Book Review: The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

The Judging Eye

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Empires of Dust
Author info: http://courtofbrokenknives.org/

This is going to be a bit emotional for me, but 100% honest. I have read a very early version of this book, kind of a beta read, before Anna had an agent or a publishing deal. I knew it was something unique and it ought to be mainstream published. My gut instinct and recognition skills were dead accurate: Something like two years later it got picked up by Harper Voyager, I screamed “Hell YES!” and bounced with joy as if it were my own book. So here goes your disclaimer. However, I do only honest reviews. Anyone knows me well enough knows I won’t review the books that aren’t my cup of tea of I don’t enjoy/DNF. I have refused reviews like this for books of folk I know, cause I can’t be dishonest and I don’t want to damage the ratings of a new debut just cause I don’t enjoy it.

This final published version of The Court of Broken Knives, however, has a lot of thing I enjoy in grimdark fiction, plus the stunning prose, beautifully detailed worldbuilding, culture and religion elements. The main plot of the story is noting unusual, but the storytelling is rich and amazingly unique. Here is a little snippet from the very beginning:

All eternity, they’ve been fighting. All the edges blunted. Sword edges and knife edges and the edges in the mind. Keep killing. Keep killing. Keep killing till we’re all dead.

The Court of Broken Knives is grimdark as grimdark goes. There’s rivers of blood and pools of vomit but also beautiful gardens with jasmine and lilac trees, colorful silks, marble palaces, desert wilderness and frost covered islands, and the most important aspect of grimdark: Highly intriguing, complex, deeply flawed, incredibly realistic characters.

There are four point of view characters: A mercenary commander, a new recruit in the mercenary company, a politician from the high nobility, and a high priestess.
None of those are the sort of people you would exactly root for, but their storylines are compelling in the extreme, and along with the beautiful, flowing, poetic prose they make The Court of Broken Knives a total page turner.

Speaking of the prose. This dreamlike, hypnotic prose makes the violence and gore scenes hell of a lot more brutal, too. I am a seaoned grimdark reader and pretty desensitized to gory fight scenes. Best way I can describe the effect here is a jackhammer wrapped in pretty brocade silk. Let me show one example from the book:

He must have been happy, sometimes, this man who would die before him under his knife. Must have looked at something once and thought ‘this is a good thing.’Must have loved and wanted and desired and hoped. And all of that he’d take from him, like it had never been.

This is not the best example of what I’m talking about but I’m taking pains not to spoil anything, so it should at least give a hint.

The most important character is Marith, the pretty boy who is a new recruit in a mercenary band. He is more than what he appears to be, and you can tell from the beginning. He turns out to be a highborn guy on exile, and then more and more is revealed. To keep this review spoiler free, that is the most I can say. Marith is one of the darkest characters I’ve ever read, he takes the grimdark to a whole another level. The main theme is a decaying empire with its gold veneer chipping away and oh so amazingly depicted.

He watched the weaving figures, twisting in a long spiralling pattern of stamping feet around the square, dancing and shouting and singing while the darkness ate at them. You will all die, his mind whispered. This brightness is only the surface. Beneath is the darkness: you will all die.

This is one of the rather tame ones, dude is DARK! But he is so much more than must a bloodthirsty psycho. Marith has mysterious magical powers, and a profound darkness in him. The magic business is quite a mystery, never explained. It just unfolds and you read with a dropped jaw. This doesn’t seem to be common in fantasy, since detailed magic systems seem to be the trend in the genre. I like the dark, mysterious, scary magic, and The Court of Broken Knives beautifully delivers. If you are sick of magic systems with endless lists of rules and components and whatnot, you will definitely love the magic here.

The Court of Broken Knives is a political intrigue fantasy, and one of the main characters is a plotting high lord who is ready to sacrifice lives for the greater good. The M/M romance between him and his partner in crime Darath is quite adorable. Their flirty bickering is funny and cute. If you are a fan of M/M relationships you will absolutely love it. They are all kinds of cute, but there is the element of tragedy, dark choices and guilty conscience trying to justify horrible deeds. It is a grimdark story, after all.

