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review 2017-10-20 17:34
Non-Standard Fantasy: “The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie
The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie

I "discovered" Abercrombie in 2012 when I was actually looking for some fantasy novels that "weren't Dragonlance-level shit". Back in 2012 I started off by reading “The Heroes” first. Only in 2013 I got to reading the First Law from the beginning.

 

Abercrombie does not sugar-coat his narrative. That’s for sure. That’s the first indication you’re not reading your running-of-the-mill fantasy:  it’s disturbing because it skews closer to real life than we are used to or comfortable with fantasy-wise. Protagonists fail, start things but don’t finish them, have their plans changed in mid-stride and generally push through as if they were making it up as the narrative progresses. While reading “The Blade Itself” I kept expecting conventional fantasy storytelling to assert itself and bring the characters back around to the “right” path, despite evidence to the contrary. I’m not that well versed in fantasy lore, but I think this first novel in Abercrombie’s fantasy milieu sets up a precedent for an ending that just isn’t what you expect, but I still kept waiting for that tide to turn back and give me a the usual happy ending cropping up in a lot of fantasy nowadays.  What I found most unsettling is that there IS a happy ending – it’s just the last person in the entire book you’d expect gets everything he wants. It was one of those endings, and one of those books, that sits with you for a very long time.

 

 

If you're into SF of the Grimdark variety, read on.

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review 2017-07-20 10:55
Nur ein Wort: Grimdark
King of Thorns - Mark Lawrence

Habt ihr schon mal den Begriff Grimdark gehört und euch gefragt, was das nun wieder ist? Grimdark ist ein Subgenre der Fantasy: die Charaktere sind zwielichtiger, ihre Entscheidungen fragwürdiger, ihre Handlungen gewalttätiger. Alles ist etwas extremer, härter, blutiger, kompromissloser. So würde ich Grimdark erklären, denn bisher scheint es keine einheitliche Definition zu geben. Mein persönlicher Favorit ist die Beschreibung des Autors Adam Roberts, der Grimdark ganz simpel als „Anti-Tolkien“ bezeichnet – obwohl ich nicht glaube, dass dieses Subgenre zwangläufig eine Definition braucht. Ich halte es für eine intuitive Kategorie, die lediglich eine bestimmte Atmosphäre vermitteln und eine gewisse emotionale Resonanz erzeugen sollte.
„King of Thorns“, der zweite Band der Trilogie „The Broken Empire“ von Mark Lawrence, qualifiziert sich nach meinen Maßstäben spielend als Grimdark.

 

Als Jorg Ancrath schwor, er würde im Alter von 14 Jahren König sein, wurde er verspottet und belächelt. Er bewies, dass er niemals leere Reden schwingt, strafte seinen Onkel für den Verrat an seiner Mutter und seinem Bruder und entriss ihm sein Königreich. Heute ist Jorg 18 Jahre alt, herrscht seit vier Jahren über das Gebirgsland Renar und befindet sich in einer deprimierend aussichtslosen Lage. Vor den Toren seiner Burg versammelt sich eine gewaltige Streitmacht, die Jorgs Truppen zahlenmäßig weit überlegen ist. Der Prinz der Pfeile ist entschlossen, Renar zu erobern, denn er will zum Imperator ernannt werden, um den Krieg der Hundert ein für alle Mal zu beenden. Jorgs Chancen, ihm zu trotzen, sind gering. Jedenfalls in einem fairen Kampf. Vor vier Jahren entdeckte der junge König während einer Reise Artefakte der Erbauer von unsäglicher Macht. Niemand hat behauptet, Jorg würde fair kämpfen, richtig?

 

