Book Reviews

Half a King Wrap-up: A lesson in negotiating

With a subtitle fit for the art of the deal I am pleased to bring you a review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie and Fitch. While it is widely acknowledged by no one that I am a prodigy in the over-saturated written book review game, if you would like to hear a truly stellar breakdown of this book in a different format I would like to announce that the third episode of the Swords and Sports podcast is up and ready for your listening pleasure. This week I have a guest so if you hate me you will hate him even more. Don’t be a bitch, give it a listen and give me your raw opinion until my comments section gets pregnant.

https://swordsandsports.podbean.com

Shameless plug aside, my mistake upon partaking in this book was that I failed to realize that it was actually meant as a Young Adult book so right off the bat I was confused as fuck. This was supposed to be a novel from a prominent grimdark author that was going to shock and tantalize my sense with scenes of graphic violence coupled with gritty personas but instead I read a classic orphan king revenge tale that would have entertained me when I was, well, 12. Which happens to be the audience for this.

Georgey is clearly lying.

The story is about the one-handed prince named Yarvi who gets placed on the throne (I had originally spelled this “thrown” which is funny because he gets thrown off a tower) when his dad and brother get clipped. He is king for possibly a week when he unceremoniously gets betrayed by his uncle. Yarvi is by all accounts the most unfit person to be king of a viking esque kingdom because he is a little depressed, cry baby bitch. And that is putting it lightly. The guy is a born whiner.

Look at that little cry-baby loser. To be honest I am just saying that because it fits my narrative but if we are all in the trust tree that armor is badass.

He already decided to become a knock-off Maester which in this book is called a Minister but as a king he does a terrible job and winds up as a slave, ending up as a rower. Which for a one-handed dude is quite a pickle. After a quick literary montage he becomes this wise, hardned teenager and with the help of his friends, which happens to include an uncle that fails to announce that he is his fucking uncle they eventually get revenge.

You may question why I rushed through that, the answer is that from the second you start this book you can pretty much see the ending. The First Law Trilogy has arguably one of the greatest twists that I have ever experienced in fantasy, but as I mentioned this is a YA book so it basically hit a formula and filled in the details. I will point out some highlights. The character Nothing is pretty cool. Hating on Yarvi is also a ton of fun. He is the worst negotiator of all time, which is ironic because his mom is some kind of money wunderkind. He essentially trades his entire kingdom to some other viking king for like a 30 minute distraction, then when it comes time to pay up completely reneges on the deal. He also is trapped in a snow bank with a girl he likes and completely fails at closing the deal.

Because of all this the rating is obvious. This book is as virgin as it gets. Your judgement has come to pass. Also listen to the podcast.

Book Reviews

The Warrior Prophet Wrap-Up: Kellhus or die

With such a grim title it pains me to have to pair it with an exciting announcement. Due to the love of hearing the sound of my own voice I finally was able to scrape up enough equipment, technical know-how and free labor from a trapped significant other to put together an accompanying podcast. Media moguls start from somewhere and this was the logical next step.

Click below to listen to me grace your earbuds with the silky, sultry sounds of the greatest fantasy podcast out there. I promise it is not a virus!

https://swordsandsports.podbean.com

Did that have anything to do with The Warrior Prophet? Of course, as the book was the main subject of Episode 2 of the Swords and Sports podcast! So like that shit, listen to it, subscribe and please send any feedback to either the @swordsandsports accounts on Instagram or Twitter or email me directly at swordsandsports@gmail.com

While it pains me to have to cringeily ask for all that stuff I really am looking for feedback or trolls so don’t hold back.

The Warrior Prophet picks up directly where the last book left off, with the Holy War about to begin. Instead of all that setup my man R Scotty 2 hotty Bakers dozen gets right into the war and all it’s majesty. The best parts of this book are the emphasis on detail for both the political and military maneuverings of the Holy War. It really gave such an excellent feel for strategy and what being a part of it was like. Such a well done book I finally can see what the hype was all about. This is a significant improvement over the last book, which seemed to really become a slog in the middle of it. We get a lot less of the Emperor in this one, which automatically makes it better because his story line was pretty boring.