Thalia is the high priestess character, and some of her chapters are from the first person perspective, which works quite well with the flow. She is also a messed up victim of the culture and society, and we get to see the twisted and brutal religion of the Empire. The worldbuilding depth truly shines in those parts, giving a good glimpse of the culture and faith embedded deeply into daily life of the people of the empire. I don’t want to give too much away, but the whole twilight taboo culture reminded me of the superstitions we had in Turkey, that it is bad luck to do any sewing or repair works in the twilight hour, time between day and night is dangerous and you aren’t supposed to do handiwork or it will bring curses and bad luck.

Thalia is about as broken and flawed like the rest of the characters, she is strong at times, but cannot conjure her inner strength all the time. Which is hell of a lot more realistic than the invincible female hero model. There are no heroes in this book, anyway, there are just people who are trying to survive or escape from their demons in a harsh world.

I am a huge fan of rich worldbuilding, and The Court of Broken Knives has some excellent details like street food, cool trinkets, city scenery and every aspect of a major city from the grand palaces to drug dens,colorful and pretty gardens, as well as awesome wilderness scenes and an impressive harbor/fishing town part. Oh and there are dragons, too. Not as a major element, but they are part of the world, featured in a few neat scenes.

The Court of Broken Knives is an impressive debut, not only for grimdark subgenre but the fantasy genre as a whole. You are missing a damn lot if you aren’t reading it. I have feeling Marith will end up one of the milestone characters of Grimdark, like Logen Ninefingers, Jorg Ancrath and Sand dan Glokta.

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Book Review: The Great Ordeal by R. Scott Bakker

The Great Ordeal

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Aspect-Emperor
Author info: http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/

This is the third book of Aspect-Emperor,the sequel series after The Prince of Nothing. You will need to read The Prince of Nothing books for the story to make sense. The starting point is The Darkness That Comes Before.

Here are my reviews for previous books in the series (First one is spoiler free, but the following reviews inevitably have spoilers for the previous ones)

The Darkness That Comes Before (book #1)

The Warrior Prophet (book #2)

The Thousandfold Thought (book #3)

The Judging Eye (book #4)

The White Luck Warrior (book #5)
To be honest, after that mind-blowing epic ‘slog of slogs’ Cil-Aujas adventure in The Judging Eye and its just as epic conclusion in White Luck Warrior, I didn’t expect anything to top that. Boy was I wrong! The mind-blowing levels went up in the Nonman mansion Ishterebinth parts. The long-abandoned Nonman abode in The Judging Eye was bone-chilling creepy and amazing, and the inhabited Nonman mansion here is even more awesome and unimaginably grimdark in its macabre majesty.

The Great Ordeal delivered more than I expected. There are several POV threads and plot arcs as usual. I had a hunch that Sorweel was going to get better from the very first encounter, and it did. Sorweel’s character development dials up to 11 and it was the most impressive slow character development I have seen since the first three books of Wheel of Time. But more on that later.

Esmenet parts were going between glory and pathetic tragicomedy. Her ability to hold the things together after the power vacuum caused by the long absence of Kellhus and the assassination of Maithanet -which she engineered- and how she ‘talks oil’ to control the imperial dignitaries and the Thousand Temples apparati is impressive, while her complete ignorance of her youngest son being a bloodthirsty, diabolical psycho makes it tragicomical.

Kelmomas is following the mysterious White Luck Warrior around the palace, as you follow him through the POV of Kelmomas, the inscrutable motives and inhuman qualities of the so-called divine assassin casts a strong aura of suspense and horror. White Luck Warrior is enigmatic and scary, following him from the eyes of a murderous little psycho brat and seeing his awe and fear for the inhuman assassin was a great deal of fun to read.