Ich hatte vor der Lektüre keinen blassen Schimmer, was mich im zweiten Band der „The Broken Empire“ – Trilogie, „King of Thorns“, erwarten würden. Es ist unheimlich schwierig, vorauszusagen, wie Mark Lawrence seinen Protagonisten Jorg handeln lassen wird, weil Unberechenbarkeit ein dominanter Zug seiner Persönlichkeit ist. Ich schlug das Buch auf und wäre beinahe rückwärts vom Stuhl gekippt – über dem ersten Kapitel steht in dicken Lettern „Wedding Day“. Hochzeitstag? Wer heiratet? Jorg etwa? Nicht möglich! Oder doch? Seit „Prince of Thorns“ vergingen vier Jahre, vielleicht hat er sich ja tatsächlich weiterentwickelt, ist gereift und ruht nun in sich selbst? Klingt das in euren Ohren genauso lächerlich wie in meinen, verstehen wir uns. Nein, darüber hätte ich mir wirklich keine Gedanken machen müssen, Jorg ist noch immer derselbe, beängstigende, bis in den Kern verrottete, von Hass, Rache und giftigem Ehrgeiz getriebene junge Mann, der er schon mit 14 war. Selbstverständlich verrät Mark Lawrence seinen Leser_innen, was er in den letzten Jahren getrieben hat. Erneut unterteilt er die Handlung aus Jorgs Ich-Perspektive heraus in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart und veranschaulicht auf diese Weise geschickt, dass sich die aktuelle Situation bereits vor vier Jahren abzeichnete. Vor vier Jahren begegnete Jorg dem Prinzen der Pfeile das erste Mal. Seit dieser schicksalhaften Begegnung wusste er, dass der Konflikt zwischen ihnen eines Tages unvermeidlich eskalieren würde. Nun, Jorg wäre nicht Jorg, hätte er nicht sofort Gegenmaßnahmen ergriffen. Er bereitete sich auf eben diesen Angriff der Gegenwart vor, zeigt in der Hitze der unausweichlichen, mitreißenden Schlacht eine überraschend kühle, militärisch-strategische Gewandtheit und spuckt der Ausweglosigkeit der Umstände frech ins Gesicht. Er würde lieber brennen, als sich einem Rivalen zu unterwerfen. Aus seiner Sicht begehrt der Prinz der Pfeile, was rechtmäßig ihm zusteht: den Thron des Imperators. Er will diesen Titel, also hat er ein Anrecht darauf, basta. Diese Einstellung illustriert Jorgs verdorbenen Charakter haargenau und unmissverständlich. Wer noch Hoffnung für ihn hegte, wird schonungslos desillusioniert. Sein schwarzes Herz verfolgt ihn auch auf seiner Reise, immer wieder wird er mit seinen Sünden konfrontiert, weil die wahren Puppenspieler des Krieges der Hundert glauben, ihn so kontrollieren zu können. Ich fand es beeindruckend, wie ausgeklügelt Mark Lawrence permanent eine unterschwellige Spannung aufrechterhält, indem er die verborgenen Akteure seines brutalen Universums langsam und widerwillig identifiziert. Dadurch bleibt stets ein Gefühl der Neugier bestehen. Manchmal war diese Neugier das einzige, das mich zum Weiterlesen bewog, denn ich kann nicht leugnen, dass „King of Thorns“ hin und wieder reichlich zäh ist. Die Lektüre war anstrengend, weil Mark Lawrence viele bedeutsame Details lediglich andeutet. Dadurch erfordert das Buch ein hohes Maß an Aufmerksamkeit. Eine Sekunde nicht aufgepasst und schwupps – schon ging ein wichtiges Informationskrümelchen verloren.

 

„King of Thorns“ ist eine würdige Fortsetzung der Trilogie „The Broken Empire“ und steht dem Auftakt „Prince of Thorns“ in nichts nach. Noch immer bin ich vollkommen fasziniert vom Protagonisten Jorg, sodass es mir teilweise sogar schwerfällt, mich auf die Handlung zu konzentrieren, obwohl diese äußerst feinsinnig und intelligent konstruiert ist. All die Fäden, die Mark Lawrence mit gewissenhafter Autorität spinnt, verknüpfen sich erst ganz am Ende des Buches, ergeben dann aber ein überzeugendes Gewebe. Für mich wiegt es nicht allzu schwer, dass Lawrence zur Geheimniskrämerei neigt, weil er dadurch das eine oder andere Ass im Ärmel behält, das wunderbares Material für überraschende Wendungen bietet. Die Unberechenbarkeit von Autor, Handlung und Protagonist, die schiere Ahnungslosigkeit, die ich beim Lesen empfand, vermischen sich mit der unbequemen, düsteren, gewaltgeschwängerten Atmosphäre zu einer besonderen Lektüre, für die es vermutlich tatsächlich nur eine passende Beschreibung gibt: Grimdark.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/mark-lawrence-king-of-thorns
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review 2016-07-20 10:44
Sword of the North review
Sword of the North - Luke Scull

As slow as I was in making my way through this sequel to Luke Scull's impressive debut, The Grim Company, one might think I was disappointed, bored, or some nasty combination of the two.

In fact, I was naught but entertained ... and exceedingly time-poor.