The Holy War and the Men of the Tusk are certainly not boring though. Achamian goes from a kind of whiny wack-ass spy in the first book to a drunkard philosopher in the beginning, to a warrior magician by the end and that transformation is really satisfying to watch because he was a fucking snooze for a long time. His obsession with Kellhus and his anointing of him as the Prophet were his main highlights in this, along with having a magical puppet that sliced the throat of a cat. His love for Esement despite her taking hella loads all the time is quite annoying but he redeems himself when he finally decides to start baking fools.

The best characters are by far Kellhus, and a step below that, Cnauir. Cnauir was one of the better characters in the first book, even though I am firmly against the barbarian with a brain trope. His ascension to the top of the Men of the Tusk command structure and subsequent fuck-up of aforementioned command was a great plot line to follow. His internal struggle to constantly battle the top minds in the book, Conphas and Kellhus, was one of the better psychological battles. He is one dude who has no chill. Also ritual scarring is fucked up I am way too pretty for that shit.

But all roads eventually lead to our title character: Kellhus. This guy is a fucking awesome dude. He is the definition of 2013 Drake’s chart topping song “Started from the Bottom.” I originally put 2017 but when I looked it up I realized that holy fuck I am getting old. Moving on. Kellhus begins this book as a sort of sideshow to Cnauir but through careful maneuvering, manipulating, and fucking people up becomes a separate entity that develops a cult-like following and becomes the face of the franchise by the end. Some of the stories of his training are awesome, like he went into a room with his old teacher where all these people are on stretchers with their faces stuck in various expressions. Kellhus has to identify the expressions and what creates them. Sickly and dope.

He also does shit like properly predict the outcome of a battle, finds water in a desert (I wrote dessert at first, HAHA words), acquires not one but two girlfriends which while I think is a terrible idea it does belay a certain cool factor, and eventually leads a group of fanatics seizing control of the holy war. On top of being an incredible swordsman that single handily holds the command position on the battlefield while everyone else ran, he is just a real swell guy. His lack of morals and emotions is a plus as well.

Did that tell you anything about the plot? Nope but once again if you listen to the podcast you will get wayyyyyy more recap then you ever could have imagined. O yea this book is chad to the max.

Book Reviews

The Grey Bastards Wrap-up: Half-orcs create full fun

Crushed that subtitle.

In order to begin this bright and glorious new year on the right note I decided the first blog of the year should be this magnificent review of The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. French Lottana as he is known in certain circles has crafted one of the more (or less?) ambitious worlds that features your standard Tolkein fantasy characters and gives them a Son’s of Anarchy twist. I am sure you are asking how that works and my answer for you is it just does. I am realizing the Lottana joke doesn’t work until you know that the series he is writing is titled The Lot Lands. You can proceed to admire my cleverness now.

I have never watched Son’s of Anarchy, I only mention it because Frenchy does in the beginning of the book, so for the sake of making sense that is the last I will mention it.

This book absolutely excels in the world building, I found it the perfect mix of familiar and engrossing. Jonathan follows the kind of industry standard of fantasy species, he has elves, orcs and humans all of which have some beef. There are centaurs and weird gnome like things too but in terms of main species you got your three right there. What makes this story interesting is the idea of half-breeds, kind of like when Saruman creates the Uruk-hai but in this case you can breed elves and humans with orcs. This creates half-orcs, who as to be expected are smaller then regular orcs but bigger then humans. A big part of the book is that all these half-orcs are products of orcs raping humans or elves, since it doesn’t seem like the other two species ever try and pick up any female orcs. This essentially leads to an entire group of half-orc bastards. Due to the title of this book, can you guess what color they are?