Some folk found the Great Ordeal marching parts unnecessarily long and dragging, but I beg to disagree. In the end of The White Luck Warrior, Kellhus gave the order to feed on the horribly tainted Sranc meat, and this brings a whole new macabre aspect to the already creepy plot enshrouded in Lovecraftian horror. I can’t say any more without wading into the spoiler territory, but it shall suffice to say these parts are grisly and haunting, spiced with battle action and savagery darker than the previous books.

There are some cool twists and turns, which I didn’t see coming even after reading all of the books. Kellhus became inscrutable and his parts through the POV of Proyas, as well as the very small POV of his own are so twisted and weird, it is hard to determine his motives at that point. Proyas is quite different from the one I know from the Prince of Nothing, he has sacrificed a lot and changed quite a bit.

But my favorite without question was the Ishterebinth chapters. The true extent of the doom and suffering of Nonmen is laid bare in a most tragic way. The emotional intensity rivals that of Robin Hobb books, and Sorweel’s deep understanding of the Nonmen -against whom he has been prejudiced for a lifetime due to his cultural conditioning- through a magical artifact, seeing their past through one of their own minds and being a witness from the point of view of two souls is incredibly sad, haunting and deep. Current condition of the last standing Nonman mansion, beautifully woven with flashbacks giving glimpses of its past glory is perhaps one of the most touching parts after Cleric’s reactions to Cil-Aujas in The Judging Eye.

All in all, The Great Ordeal is a superb book and sets the tensions for the upcoming Unholy Consult while resolving a good deal of threads and raising new ones.

I am not too happy about the fact that this whole series is so underrated despite its superior literary quality, impressive depth of characters and incredibly detailed and original worldbuilding. One thing I found truly mind-blowing is the whole series being pure epic fantasy without being derivative at all. Some core tropes of epic fantasy in fact exist, but you need to look long and hard to recognize any of it.

What can I say? I will be counting days until my pre-ordered copy of The Unholy Consult arrives on my e-reader!

Book Review: The White Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker

The White Luck Warrior
Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Aspect-Emperor
Author info: http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/

This is the second book of Aspect-Emperor,the sequel series after The Prince of Nothing. You will need to read The Prince of Nothing books for the story to make sense. The starting point is The Darkness That Comes Before.

Here are my reviews for previous books in the series (First one is spoiler free, but the following reviews inevitably have spoilers for the previous ones)

The Darkness That Comes Before (book #1)

The Warrior Prophet (book #2)

The Thousandfold Thought (book #3)

The Judging Eye (book #4)

 

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book! The White Luck Warrior reads more like the continuation of The Judging Eye than a “bridge book” of a trilogy in my opinion.

The White Luck Warrior answers some of the questions raised by The Judging Eye while raising new and deeper questions. The three main story arcs from The Judging Eye continue, and there is one new POV character: The mysterious and supernatural-sounding White Luck Warrior, who is sent by the goddess Yatwer, or the Hundred Gods in a broader interpretation, to slay Aspect-Emperor Kellhus. White Luck Warrior’s chapters are few, but quite intense. He seems to move in a time warp, seeing the timeframe from a non-linear vantage, kind of like the Dûnyain probability trance on steroids.

As Mimara’s Judging Eye opens and she sees the extent of everyone’s sins and damnation, you begin to realize how crappy the gods are. The scalpers are horrible scum for sure, but Achamian is overall a good guy and he appears as damned as the band of cutthroats, which includes a child rapist. He is damned cause he is a sorcerer and sorcery is an abomination in the eyes of these wrathful gods.

This made me question the legitimacy of the motives of the gods: They are after killing Kellhus and his progeny, but is it because Kellhus is a heartless bastard manipulating the population of the entire Three Seas for power, or because they are unable to see the No-God and Consult’s motives, which is going to bring the Second Apocalypse and decimate the entire population of the world, and Kellhus happens to see further than they can? Kellhus may not be the good guy, but he is warring against the ultimate evil forces which are about to decimate the mankind. We already know the amount of blight and ruin they heaped during the First Apocalypse from Akka’s narrative and also the ruins of cities various characters encounter during their journeys.

