All posts tagged: fantasy novels

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, a different kind of hero

In most fantasy novels we have become quite accustomed to heroes with impressive physiques, great with a blade or bow, probably good looking too.  There is nothing wrong with that, one of the great things about fantasy writing is that we can escape to other worlds, where an early grave is often only avoided by our heroes’ physical prowess.  However, there are other ways to be remarkable, and sometimes it’s refreshing to find someone who survives through their wit rather than their brawn. That’s the case with Joe Abercrombie’s new ‘Shattered Sea’ series, which starts with the novel ‘Half a King’.  The lead character, a prince of a ruling family, has been born with one withered arm and a malformed hand.  As he lives in a warrior society, where a man’s worth is judged by how adept they are with their weapons, he suffers the scorn of his peers and his stern father.  But our character has assets that the others don’t, a sharp mind and resourceful spirit. I won’t go into the plot in …

Not an ordinary fantasy trilogy – Robin Hobb, The Soldier Son Series

I mentioned this series when I wrote my post on Wednesday, and since then I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot.  The Soldier son trilogy isn’t for everyone, and I know some people who were never keen on it as it was a big departure from Robin Hobb’s other books set in the Three-Kingdoms, or those on the Live Ships and Dragons of Bingtown.  The Soldier Son novels, despite being works of fantasy, are set in a relatively modern world with rifles and guns, and Hobb develops an unorthodox main character from that which you’d normally expect from a fantasy series.  However, these novels strengths are that they cover a lot of issues that we would recognise from our own world, and really make you think about our own perceptions to those same issues. I don’t want to give too much away, but the conflicting issues in these novels are between the progress and development of the modern world on the one-side, and the traditions and magical beliefs of a land that is coming …

Great Borderlands and frontiers in novels – Part 1 : Fantasy

For the past week and a half I’ve been staying in a small cottage up in the wild hills of Northumberland, one of England’s two counties that lie on the border with Scotland.  Evidence of previous animosity between the two countries are all around, not just with Hadrian’s Wall that runs through the borderlands, but in the number of castles and fortified buildings that lie festooned over the countryside.  My own cottage that I am staying in still has arrow slits in the outbuildings, a relic from its past when the inhabitants needed to defend themselves from the periodic raiding parties from the Scottish North. This has made me think about borderlands in literature, and what a great location they are to set any novel.  Obviously history is full of hostile frontiers, and next week I will go through a few of those and show some examples.  But equally this works well for fantasy novels, and here are just a few great examples of fantasy novelists that have used this topic so well. Mordor, Middle …

The City – Stella Gemmell

It had taken me a while to purchase this novel, and get around to reading it.  David Gemmell, Stella’s late departed husband was one of my favourite authors, so I’m not sure why it had taken me so long, surely I should have been eager to buy it as soon as it came out…but I didn’t. I think the reason why was in case I was disappointed, and then the final link to her husband’s great writing would be gone.  But I shouldn’t have been so reticent, Stella Gemmell has proved with her first solo novel, The City, that she is a writer in her own right now, and I won’t hesitate to purchase more novels from her in the future. Stella Gemmell has previously worked with her husband on many different projects, and finished David Gemmell’s last trilogy on Troy posthumously, so I knew I wasn’t dealing with a novice when I picked up her novel.  However, with her previous work I was never quite sure where her influence started and his ended, but …

Transformation – Carol Berg

I’ve been looking forward to writing this about this novel because Carol Berg is one of my favourite fantasy authors, and I don’t think she gets nearly enough credit for the fantastic stories and characters she creates. I emphasise the characters, because that is the strength of Carol Berg’s writing, her characters – and as far as I am concerned, that is the secret of good writing. Carol Berg’s main character in this novel is Seyonne, a slave in the employ of Prince Aleksander, a ruler of a feudal regime that presides over an Empire that has been swallowing up neighbouring states, including Seyonne’s own sixteen years before. The past sixteen years of slavery hangs heavily on Seyonne, as he had once been a leader of his people, and now he finds himself enforced to work for Prince Aleksander as his personal secretary. The two characters couldn’t be more contrasting. Seyonne, is thoughtful, deliberate, and his moral compass remains intact despite the years of demeaning and degrading service he’d undertaken as a slave to the Empire. The …

‘Lion of Macedon’ and ‘Dark Prince’ by David Gemmell

Where Fantasy and History blend. For those of you looking for a comprehensive and detailed history of Ancient Greece followed by Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Persian Empire you might find this series not exactly what you were expecting.   I think when Alexander starts fighting alongside Centaurs in a parallel world, this would steer you off the path of generally accepted mainstream history taught in most universities and schools…well, at least in this world. However, that’s not the point of these novels, and as with a lot of books written by the sadly departed David Gemmell, he is fascinated by the concept of parallel lands similar to our own but imbued with magic.   This series focuses on the personalities of Alexander, his father Phillip, and in particular their General Parmenion.  It is the story of Parmenion that Gemmell’s tale is based, with him being brought up in Sparta in their fighting tradition under the harsh military regime of that land.  Any fans of the film 300 will love this part of the story as …

Anthony Ryan – Blood Song. Fantasy Novel

Some schools are tough…really tough.  Those who claim that school days are the happiest of your life have forgotten the playground bully – not to mention the coterie of sycophants who normally accompany the bully on their regular round of intimidation.  However, no matter how difficult and challenging some schools are, I’m pretty sure none go quite to the extremes depicted in Anthony Ryan’s novel Blood Song, the first of the Raven Shadows series. In the Unified Realm, power is shared between the King and seven religious orders.  The Sixth of these orders, takes young boys – from every echelon of society – and teaches them to be the ultimate warrior, skilled with sword, bow, knife, or any other device designed for cutting bits off, or poking into people.  The methods they employ are so extreme that many don’t make it through their school years – a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest played out to wheedle out those not strong enough to represent the shady ideals of the military order. The story is based …

Ten types of evil henchmen!

The Assassin.  This silent killer is cold and dispassionate.  Prefers to stand in the shadows until called upon by their master to despatch an unfortunate victim.  The first time you see their face may also be the last thing you ever see. The bodyguard.  Forever trailing their master, whose personal safety is their only concern.  Their loyalty is unquestionable and so they can be relied upon to partake in any evil deed their master demands. The street tough.  Handy with their fists and unafraid of any brawl, they are often found in the seediest of bars.  Not renowned for their intelligence, they are still a useful resource if hired muscle is all you need to put some pressure on a competitor or rival. The Torturer.  Sometimes information is more valuable than gold.  If you need to extract anything from a victim before bumping them off, a reliable torturer is essential.  No other henchmen can instil as much fear as someone who specialises in giving pain.  The best torturers will also be adapt at keeping a victim …

Brian Staveley ‘The Emperor’s Blades’

Brian Staveley’s new series ‘The Unhewn Throne’, which starts with the novel ‘The Emperor’s Blades’ follows three completely different storylines. The plot centres on three young adults, the offspring of the ruler of the mythical Annurian Empire, and how their lives are effected by his untimely death. Each sibling is separated from the other by thousands of miles, so each story is completely independent of one another.