The half-orcs, like many bastards, are unwanted by their unloving fathers and not exactly beloved by the human or elf societies, so they are kind of relegated to living in this barren like land that is a buffer between orc land and human land. Of course orcs living in the barrens is it’s own kind of trope but whatever it works and it is fun. They organize the barrens into different lots which are controlled by various half-orc clans ruled by a clan master.

I feel like Jonathan had so much potential with this story, he creates an awesome world, his characters are well-developed, the history of the inter-species relationships and conflicts are great, and the dialogue is good enough. The only failing is the kind of repetitive plot and sort of predictable ending, but even that to me was quickly overshadowed by the world he creates. I mean it isn’t the most original concept to prevent an orc incursion but here we are. He has a fun writing style and keeps the action moving, which is important because a story like this would start to suffer if it got bogged down in inter-clan politics and other meaningless trifles. He gives just enough backstory to flesh out the world and keep us engaged. Also they all ride supped up warthogs like they are horses and shoot crossbows like they are pistols, which is pretty fucking sick.

All in all a very enjoyable read and an excellent way to kick off 2020. Gotta rate this book as a Chad book. Anything that starts off with a naked half-orc female in a whorehouse fresh off a night of enjoying the house wares shooting a human with a crossbow is headed in the Chad direction. Barely coherent, run-on sentences all year baby.

Book Reviews

The Name of All Things Wrap-up: A chorus of success

Terrible subtitle but you know what, if you can’t tell by my lack of blogs lately I am a little rusty. No excuses though.

So what we have is the followup to Jenn Lyons The Ruin of Kings, which if you may recall, I loved. Usually the second book in any series is the worst one, especially if it is following up a book that has initial success. Not to say they all suck, but there is usually a drop off in quality as the author seems to struggle to create another unique story and tie it in to whatever shit happens in the first book while setting up for a longer plot line. That being said, another method to take is to just not continue the story until the end, and tell a backstory of another character entirely. That is kind of what George R.R. Martin does with books 4 and 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire. If you couldn’t guess, that is the method Lyons takes.

The Name of All Things is another wild attempt to throw every fantasy element and trope into one book and hope it succeeds. And just like the first one, I found it a blast. Not as good as the first book but I would call it a grand addition to what is turning out to be an awesome series. I feel like this series is a great introduction to adult fantasy, and if I was in high school I would have thought this was the greatest thing I ever read. Not saying it is Young Adult, because it definitely has more sexually charged elements and grim brutality that wouldn’t fly in Hunger Games or some other corny shit. I more mean that the constant adventure and bloody action that isn’t bogged down by political machinations and talking about trees in vivid detail are perfect for someone who reads at an adult level but has the attention span of, well me.

Our main character in this book is Janel, who apparently is one of the four warriors or something of some prophecy. We are treated to her backstory, where she has been cursed by that demon Xaltorath so that she has super strength and every night when she falls asleep she goes to the afterlife and fights demons. Pretty cool shit. She of course runs into Relos Var and gets into some shenanigans including also fighting a dragon, meeting gods, learning bad-ass magic, and fucking people of all sexes or no sexes, this book has a lot of stuff on gender.

I found the Joratese people to have a cool culture that is based on respect and dismisses gender norms. I think Jenn Lyons kinds of beats us over the head with the gender stuff, but I learned a little bit about it so I guess it achieved it’s purpose. Eventually there is a huge battle at the end where Kihrin, Janel and gang fight a mega dragon made of swords, where they are . . . well read the book and find out I don’t feel like spoiling this one.

In the end I gotta say, I am thoroughly enjoying these books and can’t wait for the next one, which fortunately seems like I will get the chance to read next year. Lyons has an impressive work ethic. I love that she once again used the footnotes thing, this time much more for comedic relief then for filling in knowledge gaps. Some of those footnotes were funny as fuck. As for the rating, total chad book. The irony being I think Jenn Lyons would absolutely hate to see her book rated on a scale of wimpy male to alpha male but there is no denying its place.

