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.

Book Reviews

The Cold Commands Commands your Attention

Killing it with the title wordplay once again. Much like the warriors train wrecking the West, I am crushing the title game. Command’s your Attention. Brilliant. Moving on. I am 100 pages through the book so I think that is far enough to get some of my thoughts out on it. I do think it’s funnier to write my first impressions like 20 pages in, but that doesn’t work well for book two. So I finally figured out the name of the series, it’s called A Land Fit for Heroes which is an awesome name. Some series names are just solid, the name has absolutely nothing to do with the books but it works. At least the Kingkiller Chronicles, another fantastic name, I believe eventually a king will get killed. Speaking off, I read an article that the show isn’t going to follow the books but instead will follow some of the Edema Ru in like a prequel. That single handedly has to be the stupidest idea I have ever heard. I don’t know if that is because there is supposed to be a movie, but if that is the case it is still a shit idea. I am officially on the record that I am done with fantasy series getting portrayed as movies. Just always leaves us wanting. Then again we ended up with BRAN…

The Cold Commands still follows the three POV characters from the first book, and once again they are on too their own stuff. If they end up together again that just isn’t plausible. At the end of the last book I predicted Ringil bo Bingil (not my best) would turn into a Dwenda. That seems to be continuing, though Ringil’s new hustle is to free slaves. Well I guess that is not a new hustle but instead of one person he doesn’t care about he is trying to save a bunch of people he doesn’t care about. Archeth has the most ambitious storyline, she is heading to some volcano to meet up with who I assume is going to be the link to the Kiriath. Egar has the most unclear situation, he is like in love with some lady and is a fake guard at Archeth’s crib.

Now that the summary is over, some thoughts. This is a much better written book. The last one I struggled to read when I wasn’t commuting but this is a much different story. The pacing is a little slower and I honestly think that works better for the style. A hundo pages in I have an idea where things are going, but it isn’t nearly as simple as the last book. This might be a case of not having to develop the magic or the system and it plays so much more naturally. I know it is really difficult to market a 700-800 page book, but these two really should have been combined. That would have avoided the terrible end battle. For real though I am so far enjoying this, Morgan still has a chance to bore me to death.

Also so far there has been no graphic sex scenes. I am not saying that is a good thing (I am saying that), but it is a weird thing to have had several by this point in the last book and none so far. There was a rape, but it wasn’t in the detail that the sex had in the last book. If there are some scenes I will be sure to comment, but right now I have to believe that this was an editorial decision.

Final notes: God damn Blazers that was fucking pathetic. Haven’t seen a beating that brutal since, well them last year against the Pelicans. Also the covers for these books are fucking cool. Bad asses trying to connect with the youth use profanities, as well as people writing Grimdark…

Book Reviews

The Steel Remains Wrap-up *Spoilers*

Finally finished The Steel Remains yesterday and I have to say, the last third of the book was much better than I anticipated. It was a slog getting through the middle parts of the book. There seemed to be too much alien sci-fi elements to the story, and instead of flowing naturally the book was bogged down in explanation and telling. The story was the most entertaining when the people were just being people.

I grew to enjoy the characters the further the story went, Ringil went from insufferable, whiny baby to a more rounded character. I am not sure whether the reader is supposed to like him or not, kind of seems like he is the typical flawed main character that tries to do the right thing but everything he does seems to either turn out to be wrong or he is forced to do something wrong. But of course no one really knows that he secretly has high morals because he hides it through a grizzled exterior and disdain for authority. I mean it’s not exactly an original model for a character, read five fantasy books and that personality model will appear in three of them. The unique twist of The Steel Remains is that Ringil is gay. Here is the struggle for me, while I am fully a fan of steering away from the straight white male protagonist, I feel like Morgan uses Ringil’s sexuality as a crutch for not fully developing a character. Like we should accept poor character development because we should be shocked and applaud Morgan because the main character is gay.

This is kind of highlighted through the other two POV characters. Archeth is from an ancient race of advanced people called the Kiriath that are technologically advanced and create engineering marvels, but she is also black. We know she is black because in every single interaction she has, someone comments on that fact, just as every interaction Ringil has someone comments on his sexuality. Just seems like continuisly mentioning these two things is forcing us to be like “OMG so progressive” when I think that it actually has the opposite effect. The third POV character is your typical barbarian, super warrior type who, spoiler alert, actually has a mind underneath his masculine exterior. See where I am going with this? Only time that kind of character ever really came off as different to me is in Karsa Orlong’s case. Maybe because Erickson had 9 million pages to make the character unique.

Now to the story itself. The original plot seemed to center around Ringil saving his cousin from slavery. That becomes an afterthought when Ringil gets captured by an alien race known as the Dwenda. Some of the Dwenda are planning to reconquer their planet after being expelled by a combination of humans and Kiriath thousands of years ago. The preliminary force of the Dwenda sent are brutal and have magic that allows them to travel between worlds. Ringil encounters Seethlaw and the Dwenda captures him, though Ringil inundates himself in the Dwenda gang by becoming Seethlaws’ lover. Through this we are shown some of Dwenda society, and also find out that Ringil is probably some type of magical being as well.

That whole middle part where Seethlaw has Ringil is borrrrrring as shit. It was at that point I decided that I was not going to read the next book in the trilogy. Fortunately the story redeems itself. The big battle at the end is not actually a big battle, more like a minor skirmish that takes place when the three POV characters meet up in some backwater town in a marsh close to where the Dwenda have set up shop. They win of course. Ringil kills Seethlaw of course.

So what about this book made me decide that I am going to finish the trilogy? Obviously from everything above this paragraph it seems like I didn’t enjoy the book, but I did. There is nothing wrong with sticking to the familiar when it comes to fantasy, there are many books that have elements of this kind of stuff, and I have really enjoyed them. Morgan does an excellent job with the combat, it is easy to follow without being simple, the action is well-thought out and logical, and he clearly did his research on fighting techniques. I appreciated the rather graphic and realistic portrayals of the darker elements of life, meaning violence, sex, and the horrors of misuse of power. The story itself was predictable, but there were a few twists that added to it. Ringil probably turning into a Dwenda was cool, as well as the prophecy that may or may not state he is going to be the dark lord. I think I would like to see that. My favorite parts of the book are the interactions of the emperor. I would really like to see more of his struggle to run the empire. His conversations with Archeth were some of the more entertaining parts of the story. While I am not frothing at the mouth with anticipation to read The Cold Commands, I am looking forward to it. So stay tuned for my initial thoughts on it.

Final Notes: That was a way more serious review than I normally give.  Also Steph and Seth guarding each other is teetering on ridiculous. How can these coaches really put two brothers on each other, like this is a serious game that is some shit you do during the regular season. Also what is the point of the lizard people?