I've developed something of a pattern to my purchasing of books of late. The ones I truly want to read, to savour, to honour the author's work by paying the full fee - they are the books I buy from a good ol' fashioned bookstore in hard copy. Those that fleetingly catch my fancy, I pick up for my e-reader. Sword of the North was one of those I purchased from a bookstore. But as I read it, I realised physical books are rarely as close to me as my phone, and by extension, my e-reader. As such, when in a line, or with 5 minutes to spare at work, or even when seated on the royal commode, the e-books typically get read...

Thankfully, at least in the case of Sword of the North, the wait was more than worth it.

Scull here traverses the tricky landscape of the middle book in the series by splitting most of his main characters that previously formed the Grim Company, and each having them go off on an adventure that continues to build his world. Except these are the kinds of adventures that involve death, dismemberment, dark magic, torture, enslavement, and a little anal rape.

So yes, this book does stays rooted firmly in the Grimdark sub-genre which is becoming ever more popular, and I, for one, am exceptionally glad for it.

Scull's characters are still compelling - if a little overly familiar - and he puts them through their paces in such a way as the reader is always left wanting more. There are a few character interactions which were a little too convenient (or manufactured) for my tastes but otherwise you will find yourself willing Eremul to get someone to listen to him, hoping Brodar finds his wife, and wincing for Cole as he hits rock bottom.

But the best part of Sword of the North is the way it ends - with such a perfect cliffhanger (and then satisfying coda afterwards) that if you are anything like me, you will be cursing yourself for finishing this before the third book in the series has been released.

A great middle book in an already exceptional series from an author who is already turning heads, Sword of the North comes highly recommended to all fans of Joe Abercrombie.

4 Vats of Birthing Blood for Sword of the North.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1508788602
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photo 2016-06-04 04:27
Ghoul Girl with Ghosts in the Garden by Book Frivolity. (book: My Demonic Ghost: Banished Spirit by Jacinta Maree)

Hello all! 

 

Gosh, it feels like a bloody long time since I've had the chance to blog! A lot has been happening at Kristy's Ménagerie de Chats, and I've had my work cut out to keep it all under control! 

 

Since I last posted I've moved house (never again!!! Gah!), started working at Cohesion Press (w00t!), become a judge for fantasy short stories and novellas for the Aurealis Awards (squee!), Grimdark Magazine's Kickstarter for the 'Evil is a Matter of Perspective' anthology has almost kicked off (I'll post more about this when it goes live in a few days!).. Other things I can't remember right now.. (my brain is too full to think much else! Plus, none of it's been good stuff!)..  

 

I've still been reading a good chunk in between unpacking boxes (mostly books!) and everything else, I've just not had the chance to really sit down and write anything worthwhile about the experiences. In all honesty, I've felt more inclined to create book related art, as it's so relaxing (I lie, it's frustrating as all get up, but there's joy in that frustration!).  

 

I think, at least for the near future, my reviews will be pared down to the bare bones of what I really think is pertinent info about each book. I have an interview coming up with Marc Turner,  writer of The Dragon Hunters,  and there'll be a guest post by Aussie Spec-Fic writer Alan Baxter later in the month to keep bookish appetites whetted! 

 

In any case, I'll see you all in a few days with more.. Stuff! 

 

K.

 

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review 2016-03-07 19:29
AMAZING ENDING TO A GRIMDARK CLASSIC
Chains of the Heretic: Bloodsounder's Arc Book Three - Jeff Salyards

As the concluding chapter of Bloodsounder’s Arc, Chains of the Heretic is a rousing and fitting finale; one which thunders out of the gate, determined to shed light upon every shadowy mystery and to resolve every plot line. This journey of Arki from naive scribe to trusted member of Captain Killcoin’s Syldoon company ending the only way it could: with both tears and optimism for a new beginning. But, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself; let me set the stage for this grimdark lovers delight.

Fans of this series recall how Scourge of the Betrayer set the table; Mr. Salyard’s introducing young Arkamandos (Arki for short) desperate to belong to an epic endeavor, some notable enterprise worth chronicling. And imaging he has found such with the rough and rugged Captain Killcoin, he eagerly sets off into the Kingdom of Anjuria upon an unknown mission, quickly finding himself immersed in political machinations, eye-opening violence, and legendary magical mysteries; his only desire to survive it all.