To end this thing I just want to comment, I actually read the hardcover version of this, which is extremely rare because I normally only read e-books. The book is missing a reference mark in the text to call out the 7th footnote in one of the chapters. If anyone else notices it please take a picture and comment. It drove me god damn crazy.

Final Notes: I am debating doing a mega blog recapping everything I read this year and highlighting things I really enjoyed and really hated but it seems like a lot of work so I don’t know yet. It is a good way to seem like I am so smart for reading a lot, but does that weigh out the corniness of writing a year end roundup. O the struggles of being a blogger that no one reads. I promise this week an audiobook recap is coming. Maybe.

Book Reviews

The Darkness that Comes Before Wrap-up: A prophetic title

A series that always, always, always pops up on any list of top fantasy, whether it is epic, political, dark, or grimdark, is The Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker. This series never appears on the top of any of those lists, it is more like a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope series, meaning that you need enough players/books to fill up a roster so there ya go. From what I understand there is a rapid fanbase for this series, as I am sure there are people who think Kentavious is ready to take a leap or is the perfect guy to take your team to the next level, but those people are dumb. But like his name is fucking Kentavious. I actually came back to this paragraph after finishing this blog just to say that.

Now that is not to say The Darkness That Comes Before is a trash book, it had a lot of positives and got significantly better towards the end, hence the subtitle referring to the prophetic title of the book. The prologue was a little dense, but I got real hyped thinking I was about to read something great. The book is supposed to be about this holy war that mirrors some visions this sect of wizards have about a time of some earlier apocalyptic war and how we are about to have another apocalypse, but what it really is about is this one dude named Anasûrimbor Kellhus.

Lets make no mistake, the books success and allllll my enjoyment of it is entirely based on Anasûrimbor Kellhus. He is a fucking awesome character, my guess is if you don’t like him you hate this book. The book starts off with his kind of origin story, he has some dream about his dad and leaves this kind of monastery that raised him to be some super warrior/monk/psychologist. I am positive you have 897 characters in your head that already fit this description so I will do my best to explain why he is so awesome. His superness doesn’t come from having great fighting skills (which he does have), or some magical powers (which he doesn’t have), but rather from his ability to understand and manipulate the human psyche.

From the beginning he does things like observe the muscles in the mouth twitching to ascertain whether someone is being truthful, or links something someone said to some trauma that happened in their past to predict future behavior. The monkness part comes from his crew that preach the “Logos” which essentially means take the shortest path to success. He uses his abilities to manipulate a woman into loving him, an intelligent barbarian into joining him, and an entire noble class into accepting him as a prophet. As an aside, I really am tired of the intelligent, thoughtful barbarian character, but this version of it isn’t terrible.

All of this sounds very trope-y but in this case Bakker succeeds mightily. There are a lot of other story lines, the main two follow this guy Drusas Achamian, a wizard that belongs to a school known as The Mandate and the second the Emperor with his nephew Conphas. The magic dudes all belong to different schools, The Mandate is the school that has visions of the last Holy War which of course are being played out again. Conphas is some genius commandeer who is also a master politician. Both these things pale in comparison to Kellhus.

It is hard to imagine that a book which really has pretty lame action, a predictable story line, and a run-of-the-mill plot can be enjoyable, but Bakker’s special skill is creating these incredible characters. It is the depth and the creativeness of the characters that really leave you wanting more. I was dying to get more of Kellhus because I just found him to be such a fun read. His journey across the various stages of the holy war were must read, the other parts, especially the beggining shit with Achamian were pretty standard and actually leaned on boring, but if you could put up with that stuff the gold comes towards the end. It seemed like at some point Bakker knew he had something special with Kellhus and rode him to success.

Did this review tell you anything about the book? I don’t know, it was kind of just some ramblings. It is legitimately a good book, nothing special. I didn’t know this until I literally just added the cover into the blog, but my guy Steve Erikson endorsed it with that quote on the front. If that gets you to buy it then the marketing team has done their job well, if not then these fantasy book review blogs are prob not for you. I rate this as neither virgin nor chad, which seems like a very virgin thing to do. Thems the breaks when you are in the blogging game. Gotta keep yourself honest.

