Categories
Fantasy

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Thoughts & First Impressions)

A lot of people have been waiting very patiently for this and I apologize for how long it took. There is so much that one could potentially say about Gardens of the Moon and the Malazan  series in general, and for my first post I want to take a very general approach to how I felt coming into the book and how I feel coming out of it and into the next one. I think this will have a lot of good information for other first time readers and those debating about whether to start the series

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Gardens of the Moon
  • Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1
  • Author: Steven Erickson
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 1999
  • Length: 666 pages (MMPB)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and yes, hard yes, for anyone with even a casual interest in military or regular fantasy

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series from Steven Erikson.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

Okay, so anyone with even a casual interest in fantasy has heard of Malazan, and with that knowledge comes the fact that this fandom is completely full of elitist fucks.  I let that level of elitism deter me for a long time because I found it intimidating, which is just stupid, because when a book is just this damn good people just need to read it.  I get the hype, I really do, but let’s talk about this on an introductory level

First off, the author recommends reading them in publication order which I think is awesome. The series seems super intimidating but it’s really not because the reading order, at least the first time through, is pretty straightforward.

The book itself is written on such an amazing, huge, wonderful scope, that yeah you are absolutely not going to pick up everything on the first read. I sure as hell didn’t. I’m halfway through book two now and learning quite a bit about book one still so do not be concerned if you start reading and go ” holy fuck I have no idea what’s going on” – trust me, you’ll get there.

One of the things that I tend to love about military fantasy is that it’s very realistic in terms of the reader knowing just about as much as the characters knowing. A lot of fantasy holds your hand and explains things and walks you through what’s happening, but in a military engagement this is absolutely not going to be  realistic. If the characters know what’s going on, you probably know what’s going on, but even then sometimes you don’t. Eventually in the text things are explained so you kind of have to just keep reading and learn as you go

That said, there’s a very helpful index including people, places, and some of the phrases used in the text. A good example is the word “Soletaken” – you can either look it up in the index, or just wait for someone to explain it. 

I think the coolest thing about this book is just how absolutely epic and all encompassing it is. You’ve got humans, non-humans, empresses, mages, gods and other deities, assassins, the undead, dragons, talking giant ravens, hounds, magic weapons, epic sorcery, and just about anything else you could ever want in a fantasy mashed into these pages somewhere. It’s truly and epically impressive and I’m not even scratching the surface.  

Another thing that I really appreciate is how Erikson does not mince words. If a character is fat, awesome, if they’re black, awesome, whatever.  Burned, missing an eye or arm, whatever. Just about the only thing that makes anybody turn their head is a puppet with devastating sorcery capabilities.

Even the most boring storyline in this book eventually ties into bigger things and gives you a big validating “oh wow!” moment, or six.  Even when the text isn’t necessarily exciting you get cool fantasy names like “Despot’s Barbican” to keep you entertained and curious. I didn’t love the Darujistan political storyline until it started falling into place, but it was still cool.

The level of political intrigue is right up there as well, both within and outside of the Malazan Empire.   The mages are plotting, the gods are plotting, Dujek is plotting, some of Whiskey Jack’s men are plotting …. Everyone’s got an end game and you have no idea what any of it is until Erickson decides to tell you.  Some of the plots carry right over into the next book too.

The sorcery and some of the fight scenes are epic too.  So are the characters and interwoven plots. I love the names like WhiskeyJack, Tattersail, Anomander Rake, Topper, Fiddler, Quick Ben – Erikson comes close to Glen Cook in the “fun military nicknames” category – and just smashes him everywhere else. No offense but Cook even admits he was outdone in the book plug 🤣

Some of my favorite themes were … Cause and effect. Luck. PTSD and how war sucks away humanity. Friends and found family.  Protecting your own.

Some of the coolest magic – Anomander Rake’s sword, which essentially sucks souls into it and puts them to a hellish task.  Also Hairlock’s puppet shenanigans.  The shape shifting.  At the end it was hard to tell 100% what happened but that was some damn fine sorcery as well with the “house” appearing. One more awesome point of magic is the future telling or guiding Deck of Dragons. It’s not readily apparent how involved and magical the decks are, but when it comes out it’s quite interesting!

I feel like I’m already writing an essay (while hardly scratching the surface).

I want to stress again to first time readers too –  just keep reading when you feel overwhelmed, I think the best approach is to let it wash over you without interrupting the reading too much. You’re not stupid, you’re not alone, it’s a LOT to take in.

I am told that this is the least well written of his books as well, so I have high high high hopes for the rest of the series

🖤

Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Spidertouch (Book Tour & Review) by Alex Thomson

I am happy to be joining in the Angry Robot book tour for Spidertouch by Alex Thomson!  This is a fantasy novel, where there isn’t magic but a non human race.  It’s one of those cool genre-bending books that encompasses suspense, subterfuge, adventure, some military and siege tactics, and other things.  As in – I would recommend it to people who don’t necessarily read fantasy.

This book is a linguistics lover’s dream, with plenty of action, trickery, and world building to keep it interesting.

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spidertouch
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Alex Thomson
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 12/14/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for anyone interested!

