I know I also said I was reading Marquise de Sade, but I can't read that type of prose at this stage in my editing and revisions. So that's shelved for now.
In related news, I got a late Xmas gift of a KINDLE. Which means I get all sorts of new variety in my non-fiction and classic fiction, which enhances my TBR pile significantly. In a good way. I'm excited.
Here's what I've read this past fortnight.
The Warded Man - Peter V. Brett. 2009. (Epic Fantasy, New Author, Male, Series)
"As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night."I was pretty excited to finally get this - it's educational to see what publishers (especially big ones like Del Rey) are looking for in debut novelists. As debut novels go, this was pretty strong. The worldbuilding was elaborate and very well-construed.
It was a curious thing to watch the children become adults - something that we don't see enough of in this genre - but I'm not sure I was ever truly concerned for their life, despite plenty of opportunities to cheer or gasp for the protagonists.
The magic system (of wards) is excellent - perhaps the best part of the world-building, and the story is told well enough such that you're not asking, "Really? No one thought of this or that before now?" (Well, some might.)
The next book in the series is The Desert Spear.
- and -
Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie. 2008. (Epic Fantasy, Male, Series)
The end is coming.
Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him-but it's going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the king of the Northmen still stands firm, and there's only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy: it's time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.
With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. As his days with a sword are far behind him, it's fortunate that he's deadly with his remaining weapons: blackmail, threats, and torture.
Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is too painful an undertaking and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too-and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.
The king of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, than to break the First Law...
Mr. Abercrombie can weave a dark, fantastic tale. If there's anyone out there talking about "dark, gritty, realistic fantasy" - they're comparing it to him. Had I not read the trilogy to its beautifully honest conclusion, I would never have believed that any author had the talent to take absolutely villainous miscreants and make them sympathetic. The cost of war, the cost of choices, the cost of dark magic - everything handled brilliantly, fairly. Characters are seen through to the end: nothing is as it seems, but it's quite exactly as it should be.
Prose, worldbuilding, plot - all excellent. Characters stumble, grow, fail, get beat up, grow some more.
Also, confession: I'm jealous of the dialect and prose of the Northmen. It's perfect. I want it in my head.
Could I read 50 books like this? No, no, no. But I'll be reading more Abercrombie, or rereading this series. Because sometimes fairies and miracles and magic swords DON'T save the day. Not for the faint of heart whatsoever, but if you hear people talking about 'dark fantasy' and want to see exactly how it should be done? Start here: The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One . Thank me afterwards.
This week - Non-fiction, and something light in fiction. Have to tinker with the Kindle, dontcha know?