R Scott Bakker is an alllllll time fantasy author name. Easily top five no cap. Shout out to me for finally understanding basic photo editing and making a somewhat readable rating chart.

Book Reviews

New Spring Wrap-up: Springing me deeper into the Wheel of Time

Trash subtitle, not a trash book. New Spring is a Wheel of Time novel and serves as a prequel to the Wheel of Time series. One may question what would posses a man who has spent 100+ hours listening to the WoT audiobook series and writing about it weekly to also pick up a prequel book to the series and to that I have a simple answer. I am not a wealthy man and this book was offered by Tor as a free e-book. Being a man that quite enjoys both the WoT and free things, this was a match made in heaven.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was quite the mindfuck listening to the audiobooks during my run, I think I was listening to the second or third book when I read this, and later on reading about events that transpired 20ish years prior to the start of the series. Felt like things were hopping around a lot.

So this book follows some of the best characters in the WoT series, Moiraine (I think I actually spelled her name right on the first try) and ya boyyyyyyy Lan Mandragoran. Set twenty years before we are introduced to fuckwad Rand, the book opens up with the oft mentioned Aiel War wrapping up. It’s funny I just listened to a part of The Shadow Rising where both Gaul and Lan are in the same room and they both have a mutual dislike for each other and it is obvious that the Aiel remember Lan whipping their asses in the war. We rarely see Lan as an actual battlefield commandeer so him strategizing and leading men was a great opener. There is a part where some lord requests for Lan to be the anvil in a hammer and anvil type trap on a group of Aiel and Lan agrees, despite having a feeling that the hammer is never going to show. So when questioned about it Lan says something along the lines of “I gave my word so I will stick to it.” Badass. I should go look for the quote but I won’t, read the book if you want it.

We get introduced to Moiraine and Siuan when they are Accepted. They are serving as cup bearers to the current Amyrlin, Tamra, when Gitara, who is the Keeper of the Stole, has a god damn seizure and croaks out a prophesy that the Dragon has been reborn. She then abruptly dies, which is kind of funny. Moiraine and Siuan vow to find and protect the Dragon without letting anyone know what they are doing. The Amyrlin tries to track down the Dragon by offering money to anyone who pushed out a kid in the last week, and the two collect all the possible candidates in a list. This list becomes their own personal quest. They wind up getting raised to Aes Sedai and set out to start tracking down kids.

Lan on the other hand is in a little bit of a pickle. Returning from war, he realizes this old milf he used to sleep with has tried to raise the Golden Crane while he has been gone. Not pleased with this he decides to track her down. He meets, you guessed it, Moiraine on the way and the two begin an adveserial relationship.

When they get to the city of Chachin some stuff happens with the Black Ajah and stuff. Having spoiled 60% of the book I won’t ruin the ending.

Many lovely people of Reddit question if this book should be read before one begins the WoT. While that would make it a nice number of 15 books, the answer is an emphatic NO. Reading this book contains massive spoilers for the series as you know the driving forces behind Lan and Moiraine’s actions. This severely takes away from the mystery and intrigue of those two characters, as well as spoiling a whole bunch of stuff about the Dragon. If you go into book one having read this, it takes away a lot of the fun. Save this for after, as a nice reminder of how great the series is. If the idea of reading a prequel novel after reading a masssssive 14 book series is too much for you, give it some time and come back to it.

I rate this book:

Book Reviews

Port of Shadows Wrap-up

I have fallen very behind once again on reviewing the books I have been reading and almost forgot all about this one. Which would have been a shame because I am a huge fan of both Glen Cook and his masterpiece series The Black Company. Widely considered by every blog and fantasy book site to be the father of the Grimdark sub-genre, Port of Shadows is a worthy edition to the series. Despite what stupid ass reviewers think. People just love to hate.

To be fair I thought Cook was dead so it’s good to see that is not true. Congrats on being alive bro.