Which also made me question the legitimacy of Akka’s motives. Akka is on a quest to uncover the Dûnyain origins of Kellhus to undermine his power. Akka is also the sworn enemy of the Consult and spent a lifetime hunting their agents, his life was dedicated to prevent the Second Apocalypse and the summoning of the No-God by the Consult. Did he abandon this lifelong quest along with the School of Mandate? I have a hard time to believe that, it’s so illogical. The rational thing would be to wait until Kellhus launches the offensive on Golgotterath and puts an end to the horrendous and vile Consult. I sure as hell hope that’s what Akka is planning.

On the other hand, abhorrent and revolting as they are, the Consult is going to save the souls of everyone from damnation if they succeed with their plan. Even though they will reduce the world’s population to 140.000 souls, all those who die won’t be damned for eternity. Which means horrible criminals, murderers and rapists will get away with their heinous crimes, but the good people damned cause of the stupid and petty whims of gods will also be saved. It’s really a catch 22 situation. Gods are not so much better than the Consult and its horrible No-God, it seems, and they are loath to dole out salvation even to those who deserve it for having good hearts.

Akka and Mimara’s epic “slog of slogs” with the scalper band continues on, the party is now reduced greatly after the battles in Cil-Aujas, and they trek on into the great, gloomy and extremely creepy forest called the Mop. Like the awesome Cil-Aujas journey, the Mop reads more like Lovecraftian horror than epic fantasy, but it is still one hell of an epic fantasy. Cleric, who was my #1 favorite from The Judging Eye (I know, I’m weird. Don’t judge!) became even more fascinating, and his sermons got more intense. His rationing of Qirri becomes sort of a religious ritual, and from Mimara’s point of view it was quite a delight to read. Like the Judging Eye, Cleric parts were awe-inspiring and a great delight to read. Nonmen are truly fascinating.

Speaking of Mimara, her inner strength and resilience becomes even more impressive in this book. The horrible band of cutthroats now see her as one of them and show her respect, which is no mean feat. Some people complained about her being a former prostitute, but like I said before I have no problem with such things and I don’t judge sex workers. Mimara’s flashbacks to her life in the brothel and how she learned to deal with the harsh aspects of life were great to read. When shit hits the fan, she grabs her sword named Squirrel and hews the bad guys like no tomorrow! I am not a feminist per se (or more like a classic style feminist, not the Tumblr 3rd wave kind) but I see absolutely nothing wrong with Mimara from a feminist point of view, either. She is the strong female character who perseveres where big burly dudes die like flies, she has native intellect and peculiar strength of character.

The Great Ordeal arc got more interesting from Sorweel’s point of view, and Sorweel’s bonding with Zsoronga as brothers was great. Zsoronga is a great side character, with his snarky comments and attitude. There were some cool twists in that arc, and Sorweel truly grew on me in this book. The Sranc hordes keep massing up before the advancing Great Ordeal army, and the enormous amount of dust they kick into the air while they move along the arid Istyuli Plains in their tens of thousands create a huge curtain of dust the people call the Shroud, it lingers in the air all day, blocking the horizon and the Sranc hordes, and it kept lingering in my head even after I put the book down, much like a Lovecraftian horror element.

All the skirmishes and epic battles, especially those involving the sorcerers and the witches were such a great show. Sorcery visuals would be amazing to see on the big screen, if the movie producers realize these books are the real deal and make them into movies in my lifetime.

Esmenet and Kelmomas threads in Momemn got legendary level epic with some neat plot twists. Kelmomas is a little psycho brat, not just the kind of psycho you hate with passion like Joffrey from Asoiaf/Game of Thrones, but the kind of psycho that creeps the hell out of you on top of being an awful creature you hate. He is downright scary. Theliopa is ever so interesting, too bad she didn’t get more page time. She is perhaps the most likeable Dûnyain out there.

I particularly liked the Esmenet parts, and felt sorry for her. I don’t see why many fans of the series dislike her, I think she is a great character. She has some rather annoying aspects and weaknesses, but overall she is quite rich, realistic and does hell of a better job keeping the empire together than any of her critics could.

