The Warded Man


Enjoyable, but with notable caveats.

The world and the not too large cast of point of view characters is well done. The main conceit is that demons or ‘corelings’ manifest from under the earth from a ‘Core’ (the center of the earth) every night. Sunlight is fatal but they are nearly impossible to kill otherwise and the world must work around that. Buildings and property are protected with wards, which are usually carved, but a scratch to the carving or some other small disruption can make it useless, so families and whole villages are killed on a regular basis. A cultural effect of this is an emphasis on early marriage and procreation, because humanity is more or less in constant danger of being wiped out if not constantly replenished. However, this is no excuse for a male writer to have his female character talk about their ‘flower’ so often or even, really, ever.

Also, I was often disappointed in the action scenes. But the small things, like trade being done by Messenger (capital M), who use portable warding circles but are still respected for being willing to be outside at night for weeks at a time. Aspects of matriarchy creeping into societies, because motherhood is more than usually key to a locale’s survival.

Will I read the next one? Maybe. I’m not one hundred percent sold yet.

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Before They Are Hanged


I don’t know why I chose to return to this series, having read the first volume a couple of years ago, while visiting the in-laws in Thailand (pre-fatherhood, I used to get a lot reading done in Thailand; not that it wasn’t constantly fascinating, but a time whenever around you is speaking a language you can’t understand is a pretty good time to read a book).

While my memory of the first book isn’t as sharp as it could be, I felt that several characters got some nice fleshing out, relative to their introduction in the earlier volume, and some interesting new characters were introduced.

But we also got some clunky exposition dumps and… was the major, continuing plot thread a snipe hunt?

But I reckon that I will finish this series, regardless.

Behind The Throne


This is a good old fashioned space opera. The technology is well thought out and reasoned to (mostly) logical conclusions, but this is not hard sci fi. This is blasters and space empires.

And pretty good ones. It’s exciting and fast paced, breezing you past some iffy world building to keep you in the action (which is the point; space operas don’t make complete sense, so it’s the author’s job to make sure it’s thrilling and interesting enough to keep your disbelief suspended).

A matriarchal space empire, founded, apparently, by folks from India, with a plots to steal the throne, poison the empress and inspire a rival space kingdom to invade. And the protagonist is a princess who fled to find her father’s killer and became a smuggler and gunrunner before circumstances force her to return and (eventually, I don’t think it’s giving much away) become Empress of the Indaran Empire.

I look forward to reading the next volume.

Oathbringer


I read some mediocre reviews of this novel, but I enjoyed it. In general, I’ve enjoyed the series (known as the Stormlight Archive; I find the use of the word ‘archive’ to be positively ridiculous).

It was exciting, with some interesting expansion upon the world building (Sanderson is very good at world building; his fantastical locales are well thought out, generally consistent and, while detailed, do not let the world building get in the way of a decent story). There was a sort of big reveal – a dark secret at the heart of this particular fantasy world – which I didn’t find nearly as morally earth shattering as, apparently, I was supposed to find it. But that’s a small(ish) thing.

A few things felt silly, but, c’mon, it’s a fantasy novel. In the end, it’s just quality pulp, right? Don’t be so hard on him for these things. The stakes felt high and while I wish he wouldn’t feel compelled to write such enormous, backpack busting tomes, it didn’t drag for me.

I suppose that I could try and describe the plot and events, but as the third book in a series where each book is longer than it’s predecessor (the first was, if I remember, eight hundred odd pages; this one is over twelve hundred pages), that seems like a fool’s mission.

Ice


Ice is considered a sort of lost classic and it didn’t disappoint. Technically science fiction in a post-apocalyptic mode, it takes place after an event (probably man made, but the unnamed protagonist honestly does not know for sure) results in a quickly creeping ice age enveloping the earth, constantly narrowing the band of habitable land and resulting in civil breakdown, wars for ever more scarce resources and the rise of local warlords.

The protagonist is obsessed with a girl with pale skin and nearly white hair who has known since she was a child. Abused in some way, she is drawn to abusive men. The protagonist, it is made clear, is probably no more than the best of a bad bunch.

The tone is stark and nameless (no names of people nor countries) and matched by the first person narration of a soldier for hire who is driven by his obsession/love/nostalgia for this mostly unattainable woman (partly because she is often kept by more violent and powerful men than he).

I hate to use this term, but I kept on thinking of this as Kafkaesque. The lack of definite names and quest for something close, but unattainable and also incomprehensible.

Great book. Really. Great.

Shadowheart


He, umm… he did not, shall we say, stick the landing.

The final volume of Shadowmarch series managed to both be frenetic and also to drag terribly, an impressive accomplishment, but not fun to read.

Much of the book is an extended battle sequence – a series of engagements around the primary locale (Southmarch, if you’re interested) that are so frequent that they cease to hold the attention.

The climactic battle, involving a freed/awoken (though not ‘woke’) god, depended on some world building that the book didn’t earn. And some story lines turned out to be absolute nothings. There was, for example, a potentially interesting and morally weak poet named Tinwright who managed to take a large quantity of pages only to not do anything important or meaningful, in the end. It was like someone fired Checkhov’s gun, but missed and then did nothing more with it.

Finally, the ending went on for something like two hundred pages after the climax. Sure, Tolkien did that… but he was Tolkien. I didn’t know Tolkien, but I read a lot of his works, and you, sir, are no J.R.R. Tolkien.

‘Shadowrise’ By Tad Williams


The Tad is back! By which I mean that Shadowrise, the third book in his Shadowmarch tetralogy, is much better than the disappointing second, Shadowplay.

This one is more exciting and the characters have grown so that they are less irritating than they sometimes were in previous installments (though I would have liked more from the perspective of Chert, the funderling [read: fantasy dwarf]) and he seems to have firm control over the narrative.

I’m already reading the fourth book and will blog about it soon, if my daughter will let me finish it.