On Goodreads they have this book listed as Book #1.5 which I guess puts it between books 1 and 4. It is not exactly clear to me the timeline of the book, but than again the timelines for any of the books are not exactly linear. Honestly the beauty of these books is that they just go from spot to spot with absolutely no time explaining things. From the first time the company fights a werewolf thing in the opening chapter of book one I was hooked so I might be a little skewed in all things Black Company. Actually I just looked it up (despite my commitment to no research) and this book takes place between The Black Company and Shadows Linger.

This book has not been well received. The reasons for this seem to fall into two categories, the first is that it has a lot of contradictions that don’t mesh well with the rest of the lore and history of the series. The second is that there is a plot device that Cook uses involving the characters losing their memories of the events taking place in the book, which conveniently allows this book to fit in between books 1 and 2 without ever being mentioned in any of the later books. Sure that is not the most original concept nor is it great to have conflicting lore but as I mentioned the beauty of these books are that they are super confusing and the details are murky. The individual story itself is a ton of fun and fits in well with the style of the series.

Port of Shadows has two separate story lines. The first is a flashback to the time of the Dominator, where we follow a necromancer who has an obsession with trying to bring back dead girls to I guess replace his dead daughter. This story line is cool as hell, the girl he revives happens to be a Senjak sister that got raped by a bunch by the Dominator’s guards and disposed off. Here is where the details conflict, we have no idea who the sister is supposed to be but whatever. The Howler and another Senjak sister, probably either The Lady or Soulcatcher (all time villain btw) attempt to rescue the sister and the Senjak girl gets captured. The necromancer bolts with the two girls and creates a kind of fortress in the world and of course bangs the dead girl eventually, starting a breeding farm of Senjak clones.

The other story line follows the Black Company who are in service to The Lady and are posted in the city/town of something I honestly can’t remember. Their goal is to root out the rebel group called the Resurrectionists who are trying to, you know, resurrect the Dominator. They capture a sorceress known as Tides Elba, who looks remarkably like the Lady. As they continue to root out rebels they keep finding more girls that look like Tides Elba, now known as the Taken Mischievous Rain. The people in these books have the coolest names. Eventually this leads to an underwhelming confrontation at the fortress from the other story line, and we find out that the girls have been breed in order to open up the Port of Shadows, which is supposed to bring back the Dominator.

I hate writing summaries of books as you can kind of tell, because I would much rather talk about things I liked and disliked. It just is hard to talk about things without at least summarizing the book somewhat. I thouroughly enjoyed the creativity of Cook in this book. Sick rhyme. Like the necromancer thing was so engrossing, just the obsession of this creepy old diddler experimenting and essentially creating a self-sustaining castle through his cloning was interessting and made a lot of sense in terms of the overall plot. You could kind of tell from the beggining that eventually the clones the Black Company kept finding were this revived girl, but that seemed intentional. The way the Black Company is organized and their relationship with the Taken is always a fun read. Mischievous Rain was equal parts awesome and a sympathetic character. It is such a cool concept that The Lady transforms these people, who may or may not have opposed her, into her minions. Also One Eye is the best.

Read this if you like The Black Company. Don’t complain about it. Also I finally figured out a simple way to rate books. Books are only going to be rated on the widely academically accepted Virgin/Chad scale. If you want an absolutely hilarious Reddit post on this read below.

Book Reviews

Kellanved’s Reach: Path to Ascended Fantasy Wrap-up

Though I previously spoiled that this was the next in the mysterious trio of books I managed to finish while traversing the wilds of Colombia (review coming soon) I think it was fairly obvious that this would be the next book on the agenda. I NEED to start cranking these reviews out more frequently because I keep finishing books and am starting to develop a backlog. Kind of an embarrising thought, I can read a 500ish page book in less time then it will take me to write 500ish words on it. This is why I make no claims to be a writer, just a man who enjoys reading dope fantasy and failing at my dreams of being a pro athlete.