The ending chapters were pure badassery featuring one of the most epic fights I have read in fantasy, Robin-Hobb tier emotional depth and the Silmarillion-esque aura which made me think of the journey of Beren and Finrod Felagund. This one made me literally weep.

There is one other arc which involves the Fanim attacking the now weakened empire and the Zeümi diplomat Malowebi. That is a rather intriguing POV character, and then there is Meppa, the last Cishaurim and his awesome power. I really liked Meppa, despite him being a Fanim heretic. Second Negotiant Malowebi is craven and can get annoying at times, but interesting nonetheless.

You are missing out a damn lot if you aren’t reading this spectacular series. It is one of the best things that happened to the fantasy genre, and it is as addictive as ASOIAF but with a smaller cast of POV characters and a much more manageable number of plot threads.

This series is worth reading, not only for all the badassery I have detailed in my reviews so far, but also for the sheer hilarity of the Second Apocalypse jokes being produced by our beloved fan artist Quint von Canon, such as this fine piece of work here: http://quintvc.deviantart.com/art/So-Much-Loss-581469142

This one made me fall off my couch and laugh until I couldn’t laugh anymore.

Book Review: The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker

The Judging Eye

Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Aspect-Emperor
Author info:http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/

This is the first book of Aspect-Emperor,the sequel series after The Prince of Nothing. You will need to read The Prince of Nothing books for the story to make sense. The starting point is The Darkness That Comes Before.

Here are my reviews for The Prince of Nothing books (First one is spoiler free, but the following reviews inevitably have spoilers for the previous books)

The Darkness That Comes Before (book #1)

The Warrior Prophet (book #2)

The Thousandfold Thought (book #3)

I have written those ages ago, and I held off on reading the Aspect-Emperor books cause the 3rd book was being delayed by the publisher. Now that it came out and the last book is already scheduled, I finally got around to reading and I must say The Judging Eye blew my mind. I went back and read my reviews for the prequel series, and feel bad for writing such a negative review for The Thousandfold Thought. I don’t know what I was smoking back then but I only wrote the complaints and didn’t make mention of the great things. It is a damn good book overall, I was just disappointed with a few things.

My main complaint about The Prince of Nothing was not being able to root for any of the characters, except for Achamian (Akka) a bit, even though they were incredibly well-developed and detailed. I just couldn’t connect with them. This definitely changes with the Aspect-Emperor books. Some of the existing main characters are there (Kellhus, Esmenet, Akka, Maithanet), Akka got hell of a lot better and far more charismatic, and there’s a whole new cast of awesome characters. I must emphasize the fact that I don’t use the awesome word lightly like my fellow Americans do. Even the mighty popular ASOIAF characters, dare I say, have nothing on these guys and gals.

The Judging Eye is a dark book, a different kind of dark than the Prince of Nothing. Prince of Nothing was deliciously dark, peppered with with graphic violence, mayhem and desolation. The Judging Eye, on the other hand, is dark like a blood soaked onyx dagger glittering under sorcerous light is dark.

There is plenty of quotable material in the book, especially the proverbs in the beginning of each chapter.
An example:

A beggar’s mistake harms no one but the beggar. A king’s mistake, however, harms everyone but the king. Too often, the measure of power lies not in the number who obey your will, but in the number who suffer your stupidity.

If you never read any Bakker books before, I must tell you his prose is second to none. You think The Name of the Wind was great? Check this out:

She could feel it billow about her in winds that only souls could sail.

How about this:

A portent hangs with them, a promise of what is other and impenetrable, of things that would glory in her lament. They remind her of her humanity the way burnt edges speak of fire.

Also the reason I am reading slower than usual: I stop and highlight the good stuff and read some scenes over and over before turning the page. The Prince of Nothing books were spectacular in general, but this is better. I don’t know the word for better than spectacular… And much better characters to boot.

