Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review of The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit For Heroes #3)-Richard Morgan

The Dark Defiles
by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 3.5/5
Setting 4.5/5
Characters 3/5

My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 3/5

Summary from Goodreads

The final part of Richard Morgan's fast-moving and brutal fantasy brings Ringil to his final reckoning and sees the world tipping into another war with the dragon folk. And, most terrifying of all, the prophecy of a dark lord come to rule may be coming true very close to home ...
After completing The Steel Remains, book 1 in in Richard Morgan's fantasy series A Land Fit for Heroes, I knew I found something that would forever live in the canon of grimdark. I did not review the second book, The Cold Commands, but I rated it 4/5 stars and thought it was good but lacking the intensity of the first. So The Dark Defiles had a lot to live up to. Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations but it was not a bad book either.

Some of the magic of books 1 and 2 was just gone for me. This book was a lot longer and I felt needlessly so. It did not seem as tight, clear, and concise as previous installments. I felt at least 150 pages could easily have been cut. I felt it was a bit meandering, without direction. At times I was completely lost. Partly because of the style of jumping back and forth between characters and past and present.

The writing was still very good but looking at my bookmarks in his other books, I did not see much in this one that could rival his most wonderful passages in those. As in the last 2 books, there is an excellent blend of science fiction and fantasy and some very complex ideas are articulated and done well. There is a good deal about this world I did not understand, but it was due to the complexity of the subject, not the writing.

This book is full of lore and history, my favorite part of reading fantasy. I love backstory. This is one of the most unique and fascinating worlds I have ever come across and all the questions I had about previous books were answered in this book. A large portion of this book concerns itself with explaining the history of the races and gods and their interactions with one another. Loose ends were tied up and I enjoyed the ending. The book really moved quickly the last 200 pages plotwise.

Overall, a satisfying ending but somewhat underwhelming overall book in one of my favorite series. I don't see any reason one would read this book without having read the first 2. If you have read and enjoyed those, I believe you will enjoy this final book, especially if you are a patient, thoughtful reader, which I am not. If you have not read The Steel Remains (Book 1 in the series), I consider it essential and you should give it a try. Richard Morgan is no doubt one of the best current authors in science fiction and fantasy and I anxiously await his next project

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Happening Here at Grimdark Fantasy Reader

I would like to briefly update my readers as to the goings on at Grimdark Fantasy Reader. First, I do have a review of Richard Morgan's concluding A Land Fit For Heroes book called The Dark Defiles scheduled to drop in a few days. I have read but not reviewed several recent fantasy releases, among them M.C. Plank's Sword of the Bright Lady and Angus Watson's Age of Iron. I thought they were both well written and for a novice fantasy reader they should work wonderfully. Even for someone who has been in the genre, they both have a lot to offer, including good characterization, plot, magic, imagination. With that said, and for me personally, I was a bit bored. I think I have reached something of a crossroad in my reading. There are several authors, Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, David Gemmell, Jeff Salyards, Scott Lynch, George Martin, Michael Moorcock, and a few others, who I am willing to read anything by. There are many others, who just don't work for me. Then there are the unknowns. It's true, I have been extremely impressed with numerous self published or new authors on major publishers. But, for all the ones that I have enjoyed, there have been at least 10 that I set aside. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with them, and many deserve more acclaim than they have, but the last year and a half of immersion in fantasy has refined my tastes to a very specific type of book. Not only that, it is essential books I read are not just well written but that they must be writen at the highest literary level. Not every author can pull that off. In fact, very few can. Also, I don't like any type of political agenda in fantasy literature. Harold Bloom says "we must not pass a law that imposes upon fiction the burden of improving society." Furthermore, he says "it cannot be overstated that Hamlet has no creed, social or religious." If the author's selling point is overtly political, such as in this recent marketing statement I received in an email just today saying "both women use their stories to probe the politics of gender and inequality" I couldn't be less interested. And this is a real problem today, I innocently select a book that looks like a good read and out of nowhere the authors agenda bites me in the ass, usually either feminist or relativist (as in the Glen Cook novel (Black Company) I just finished and nearly gave up on him for good over) or sometimes with blatant radical egalitarian or "rights themes." I read fantasy for primarily aesthetic purposes and secondarily for purposes of learning about human nature and the grey shades that make us human and unless the author is a philosopher or classical scholar I don't care what they have to say about equality or gender. I'm not intrigued or interested in politics of gender or equality. If I have questions about these things, there are others I will consult, those giants who have stood the test of time. I've learned nothing about politics through modern fantasy and anyone who wants to learn about politics will be dangerously misled by searching modern fantasy or science fiction for it. If anything other than pleasure comes from reading in the genre, it's the awakening of the moral imagination.

That leads me to whats next for me and Grimdark Fantasy Reader. I anticipate at this point to continue the site, with perhaps 1-2 reviews a month, relying heavily on others reviews such as Bloody Cake NewsDrunken Dragon ReviewsBlackgateFantasy Faction, and a few others as a way of selecting what to read. Already, Bloody Cake News led me to what looks to be an excellent, book called Whispers of War by Sean Rodden. As for what I will be doing, during the next 5-10 years I plan to study what has been referred to as "The Western Canon" or "The Great Tradition." My formal education as well as my own studies in the last 10 years has familiarized me with the works of Plato, Homer, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Nietzsche, and many more but I intend a systematic study of what they said, not what others said they said. To do that I will have to do my best to clear my mind of all the literary criticism I have read, both that which fit what I believe and that which doesn't. I deplore historicism, relativism, positivism, and all the other modern ism's used for interpreting literature and because of that I also must unlearn some of what I learned in college, mainly that "a forest is never just a forest" and "Little Red Riding Hood's cape was red to symbolize her first menstrual period." It's immensely sad to me how many people out there in these times of the "mass man" have never read these works and if they did they interpreted them by way of the above mentioned methods which is to lose the truth contained in the author's own words. Many people are trained nowadays, but few are truly educated. I want to be educated. And although I have a cursory understanding and familiarity with these works, I have a long way to go as a truth seeker. I'm currently in the research phase and have assembled all the texts I own and am writing lists and reading up on what I should study. The Canon is too large at this point to even consider a thorough study of every work so I have to be somewhat selective. I am in the process of narrowing my focus as well. Should it just be secular philosophy, or that alongside Christian philosophy? "How far back should I go" "Do I include novels" "Should I focus strictly on political philosophy or include moral philosophy?" These and a hundred other questions are what I am working on at this time.

A small part of my library

Lastly, I have read at least 10 five star books this year. It will be hard determining book of the year. There are still about 8-10 highly anticipated books coming out this year including The Whispering Swarm by Michael Moorcock, The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes, and The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch. Next year, there are sequels by Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Brian Stavely, Jon Sprunk, and Jeff Salyards. I still have to finish Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and James Barclay's Raven books. So there is still much to see at the site. As for my other studies, I may make a second blog since I won't put much on this site as it relates to Grimdark and fantasy.