The final book of the Path of Ascendancy prequel trilogy by Ian C. Esslemont nicely ties up the loose ends that we know have to be tied up before the events of the main story line can begin. Perhaps because of this there seemed to be a lot less beating around the bush, Kellanved and Dancer get right to work on trying to acquire the throne that will let them control the T’lan Imass. There journey to do so is filled with the typical humor and near death experiences which made this trilogy so enjoyable in the first place.

The I guess plotline of this book is the typical sprawling mess that connects at the end. Kellanved is attempting to maintain his upstart empire but of course has grander aspirations of increasing his magical powers. To do this he follows a lead on an obsession he has with a flint arrowhead, correctly guessing that this will lead him to the throne of the T’lan Imass. After successfully acquiring the throne he gets his revenge on Quon Tali and takes control of the city, and is crowned emperor for his efforts. Hence forming you know, the Malazan Empire.

The more interesting story is the Greymane origin story. So Greymane is on the run with his outlawed army, managing to stay one step ahead of death and eventually they all die. Greymane is featured promienatly in all of Ian C. Esslemonts novels so it was cool to see where he came from and how of course Kellenvad had a role in it.

The highlight of this book is this scene where these two dude who have escaped a castle are trying to join the Crimson Guard, and are forced into a sparring match with the weapons master and the one dude, HOLY SHIT WHAT IS HIS NAME, is a mage who cannot be hit. So the guy just keeps trying to wack him with a stick and whiffing and everyone is giving him shit. Such a terrible description by me but such a typical Malazan scene that satisfies the primal craving to see some fighting but also has both a sense of hilarity and realism that brings the Malazan world to life.

Overall this is a worthy edition of the sprawling mass of Malazan Empire novels and if you already read the first two this review is pointless because you are going to like the third. The Malazan Empire books are easily in my top 5 favorite series of all time and since both Erickson and Esslemont seem to have unlimited work ethic I am excited to know that they will continue to crank out these books for all time. This review was not great, I am willing to admit my own shortcoming here. Read the book, read the series.

Book Reviews

Deadhouse Landing Wrap-up: Path to Ascended Fantasy

About a month ago I mentioned that I went on a little reading spree and finished a few books that had been sitting on the virtual end table. One of those books was Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont. To set the stage a little bit, Deadhouse Landing is a novel of the Malazan Empire, which for anyone familiar the the Malazan world means its place in the grand scheme of things is very confusing. It is book 2 of The Path to Ascendancy, hence the clever ass subtitle of this blog. The Path to Ascendancy is a prequel trilogy to the events of both Esslemont’s and Erickson’s respective Malazan series’.

It is always a really weird experience when it comes to the Malazan Empire books. Erickson and Esslemont have very different story telling styles. Esslemont is much more direct. His stories are linear, his characters are obvious, he does not spend time wading in internal dialogue. Not a knock on Esslemont, it is just a writing style that is much more ordinary. Erickson is all over the place, most of his novels, especially the later ones, spend significant time wading in moral philosophy and internal dialogue. The writing can be heavy at times and several pages can go by before the character is done thinking.

Esslemont’s books are the much quicker read, and this book was no exception. Prequels are tough, the first book in the series was Dancers Lament and I have to admit I got kind of bored about halfway through it and put it down for the better part of like two years. This I read in two days, which says a lot about how much fun I had reading it. I couldn’t put this book down.

The plot boils down to Wu, later Kellenvad, and Dancers take over of Malaz Island, which later turns into the Malazan Empire as well as their struggle to enter the Deadhouse. I say prequels are tough for the obvious stuff. We already have an idea of who these characters are in our heads, so any diversion from that and I instantly get angry. The biggest thing for me is that with a prequel you already now the outcome, so it is especially important to make the journey fun. When you can’t rely on the wow factor or the big reveal you have to make the action entertaining. That is kind of what stalled me out in book one. Like we know all these characters live so the stakes are instantly lowered.

