her is doing so at their own peril.

Apollo (God of Music, Light, and Healing) – A Book that is the exception to a genre you don’t like

I…don’t actually have genres I dislike. Sure, I don’t read romance but…I don’t read romance. Don’t have an exception to that.

Hermes (god of messages, travelers, and thieves) – A book that stole your heart

How can the plight of a man who loses his wife and is forced to undergo an utter transformation in order to find her in a tower ruled by corruption and iniquity do anything less? Josiah Bancroft’s story not only stole my heart, it stole my imagination, as well.

Hestia (Goddess of the Hearth and Home) – A book you go back to for Comfort

Any of Yahtzee Croshaw’s audiobooks are comfort food for Bad Times*TM*. Yahtzee is unapollogetically funny in his ZeroPunctuation reviews, and he’s also a gifted developer, if his recent Developer Diaries are anything to go by. He’s also a talented writer–though his very first novel didn’t grab my fancy, both “Jam” – a story about strawberry-scented cannibalistic jam — and “Will Save the Galaxy for Food” made me laugh uncontrollably for hours upon hours.

Demeter (Goddess of Agriculture and Fertility) – Favorite book setting

I’m probably toothing Steven Erikson’s horn too much here, but hell, if anyone deserves it, he does! Besides, a wonderful setting and brilliant worldbuilding go hand-in-hand.

Dionysus (God of Wine and Ritual Madness) – A Book you’re Absolutely Crazy About

I wrote about this book on reddit and got nearly 500 upvotes! I love Brian’s flintlock/epic fantasy world, and there’s so much I want to say here but…I’m working on an essay to share my thoughts in full.

Nemesis (Goddess of Revenge) – Favorite Revenge Story

I know I’m repeating myself, but there’s no way around it.

Nike (Goddess of Victory) -Best Series Conclusion you’ve Ever Read

Pure, undeniable catharsis. I swear, my tear glands were working on overtime, that’s how emotional and powerful this conclusion is.

Iris (Goddess of the Rainbow) – A Book with LGBTQ+ Main Characters

What a great effin’ debut this was. The main character, Mahit, is a human in an inhuman society, hungry and distrustful of it all at once. Poetry and beauty conceal a politically complex theatre of intrigue in A Memory Called Empire, and if you’re interested in reading more about it, you should click here for my review.

Hecate (Goddess of Magic and Witchcraft) – A Book With a Unique Magic System

I could have picked any one novel by Brandon Sanderson — all of his magical systems are well known for their uniqueness and internal logic; Brian McClellan is a disciple of Sanderson’s, in that he did his Creative Writing course and the style Brian writes in is reminiscent of Brandon’s. Powder Mage and its sequel trilogy, Gods of Blood and Powder, has not one, not two, but three unique magic systems; the first destructive and based on elemental control; the second is the eponymous powder based magic system, which enhances the abilities of these mages far beyond the abilities of your everyday human; and the third one is a sort of blood magic, which is scary. Very, very scary.

Hebe (Goddess of Youth) – A Book you Loved to Read as a Kid

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” I have read about the spinning of the wheel more than once and it is…the most nostalgic world for me. More than Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Mistborn, Amber. Rand, Perrin, Matt, Nynaeve, Egweene and everyone else’s adventures

Wellp! That sure took a while, but it also gave me plenty of reasons to wax lyrical about the wonderful, miraculous world of HORRIBLE TERRIBLE HIGH FANTASY NOVELS THAT WILL EAT YOUR SOUL AND FESTER IN YOUR MIND. You should read all the books I mentioned, is wot I’m saying.

Excitement OVERLOAD! – July Edition

GAAAAAAH! Hello! I’ve been thinking about what book I’m most excited to read next, and it’s actually not a difficult decision at all.

It’s funny, too, because I’m reading Abercrombie’s Sharp Ends right now and rather than sate my appetite, this short story antology set in the First Law universe is making me all the more excited.

A Little Hatred picks up in the familiar world of the First Law, decades after the conclusion of our first trilogy, with a generation of new and, I assume, deeply flawed characters who will be coming into conflict with all-new threats to the Union. We’ll see familiar faces like Sand dan Glokta, King Luthar the Not-So-Blond-Anymore and who knows who else! Are you excited, I’m excited, me, me, me!

Joe Abercrombie’s writing only gets better and better and I am so looking forward to all the delightfully horrible ways in which this latest bloody book will blow my mind. No one writes quite like he does and I can never get enough of his words. They’re downright divine, if you ask me!

It’s coming out in just over a month and a half, on September 17! Who’s aboard the hype train with me?!

Inspired by Lynn’s Book Blog, and this blog post, in particular.

Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

bnfd-square-orig.jpg

Once upon a time, I read Half a King by Joe Abercrombie and was quite fond of it.

Half a King was a wonderful entry into the unique brand of subversive storytelling Abercrombie is famed for. It was a thrill to go through but now that I’ve read four of the six First Law books (the First Law Trilogy and ‘Best Served Cold,’ which introduced me to one of my all-time favourite female protagonists)  I can safely say, the First Law is what  food is to the prisoners of a Siberian penal colony!

You’re impressed by my uncanny ability to make up weird and frighteningly specific similes, I know.

Just before I begin the review in earnest, allow me to say…I finally read it! I’ve had this trilogy for a shamefully long period of time, without ever touching it for reasons that elude me and defy reason! With this out of the way…

What’s the Blade Itself all about? Ask our old friend, Homer, and he’ll give you an excellent answer: ‘The blade itself incites to deeds of violence*.’ See? Even Homer read The First Law trilogy. It’s that good! It incites even the temporal laws of the universe to violate themselves!