The events here start twenty years after the Prince of Nothing timeline. Kellhus is the Aspect-Emperor, and has a bunch of children with Esmenet, who is Akka’s ex lover. Kellhus’s kids are downright scary. With Kellhus’s inhuman nature, it should be expected, but they are all nightmare fuel in their own way. Except for the poor, innocent little Samarmas who is mentally retarded. These kids make the demon-possessed kids from horror movies look cute.

Kellhus gathers a great host for a new Holy War, which is called The Great Ordeal, and marches through the wastelands of the ancient North to put an end to the Consult and their plots for resurrecting the dreaded No-God, which will unleash the Second Apocalypse if it comes to pass. While he is gone, empress Esmenet is left with the task of keeping the empire together. Esmenet is under a lot of pressure with all kinds of people plotting against her and her husband -not to mention dealing with her messed up kids and Consult’s skin spies.

And then we have Mimara, a majestic new female character. She doesn’t take shit from anyone and boy is she a trooper! Talk about an amazing strong female character. That girl goes through a journey worse than a demon’s nightmares and doesn’t even flinch when half of the hardened, violent, filthy scumbags in her party break down or soil their breeches. Anyone who says Bakker’s female characters are weak needs to pay attention to Mimara. That girl has my respect and I am not a one to dispense respect like loose coin. She puts the Cnaiür-tier savage dudes to shame for crying out loud.

The other compelling female POV character is Mother Supreme of the Cult of Yatwer. She is cunning, charismatic and grimdark as fuck (gdaf as we say in the grimdark fan circles.) Her scenes were dark, disturbing and badass.

Our old friend Achamian is hell-bent on finding out the origin of the Aspect-Emperor Kellhus, who stole his wife and manipulated poor Akka into teaching him the Mandate School’s occult secrets. So Akka is now a greybeard with greater wisdom, searching the past through his cursed dreams, and he joins a band of cutthroat scalpers to travel to some godforsaken hell hole to seek out the secrets to undo Kellhus. The scalpers call such outings slogs.

The slog chapters were my favorite parts. They were so good I read some of them over and over. Let’s just say that a whole party of horrendous cutthroat scalpers, who call themselves Skin Eaters and make a living by collecting bounty for the Sranc scalps they harvest, along with Akka and Mimara, go through some places that make Mordor look like the fair woods of Lothlorien. And those hordes of Sranc… If you recall from the Prince of Nothing, they make the Orcs from LOTR look like refined gentlemen.

Other reviewers have stated a certain part of this epic voyage was the best homage to Tolkien’s unforgettable Moria scenes and I agree with them. While some other fantasy authors ripped off Moria, Bakker surpassed it and moved the darkness level several notches up, making the Moria adventure in LOTR sound like a nice afternoon stroll.

Lord Kosoter, the captain of the Skin Eaters is quite an intriguing character. He is creepy as hell, but commands respect with his imperious and unrelenting demeanor. I have been quite curious about the nearly extinct race of the immortal Nonmen after reading the Prince of Nothing and I was ecstatic to get a good dose of their enigmatic culture and history. Nonmen are the best representation of an immortal race and Bakker realized their alienness so beautifully.

Incariol, the mysterious and aloof Nonman Cleric turned out to be epic beyond my expectations. Holy shit I’m totally in love! I didn’t think I would obsess over a character teenage fangirl style like that, but this dude made my stone cold heart melt like uranium rods in a chain reaction. His sermons are so epic I almost wept. Look people, I’m shedding the last shreds of my dignity here, don’t you take it lightly!
Let me see, Fëanor from the holy Silmarillion was the last fantasy character who made me all crazy obsessed like that. That was over a decade ago, go figure.
(Having read all the reviews on Goodreads, I found myself quite alone in this matter -alas, I can’t decide whether I should lament being so alone in my extreme weirdness, or rejoice over the fact that I have no competition.)

To show what I’m talking about, here is a glimpse of one of Cleric’s sermons:

His voice was cavernous, greased with inhuman resonances. He spoke like one grown weary of his own wisdom.

