torsdag 26 juli 2012

The Dragon's Path

I wasn't familiar with Daniel Abraham, apart from seeing his name bandied around as one of the present-time great up-and-comers with his Long Price Quartet, before picking up the Dragon's Path after many recommendations. After some research I found that he had also written, under pseudonym, Leviathan Wakes together with Ty Franck which is another book that's been hailed as a second coming recently. But as I am more of a fantasy man myself, I chose to finally dip into this tome of Abraham's imagination.

Set in a fairly typical fantasy world, the Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham introduces a measured approach to what, at least I believe, will be an epic series of books. The world is revealed in small bits and pieces along the way as the characters progress. The world in itself seems loosely based upon the old italian principalities of post-medieval times. I've seen complaints that people feel the world-building has been stood to far in the corner, something that usually irks me, but I was swept away by the story so thoroughly that I hardly noticed. I've snuck a peak through a few reviews of the King's Blood (book 2) and the general conscensus seem to be that everything (well, mostly the parts you need) will be revealed in time.
Abraham's world map
“Stop!” the man cried in a deep and resonant voice. “Stop now, and come near! Hear the tale of Aleren Mankiller and the Sword of the Dragons! Or if you are faint of heart, move on. For our tale is one of grand adventure. Love, war, betrayal, and vengeance shall spill out now, upon these poor boards, and I warn you . . .”
The actor’s voice seemed to drop to a whisper, though it still carried as clearly as the shouting.
“. . . not all that are good end well. Not all that are evil are punished. Come close, my friends, and know that in our tale as in the world, anything may happen.”

Abraham writes a story beginning both in the city of Vanai as well as in the Kingdom of the Firstbloods, Antea. In Vanai the Medean bank faces a mercantile problem in the city's Prince who is at war with a neighbouring state and needs all the funds and men he can acquire. The Vanai angle gives us the POVs of both Cithrin Bel Sarcour, a half Cinnae girl of 17 and a ward of the Medean bank, and Marcus Wester, a cynical mercenary who's had a long fall from fortune and seeks a way out of Vanai without being pressganged.

In Antea we see factions vying for the King's favour one being led by Dawson Kalliam, the King's old friend and ally. Together with his allies he seeks a way to discredit his opponents at court before the power balance shifts.
In the field but heiring from Antea we also follow the young nobleman Geder Palliako's rise into prominence inspite of his own best efforts.

Abraham leads us on a chase as Cithrin and Marcus travel from Vanai and then into bank intrigues as they arrive in Porte Oliva. Cithrin's character goes through a dramatic progress from frightened teenager to a young woman who uses her wits and knowledge drummed into her as a ward to prosper in the new city. Marcus remains the stalward mercenary wounded and still tormented by his past. I've seen many reviews claiming this makes him a somewhat one-dimensional character but I believe part of this is because he is coupled with Cithrin who together with Geder Palliako goes through the book's most dramatic changes. He serves his purpose as a father-figure/reliable to give Cithrin something to cling to, some security which would seem essential to her eventual growth.

The court intrigues of the Antean court with  the Baron Dawson Kalliam at their heart are well written and somewhat reminiscent of George RR Martin's court, they do lack quite a few of the twists and turns though. Dawson is a traditionalist, something that gives his character that much more depth in the context of the story. You find yourself rooting for someone who to all appearances is an elitist bigot, but somehow you feel he is fighting for a just cause. Even if that cause is his King's life and trying to keep Antea what it is and always has been. The two, well not entirely, story focal points are tied finely together in short cameos and mentions along the way.

I'm looking at getting The King's Blood, book 2 in the series, with the next batch of books I buy. I would say for a first book in an epic series Daniel Abraham may have let a few people down with his world-building. Me, however, I was to caught up to notice. I can't wait to see the development of the anti-hero that is Geder Palliako with his new position at the court of Antea as well as Dawson's struggle in the face of the changes which are roiling underneath. I would recommend the book to most of my friends, and I feel that it's particularly good in that it serves quite well as an introductary book as well as being a must read for someone who reads a lot in the genre.


REMINDS ME OF: At a glance I would say the Dragon's Path is similar in style to the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. They share traits in the introductory style even if Lynch sets a far higher tempo towards the latter parts of the Lies of Locke Lamora.
It is slightly reminiscent of parts of George RR Martin's work with the focus on characters and the sparse use of magic but it reads more like an adventure story than a court intrigue in its entirety and is far from as brutal as a Song of Ice and Fire.

söndag 22 juli 2012

A long weekend

It's been a long weekend, and lots of time wasted that could have been spent writing or working on this blog. I suppose it shows that my priorities are somewhat in order.
I've done quite a lot of reading, and finished Orb Sceptre Throne earlier today, and I have to say Esslemont's writing is still evolving and it's been great going back to these familiar characters. Didn't realize how much I had missed them until I got a few pages into the book.

Can't say I'm entirely done with either review (The Dragon's Path or Orb Sceptre Throne) but I'll continue to plod away. This week I will be house-sitting for my girlfriends grandparents so no internet for the computer so will have definitive trouble getting them togheter but I bet you can wait for a bit longer.

Still deciding on which book to start on now!

onsdag 11 juli 2012

Anyone else excited?

