Tag Archives: Fantasy

Orb Sceptre Throne

Ian C. Esslemont’s fourth novel in the Malazan world is titled Orb Sceptre Throne referencing the three central artifacts of power in the plot of the book. This novel finds itself on better footing than its predecessor, Stonewielder, almost from the first page. The book is helped by the geographic density of the plot. Where Stonewielder sprawled a continent, Orb Sceptre Throne finds itself largely located within the confines of the city of Darujhistan.

The addition of the Malazan deserters including Blend, Picker, Antsy and Spindle makes for a familiar set of faces and relationships. Esslemont handles the characters deftly and, as former Bridgeburners, they provide equal parts comic relief and brutal efficacy throughout the novel. It was fortuitous or prescient that Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon centered on the Bridgeburners as they have been the most consistent performers throughout the series. Nuanced and varied, even when they diverge, they consistently become the most interesting characters in the novel. Continue reading

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Quotable

     I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

     I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others feer to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

     You may have heard of me.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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Stonewielder

Any attempt to encapsulate the plot of a book set in the joint Steven Erikson/Ian C. Esslemont world of Malaz is a venture inherently more detailed than can be delivered in a thousand work blog post.  Stonewielder by Esslemont is no exception to this. A sprawling narrative that spans a continent, the novel neither lacks in scope nor quantity of characters.

The world building that has spanned Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, several novellas, the new Kharkanas trilogy and Esslemont’s own narrative strain stretching into his third book remains the strength of the book. Featuring the island of Fist and the Stormwall of Korel, Esslemont explores a portion of the universe largely untouched by previous novels. The legendary Stormwall gets special attention early in the novel and the author gives special care to the wall’s description.  It’s a unique feature with an interesting back story.  It features, as in other works, the unusual background in archeology that the author brings to his writing. It’s clearly a reason why the world building is so strong and the setting so vivid. Continue reading

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Lamentation

Lamentation is Ken Scholes first novel with a strong fantasy bent set in a post-apocalyptic world.  Scholes uses a rotating viewpoint among the main cast, which keeps the pace of the novel moving and adds insight to each character’s personality. The characters are of varying interest; however, the leads generally hold up well over the course of the novel. This is important as the characters are fundamental to drive the novel forward much more so than the action, which is often depicted via second hand accounts.

The novel is part of a five book arc and, in as much as it is discernible from the opening work, follows a well worn fantasy trope of an ancient, displaced evil returning to conquer its former home. Whether this turns out to be the true thrust of the over-arching storyline for the planned quintet, will hinge upon factors that are almost impossible to know after reading Lamentation.

The sectionalized plot for this novel is rather mundane. An ancient magic is unleashed upon a city wiping it from the map. Neighboring nation-states proceed to wage a war in order to avenge the wrong doing.  The initial perpetrator turns out to be a decoy guided by the hand of another.  By the end of the novel, allegiances have shifted and the decoy is killed to sate the desire for punishment among those remaining.

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Quotable

      Instead she would wait and see what honest thing could be built between them without deception. Jin Li Tam realized she knew very little about love.
      But this much she knew — those who love should not require reciprocity.

Lamentation by Ken Scholes

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Crack’d Pot Trail

Steven Erikson is a master of modern epic fantasy. His opus, a 10 book series named The Malazan Book of the Fallen, is a masterpiece on par with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Erikson creates a menagerie of fascinatingly amoral or ambiguous characters and proceeds to wind them all together in sub-plots that build off the primary thread. Some of those secondary plots fall away and some stay in tune but all of them are interesting. He is a tremendous writer.

That is why the novella Crack’d Pot Trail is such a collasul disappointment. Nominally about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, two necromancers who provide an element of comedic relief through parts of Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, who are pursued by a band of knights and hunters sworn to kill them, the book is, in reality, a violent assault on the fourth wall (the “wall” between the stage and the audience) and role of the audience in artistic affairs. Narrative is a secondary concern, if at all, and the titular characters are absent for all but two pages of the book.

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The White Dragon

The final book in the initial trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, The White Dragon is both the farthest reaching in scope and the most enjoyable to read. With the focus of the book away from F’lar and Lessa and a better developed cast of characters, the world-building is allowed to shine along with the growth of the new protagonists.  While the dragons were a pleasant diversion previously, they now take center stage with the namesake of the novel.

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Dragonquest

The second novel set in Anne McCaffrey’s world of Pern, titled Dragonquest, is a more complex and developed novel than it’s predecessor Dragonflight. Featuring the returning main characters F’lar and Lessa, a better cast of secondary personalities helps prop up the bland and too perfect protagonists.  With secondary tales enveloped in the larger storyline, McCaffrey allows her story to wander in ways that make it feel less constrained than the first novel.

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Dragonflight

The omnibus edition of Anne McCaffrey’s first three Pern novels that I’ve included a picture of is seven years my elder meaning it was published in 1978. I came across it some time ago, nearly a decade, at a used book fair and enjoyed it enough to purchase the better part of the subsequent series. It is a fantasy genre novel of a previous generation far removed from modern day epic fantasy novelists like Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin or Robert Jordan.

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