“Fear. This is how you ask the question. For you are Men, and fear is ever the way your race questions great things.”
He lowered his face to the shadows, continued speaking to his palms and their millenial calluses.

“I remember… I remember asking a wise man, once… though whether it was last year or a thousand years ago I cannot tell. I asked him, ‘Why do Men fear the dark?’ I could tell he thought the question wise, though I felt no wisdom in asking it. ‘Because darkness,’ he told me, ‘is ignorance made visible.’ ‘And do Men despise ignorance?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he said, ‘they prize it above all things-all things! -but only so long as it remains invisible.'”

I know I shouldn’t fall for the grimdark characters, cause they tend to die premature deaths. I am so taking up necromancy if Bakker ends up killing this wondrous character.

Another main plot arc features Sorweel, the heir of Sakarpi Kingdom marching in the Great Ordeal as a hostage of the Aspect-Emperor. His arc starts slow, but becomes quite compelling and takes interesting twists and turns, converging with a major political intrigue thread. Sorweel’s confusion, inner conflicts and struggle to fit in made me instantly connect, even though he got on my nerves a few times. I have a feeling there is much more to this character.

There are other intriguing characters aplenty, there is certainly no shortage of epic characters in this book. You will find at least one or two you can really connect with, that is a guarantee. Even if you are a total whacko, there are whackos you can root for, too. Enough said.

The religious and political intrigue is top-notch as expected from a Bakker book. Not only it is realistic, but it’s realistic with delightful fantasy elements. My heartfelt thanks go to Mr. Bakker for writing such a dazzling masterpiece. Now I’m off to go devour the rest of the awesome sauce.

How many of you would read this?

I just realized I haven’t plugged my book in my own blog so I will remedy this now: My debut novel is going to be published by Realmwalker Publishing Group.

Here is the info from the official press release:

The Coin of Liberius, is a dark epic fantasy in the tradition of George R R Martin and R. Scott Bakker, dealing with the collapse of the fictional Lagharian Empire and the consequences of power, corruption, and betrayal, as well as the nature of salvation. Unlike the majority of epic fantasy, the novels are set within a Near-Eastern culture, rooted in the political and cultural elements of the medieval Byzantine, Seljuk and Persian Empires, Turkic-Mongolian shamanism, and the folklore of the Near East. This gives it a unique perspective very different from the more Western European cultural perspective of most epic fantasy, while providing an interesting new twist to the highly popular tropes of political intrigue and conflict central found within epic fantasy.

I wrote a blog post and gave a glimpse of the research I have been doing for this book, you can see it here.

I have been doing world building and research for this series for years and showing only a fraction of this in the first book. But both my editor and my beta readers loved the original world. It’s quite alien but also a lot like our own world in some ways and the people who have studied Near Eastern history will recognize some elements.

It’s a gritty setting, it doesn’t start out that grim but becomes grittier and creepier as you go. It’s a multiple point of view story with a number of main characters as point of view, similar to Asoiaf in that regard.

Magic exists as a part of the reality, just like the weather phenomena such as the thunderstorms and the rainbows -and the northern lights for the occasional bang. It’s there but not all over the place. There is no set magic system, it’s different from what you read in most fantasy out there but quite similar to the real world magic, as in shamanic practices and the eastern occult.

My magic is not that of a D&D player and fantasy reader, but rather the magic of an occult practitioner in the eastern tradition. I have been an occult practitioner for a number of years, mainly the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucian traditions, though I prefer the way of the shamans, without all the elaborate tools, implements and formality.

I have original non-human races and one human race with a twist (in addition to the humans.) There’s no good versus evil, no big bad villain. I have a bunch of antiheroes with ambiguous morals who grow and change for the better or the worse. I have a genuine good guy who is mysterious and intriguing (according to my beta readers, most of whom are total strangers.)
No chosen ones, no big prophecies, no poor orphans saving the world, no damsels in distress. There’s the journey, though. Some characters go on journeys and face strange things along the way.