Saw it on Twitter from Gollancz and confirmed myself on his website. Who can honestly say they're not excited about Abercrombie's upcoming Red Country?

I'm crazy with anticipation, in spite of the massive pile already giving me the evil eye.
Check it!

måndag 9 juli 2012

Throne of the Crecent Moon

I started Saladin Ahmed's debut novel on a whim as I had just finished Embassytown. The prologue pulled me in easily enough after I had fairly written Throne of the Crescent Moon off as a pastische on a sub-genre that has not seen many new talents lately.

But Throne of the Crescent Moon is so much more than that, in fact it is a quite lovely take on classic old Sword & Sorcery.

Saladin Ahmed has managed to create something new and entirely enticing with his characters Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed bas Raseed that works with the same dynamics as those which (at least my own) Grand Master of the Sword & Sorcery genre, Fritz Leiber, managed to create with his characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
The pair of world-weary Doctor and fiercely devout Dervish does well in giving a varied viewpoint of the story as it progresses. Their dynamics, though lacking some of Leiber's pairing's humorous moments, are encouraging enough. The backstory, the unfolding plot in the middle of threatening civil war as well as the eerie nemesis of the great Doctor are done admirably and I found myself having a real difficulty putting the book down, even with family calling from the pool.

Ahmed does really well in keeping the tone light-hearted enough in places but with dread overbearing in the presentation of the sinister characters and their bloody plans for the city of Dhamsawaat. While the ages old nemesis might feel like it's been done to death I would say Saladin Ahmed has done admirably in breathing new life into this old cliché as well. But I particularly liked the evil side-kick that is Mouw Awa, the manjackal, with a brilliant madness and fleshed out evil backstory.
The box opened in a painful blaze of light. The gaunt man in the filthy kaftan appeared before him. Beside the gaunt man stood his servant, that thing—part shadow, part jackal, part cruel man—that called itself Mouw Awa. The guardsman screamed. As always the gaunt man said nothing. But the shadow-thing’s voice echoed in the guardsman’s head.
Listen to Mouw Awa, who speaketh for his blessed friend. Thou art an honored guardsman. Begat and born in the Crescent Moon Palace. Thou art sworn in the name of God to defend it. All of those beneath thee shall serve.
The book begins as a murder mystery story where the Doctor and the Dervish is compelled to investigate the murders of a family out in the marshes outside the great city. Adoulla, being the last great Ghul-slayer, is sought out by an old lover's nephew who was witness to the ghuls even as he is contemplating his retirement from what he concistently calls a young man's fight. They hunt for traces of the man behind the ghuls, a magician of sufficient strength to make Adoulla genuinely scared for the future of his city. They are joined by another sidekick as the story unfolds. Zamia Banu Laith Badawi is a lion-spirit shapeshifter who acted as the Protector of her band, when they were slain by an ally of the man creating the ghuls stalking the city.
Zamia and Raseed serve as the muscle behind the Doctor's magic, depicted wonderfully and mysteriously in flashes of light and potency, which drains him thouroughly once he uses it.
There's a mythos behind the lion shape that ties Zamia's mission to Adoulla and Raseed's, they are all tools of God and the Ministering Angels in their war against the Traitorous Angel and its evil servants.

There are several further memorable characters of the cast, among them the Falcon Prince in open rebellion against the despotic Khalif secluded in his palace. We see the old couple of Litaz and Dawoud, alchemist and magician, who are previous partners of Adoulla though now retired in the city. As the story unfolds Adoulla and his now two side-kicks must call on the help of the old pair as the evil opposing them is too great.

Towards the end of the book events unfold at a rapid pace with Pharaad az Hammaz, the Falcon Prince, planning an attack on the Khalif's palace which conincides with the revelation of the power and legacy of the Throne of the Crescent Moon/The Cobra Throne amid the emergence of the Doctor's true nemesis, who is the master of Mouw Awa and a prolific servant of the Traitorous Angel. Everything seems to happen at once. I was a bit amazed at Saladin Ahmed's willingness to conclude the plot so quickly and with mostly everything wrapped up, but it definitely left a thirst for more even as you struggled to put into place everything that happened.

For me Saladin Ahmed's novel debut was a very good read and gave a much needed gust of fresh air into the Sword & Sorcery and Adventure sub-genre. I'm looking forward to seeing the second book in the series, which will hopefully build onto this debut and further add to the scope of Ahmed's vision.


REMINDS ME OF: Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber in it's engrossing depiction of a sprawling city just waiting to be explored by vivid adventurers and a plot that although light-hearted in nature delivers on the suspense and well-developed characters.

Sung in Blood by Glen Cook in that there are conspiracies within conspiracies as the fate of a city is determined not just by what is contested in the opening but also in mysteries slowly revealed along the way.

torsdag 5 juli 2012

Whoops! Where did the time go?

My humblest apologies, I had planned to have the review of Throne of the Crescent Moon up by monday or tuesday but life is still conspiring against me. I was hoping to get lots of things done this week since my significant other has been away working but, alas, I fell into Orb Sceptre Throne with what precious time I had over. Tomorrow morning (early) I will be leaving for Malmo and Copenhagen for a friend's stag party so no precious time.

I promise to have it as soon as I am able though, hopefully at the start of next week. I've begun on the draft for the review of the Dragon's Path as well.

Thank you for your patience, peace!