In Veil of the Deserters , the Syldoon mission in Anjuria comes to a dramatic climax, as the Captain’s estranged sister, Soffjian, arrives, recalling him to the capital upon the orders of Emperor Cynead. This summons sets off a chain of events which leads Arki deeper into the strange world of Captain Killcoin; his childhood, his rift with his memory witch sister, the exotic and dangerous world of the Syldoon Empire, and the mystery of the Captain’s unholy flail. Each of these facets of the Captain’s life shifting and merging into a dynamic and mesmerizing grimdark adventure, which triumphs in its realistic characters, true-to-life combat, and believable situations.

But now, in Chains of the Heretic, it must all end. Arki’s time with Captain Killcoin, Soffjian, and all the other Slydoon winding down. The quest to uncover the truth behind Bloodsounder’s magic, its true use, and the key to freeing the Captain from its unholy influence still at the forefront, even as the group finds itself fleeing from the city of Sunwrack, determined to find deposed Emperor Thumarr and aid in his revolution; their every move thwarted by imperial troops, who continue to drive Killcoin’s motley group toward the Godveil, where they will be trapped.

But there is one last, desperate hope. The cryptic lore discovered by Arki in moldy tomes pointing to a possible use for Bloodsounder. At least, the young scribe believes so — if he can convince Captain Killcoin to attempt it. But there is no promise it will work, and even if it does, Arki and his comrades might find themselves in even worse straits than facing their Syldoon enemies, because who can say what lies on the other side of the Godveil!

First off, I have to say this was a great book. A really amazing grimdark. Especially if you found the first two installments of the trilogy to your liking, because — likeScourge of the Betrayer and even more so Veil of the DesertersChains surrounds itself in the realistic trappings of a magical, medieval world, focuses on the people involved in the tale, and actually sets out to tell their stories without any shortcuts or deus ex machina. While it isn’t historical fantasy by any stretch, the loving details and accurate portrayals of the world and the people makes it seem so real that at times it will seem like you could hop a plane and be there in a few hours to tour the ruins. And for me, being able to fully immerse myself in a fantasy and believe it is real is the first step to falling in love with the narrative.

The second, necessary element of a great fantasy is the characters. No worries there, because Bloodsounder’s Arc has always had those.

Arki is the easy to empathize with youth, caught up in events way over his head, but willing to learn, fight to survive and, perhaps, find his place among his companions. He isn’t an instantaneous god-like hero by any stretch of the definition, but rather a real person whom you grow to like and pull for.

Captain Braylar Killcoin is so many things: the foul-mouthed soldier (Who can forget his constant “honey-cock” insults to one enemy), the rough but complex man (His past reveals so much), the harsh but fair mentor (Arki learns many hard lessons from him), and the dedicated soldier (The ending of this trilogy makes it very clear.) Each side of him turning Braylar from a simple caricature into a fully-rounded man, whom you find yourself frustrated by but always willing to forgive.

Soffjian is Braylar’s feminine side. She is still harsh, sharp as a honed blade, determined to the point of stubbornness, and unforgiving of anyone’s weaknesses, but her interactions with Arki and her brother show multiple facets of her personality. Little tidbits of humanity and her long suffering for what she is (A memory witch remember) slowly bubbling to the surface, making her a very interesting character to read about.

There are many more, but those are the big three in my eyes, and they are definitely the stars of the show.

Lastly, a story must have a compelling plot which actually pays off in the end. Lord of the Rings is the epitome of this for me personally. Tolkien taking his hobbits from their comfortable hobbit holes through the horrors of war and to fiery Mount Doom before bringing them home again — changed forever by their journey. Other series have attempted to emulate the same formula, but failed in my opinion (*Cough* The Dark Tower by Stephen King *Cough*) because their conclusions resolved nothing. But with Chains of the Heretic, Mr. Salyards hits the mark closer to Return of the King than that other unnamed (wink) series, because all the plot lines in Bloodsounder’s Arc are basically resolved here, converging together into a conclusion which not only nicely wraps up the story but acknowledges that this is merely the beginning. The start of a whole new chapter in not only Arki’s life but the other surviving characters as well, which is so realistic since life is exactly like that.

I give Chains of the Heretic and Bloodsounder’s Arc my highest recommendations; it really is one of my favorite grimdark fantasy series. While I could nitpick about small details in the narrative or bitch about this resolution or that one, I chose not to do so, because this novel should be appreciated for all the things it did so well, and I look forward to seeing Arki and friends again in the future and growing to know them again.

Source: bookwraiths.com/2016/02/26/chains-of-the-heretic
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