Another thing that really bothers me is when new elements of magic, or people, or creatures or plot line are inserted into a prequel in order to spice things up. Then when you re-read or think about the original series it is through the lens of “this is stupid because it doesn’t have this new thing” or the story doesn’t make sense anymore with the new parameters set. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the biggest culprit of this ever. Esslemont does not do this, so another point in his favor

Wu is just such a great character. Kellenvad is really a huge behind-the-scenes guy in the Malazan Empire series that to see his origin and to get more of direct interaction with him was not only well done but wildly entertaining. There are points where shit he did or said made me actually laugh, which is saying a lot. I mean he is the clear highlight of the entire trilogy. Spoiler alert the next review is book 3.

Dassem is just the best, his whole greatest fighter in the world thing gets me every time. The best scene in this book is this pointless one-on-one fight he has with a grade A hater and he just whips him. Lifestealer for life.

This book is great. Anyone who is a fan of the series I am not telling you anything new and you probably have already read it. If you haven’t stop wasting time reading The Dark Tower and support good fantasy.

Final Notes: This was very rantish. Next one will talk more about the actual book. I don’t know how else to get people to believe in Malazan. Also these covers are dope.

Book Reviews

The Dark Defiles Wrap-up: Defiling expectations of good fantasy

Ehh not my best title. Then again I am exhausted with writing about this series. I finished this book on the way to Colombia and the time spent reading this book was worse than anything I experienced on the entire vacation. Though I did have a great vacation so I guess the bar for that wasn’t very low. Either way l have finished the series meaning fortunately this is the last blog I will ever write about it.

I want to take a look at some of the positives first, since it is much easier to just blast the shit out of this final catastrophy. There are some better parts, at one point we get introduced to this charctar Sharkmaster Wyr, who was some famous pirate guy. He is imprisioned on this ship in the harbor where he is supposed to be living out the remander of his days. Both interesting and well done. The backstory on this dude is badass. To me this like one chapter of a minor character who winds up having no real impact on the plot was the best part of the book. What this tells me is that while I’ve spent way more time than what is healthy bashing this Richard K. Morgan guy, he defienitly has the talent to be a good writer.

The problem is his story stinks. He relies on magic/sci-fi technology to kind of clean up these situations the characters get in, and it all feels meaningless in regards to the story. The characters themselves are very stereotypical. I get the vibe he goes for but to me the plot kind of falls apart because the situations the characters find themselves in are just not well done.

A big part of the book that gets a lot of praise is the fact that the main character Ringil is gay. He subverts your typical gay character in a fantasy book stereotype by being this grizly, hardened veteran who men rally to and are willing to follow into anything. This is great, and I fully support the idea of having a character like Ringil. The problem is the Ringil we get is boring and unimaginative. His being gay seems to be used to mask the fact that the character isn’t very fleshed out. And there also is a noticeable drop off of graphic sex scenes throughout the series. The first book was chock full of them, by the last book I am not ever sure if anyone has sex. Just seems like what could have been fascinating and progressive is instead a tool to boost lazy writing.

This third book has a plot that is alllllll over the place. The end of the second book they plan on going on this journey to an island to find a dead former wizard king of the humans before the Dwenda resurrect him to take over the world. Within 100 pages instead we have a completely different book. The plot ambles on, Egar Dragonbane gets killed by a . . . you guessed it, Dragon. Archeth finds herself through the challenges placed on her and becomes the next viable option for the throne. Ringil gets his revenge and when he finally meets the great bad wizard king, easily deals with him in 3 pages. We have been hearing about this guy since book one, he’s gone in 3 pages. Reminded me of the death of the Night King in GoT. Super underwhelming.

There are some cool characters and parts though. Hjel is an awesome dude, his backstory about wishing to be this great warrior and like becoming a musician was entertaining. Jhiral the actual emperor was fun. But these people played such unimportant roles that they became irrelevant. I believe if he made these characters have their own POV, maybe we would have got somewhere.

Rant over. Series over. Moving on.