The world of the First Law will, at first glance, seem no more or less alien than any other epic fantasy world you might’ve explored. A great and wise Magi is to be found, a bloodthirsty barbarian fights for his survival, a cruel Inquisitor tortures both the guilty and the innocent for his own advancement, and a young nobleman and soldier prepares for a test of skill, which can see him become champion of the Union.

Dig deeper, and you’ll discover few things are as they first appear — Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta is a man deliciously cynical but to whom there is more than is readily obvious; Logen Ninefingers, a blood-thirsty barbarian by reputation wants nothing more than to leave that reputation behind; our young, dashing officer Lothar is as cowardly as he is pleasant to look at–and oh, how handsome he is. Even our wizard hides within layer upon layer, every one stranger than the one before it. The only character who doesn’t seem to go against my first impression of her was Ferro, the fugitive slave from Gurkhul, the Union’s Southern neighbour and favourite country to go to war with due to reasons way too complex and spoiler-y to explain here; and I quite understand a former slave wanting nothing more than to murder her former slavers.

Dozens of other characters, both likeable ones and absolute bastards are to be found within the pages of The First Law.  None lack in character, none come off as anything less than real human beings with their own motivations and goals, and those come off starkly in conflict with what our protagonists are attempting to accomplish. The conflicts can be very clear-cut, with impressive battle and chase scenes; other times, they’re much more discrete, happening during spectacularly written pieces of dialogue which may leave goosebumps all over your body.

Abercrombie’s battles deserve mention, both for the excellent description and the cost they exact upon the characters who take part in them. War is not without cost, regardless whether you come out on top and the author makes a wonderful job of illustrating what a toil war bears.

Possible problems you might have with The Blade Itself:

  • The plot moves slowly. I never once had an issue with that, because it didn’t feel like pointless build-up to me; exciting and interesting events happened throughout, but we did spend a lot of time in a single city, setting things up; totally worth it in my opinion, but some people are less patient and might not find it as enjoyable as I did, or at all.
  • You might not like the characters. But then again, that’s the risk with every book ever, so why am I drawing this out?!

The Blade Itself is a book about a few different things, and those work really, really well. It’s a character-driven story, a tale about a monarchy besieged on all sides by enemies just as all those enemies move to attack it; it’s a book that sets up one of the most subversive and genre-flipping stories I’ve read in recent memories; and it’s a treat of excellent worldbuilding that never once threatened to overwhelm or bore me.

Perhaps I was wrong to review it only after reading the entire trilogy and appreciating, in retrospect, just how well a number of mind-blowing events are set-up. If that is so — that’s my cross to bear, innit?

One last mention — the city of Adua, where a large portion of this book takes place, makes for a really awesome set piece. It’s majestic and beautiful, but deeply corrupt–three things I want in any city worth visiting! #visitAduanow

PS Yes, the cover above is from the audiobook version. I haven’t listened to it, so I can’t speak to the level of narration; the image was the most high-quality one I could find on the Interwebz.  Feel free to check the audiobook out, if that’s your thing, or if you spend three hours a day in a car, public transport or by train. Go trains!

Thank you for reading! I’ll be back soon with reviews of Before They Were Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings. If you enjoyed this review, please click that ‘Like’ button, and don’t be afraid to Follow me! Have you read the Blade Itself? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!  Go grimdark fantasy! Whooo!

 


*Quote in the Odyssey is from the beginning of book XIX , and is, depending on the translation, either For iron by itself can draw a man to use it’ or ‘Iron has powers to draw a man to ruin,’ both of which aren’t too far off from the quote presented above andat the beginning of The Blade Itself. It’s likely that Abercrombie mixed and blended the two translations, adding a bit of his own magic, which I’m all for.

 

 

 

Thursday Recommendation: Half a King

Joe Abercrombie is a master of subverting expectations.

I have yet to touch Abercrombie’s most well-known work, the First Law trilogy, although I have only heard good — Nay, great — things about it. Now that I’ve read the first book in the Shattered Sea trilogy, I am more than looking forward to that experience.

Half a King is just this good. The tale of Prince Yarvi, cripple king twice betrayed, is not a light one by any means. Cruelty will be your near-constant companion, and descriptions of filth and stench and the near-unfathomable depths of human hatred described will surprise on more than one occasion.

At its heart however it is a book about camraderie, friendship and loyalty. Loyalty to a myriad of oaths of vengeance, often enough…but loyalty none the less.

Let’s see what our characters are like…We’ve got:

  • a merry band of slaves running away from their owner;
  • a likable main character by the name of Yarvi who learns cunning and survivability the hard way;
  • unexpected growth in characters who seem sleazy and selfish to begin with;
  • plot twists enough to make you step with one leg in the grave;
  • and more!

Half a King is an emotional tale of a young man finding hidden reserves within himself, strength enough to survive where few in his place would, time and time again — all to take vengeance on a monstrous act of betrayal.

I bought it in a Kindle Deal of the Day for $2 dollars on a whim, and at the recognition of Abercrombie’s name; if I knew I’d enjoy it this much, I would’ve bought it long ago, for its full price.

A warning, though — the beginning is somewhat slow, and it took me a few chapters to get hooked. As soon as that first major plot twist happens — that’s when I was in for the long haul.

I am very much looking forward to reading the second part in the trilogy!