There’s a bit of philosophy in the story. There’s also plenty of Greek tragedy without butchering my characters en masse. Not saying I am not killing anyone, but I kill sparingly.
I also have no romance in book 1 unless you count bromance.

This is the long and short of it. Now, would you read that kind of book?

Spontaneous piece I just wrote on a whim

It’s so dark ahead. No hint of light, not even a spark. I walk blindly, stepping on the stones floating in the void. I don’t know how but my feet seem to find them somehow. Yet taking each step terrifies me all the same. The stones get smaller by the yard. It’s like walking on eggshells. Someone else would have given up and jumped into the void a long time ago.

It was a solid road many miles back. Then I stepped into the first hole, almost losing my balance. Holes became bigger and bigger and before I knew it, the road turned into stepping stones floating in the void. I wonder whether the stones will disappear or start getting bigger after a while, turning into a proper road again. With each new step I doubt the latter is likely to happen. I wonder whether it’s the curiosity to see which one will take place or the hope to get my feet on a decent road that keeps me going.

This is the one way road to death or salvation, either you keep going or you let yourself fall into the void. There is no going back. We all knew it and took the risk, leaving our cursed lives behind. But not everyone makes it. Some fall, some lose all hope and jump down. I ain’t jumping, though. If I can’t find any more stones, I will sit on the last stone and live out my days there. I take one more step, the next stone is barely bigger than my feet. I stand here, in the dark, feet balanced on those small stones. I stare into the void. Up, down, doesn’t matter, I stare in every direction. No hint of light, not even a spark. Damn. I’m sick of walking on eggshells, I want something different. I keep staring. I don’t know how long. I keep staring, but I see nothing. Nothing at all. And then I close my eyes… When I close my eyes, it stares back.

Book Review: The Thousandfold Thought By R. Scott Bakker

The Thousandfold Thought

Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy Dystopia, Dark Fantasy
Series: The Prince of Nothing
Author Info: http://www.rscottbakker.com blog: http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/

Warning: This review may have some minor spoilers.
Review for the first book.
Review for the second book.

The philosophical and intellectual aspects of this book are very impressive just like the first two books of the series. I really sympathized with Drusas Achamian, and while Kellhus dropped my jaw in the first two books, I couldn’t help but curse him in this one. The climax scene of Cnaüir was excellent just as I expected. Though the war scenes in Shimeh, especially those involving the sorcerers were unnecessarily long and even boring in a few places, but in general it is a great book.

The first two books made me expect ultimate glory for Shimeh and I must say I was a bit disappointed with the prolonged battle scenes. They were far too long and the constant switching of POV in repetitive scenes was confusing. Perhaps that is due to the fact that all of the characters involved in the Shimeh battle were the rather flat characters I didn’t connect with. The only parts I was excited about were the ones involving Conphas and Proyas, and that is because these characters were much deeper than the others involved. If the author had spent more effort on building up the grandmaster of the Scarlet Spires character, his scenes would interest me far deeper, I think.

I must say I am utterly disappointed with Conphas. I was expecting him to duke it out with someone rather than fizzle into the void like that. His escape in the second book was quite brilliant, so his arrival in this book turned out as flat as it can be. I also expected a more glorious arrival of the Padirajah’s heathen army, it was obscured by too much dust and debris.

Another thing that bothered me in this book is the repetition of the phrase ‘Death came swirling down’ one too many times. It’s repeated in the first two books too, but hardly noticeable. In this book it was just too many, like R.A. Salvatore’s whirlwind scimitars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of R.A. Salvatore, but repetitions really bother me for some reason. Now, after ranting about it, I hope I don’t fall into the same trap in my own books!

I especially enjoyed the dialogs involving Kellhus, Achamian and Möenghus. Those were really, really well done. The book has a very nice closing, but not everything gets wrapped up, leaving the door open for the subsequent series (The Aspect-Emperor) where the story continues. I am planning to read those after I finish reading the Kingkiller Chronicle series.

Rating: 4/5 Roman Solidus

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