Here is the blurb:

Enslaved by a mute-race of cruel dictators, Razvan learns their touch-language and works as a translator in order to survive. But war is on the horizon and his quiet life is about to get noisy…

When he was a boy, Razvan trained as a translator for the hated Keda, the mute enslavers of his city, Val Kedic. They are a cruel race who are quick to anger. They keep a tight hold on the citizens of Val Kedic by forcing their children to be sent to work in the dangerous mines of the city from the age of eleven until eighteen. By learning fingerspeak – the Keda’s touch language – Razvan was able to avoid such a punishment for himself and live a life outside the harsh climate of the slums. But the same could not be said for his son…

Now a man, Razvan has etched out a quiet life for himself as an interpreter for the Keda court. He does not enjoy his work, but keeps his head down to protect his son, held hostage in the Keda’s mines. The Keda reward any parental misdemeanors with extra lashings for their children. Now the city is under siege by a new army who are perhaps even more cruel than their current enslavers. At the same time, a mysterious rebellion force has reached out to Razvan with a plan to utilize the incoming attack to defeat the Keda once and for all. Razvan must decide which side to fight on, who can be trusted, and what truly deserves to be saved.

41 year old Razvan is a translator for the Keda, an alien-ish race that took over the city hundreds of years ago and keeps the humans in subjugation by keeping the children as slaves. The problem is that the Keda only speak through a finger tapping type of touch language, so a handful of humans must act as translators.

When the city is sieged by a war ready people, it’s up to Razvan and the translators to decide if it’s a good time for civil war. I liked the theme of “What do people fight and risk themselves for?”  Money, children, power?  I liked the military and siege tactics too, nothing like hurling plague-ridden corpses over the city wall.

I loved the slightly older, less than heroic main character.  Razvan was not a leader, adventurer, or known hero – but a fisherman’s son turned translator.  The first half of the book was mostly his quiet observations on society, language, and the struggles of the populace.  Little bits of mettle kept showing through, more and more, until he finally stepped up when needed and did what he had to against the Keda.  I think they called it “linguistic subterfuge” and it was interesting, plus he wasn’t beyond a little bit of murder.  At the end of the day though Razvan was tripping over corpses rather than slaying them, aka not heroic, but he was very likeable 🤣

The language nuances were interesting, it made one think about how touch and translation are perceived. For a book that took place in one city there was a perfect level of micro world building.  The markets, the slums, food and drink, the increasing level of desperation as people starved….

The siege had a lot of good scenes too, for a generally quieter novel, Thomson turned up the heat at times.

The social structure was well thought out too, with three branches of Keda and a hierarchy among the humans as well.  The thing that drove me crazy, and I docked a star for it, was that since the Keda didn’t apparently have genders, the author used an “x” instead of the he or she, so it looked like “xe” or “xer” etc, and he used them all interchangeably.  That was the confusing part, in one sentence he would refer to one Keda by multiple different pronouns and seeing as it’s one of the real life new language phenomena that I just can’t wrap my head around yet, it was hard for me to follow in the book.  I just kept thinking “did he switch Keda or is this the same one?”

Anyway, all in all, I definitely recommend this one for just about anyone interested.  I thought the open ending was a nice touch and it had a hopeful tone and aspect

About the preorder offer – Good news! The new Angry Robot website is up and you can preorder or buy books directly now! You can use the code onereadingnurse to save 25% on a preorder of Spidertouch, so get on that! I believe the code is good until December 4th

Categories
Adventure Dystopian Fantasy

Flame Riders (ARC) by Sean Grigsby

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the early digital copy of Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby! This is a fast paced military fantasy, that is book 3 in a series but can be read as a standalone.  All opinions are my own!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Flame Riders
  • Series: Smoke Eaters, #3 
  • Author: Sean Grigsby
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 06/22/21
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 for fans of military fantasy and action stories

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

The third and final instalment in Sean’s rip-roaring ‘firefighters meet dragons’ fantasy series

In the final instalment of the Smoke Eaters series, the New United States Army has taken over and America has devolved into a full-on dragon apocalypse. Smoke eaters are banned and have gone into hiding to avoid being held prisoner by the soldiers.

Guiellermo Contreras is a private in the NUSA, and when he’s accused of potentially being a smoke eater upon pain of death, he escapes and sets out to find the heroes who disappeared years before. But what he discovers is that the NUSA has been working on something unthinkable, and it’s going to take more than a few smoke eaters to stop them.

First off I just want to say that I may increase my initial rating once I’ve read the first two books!

Additionally the cover art is absolutely stunning for all three books.

This is a fast paced novel that occurs after some kind of apocalypse brought on by dragons, and apparently a Phoenix had something to do with it as well.

There is a ton of action and many fun fighting scenes where sci-fi and fantasy cross paths for hi tech battles of smoke eaters vs dragons.  I would have liked more info on the experiments being done and technology used by the two forces.

I liked the team of characters and banter quite a bit. Brannigan and Happy were my two favorites, although I couldn’t really get behind Guillermo (the main character). He had a good start and end but lost me in the middle after he kept freezing up and putting his teammates in danger. Brannigan was absolutely hilarious and I kind of definitely want to go back and read his book.

One thing that Grigsby did well was create a lingo and sense of team for the smoke eaters, using terms like “scaly” to refer to a dragon and there is a definite sense of cohesion within the crew.

There was some pretty coarse language as well but not too much more than I’d expect in a military based book.

My main thing was that while the book definitely could work as a standalone, there is no background to know why there are dragons everywhere, how they got there, or who the heck all the returning characters are.  I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hi tech fantastical military adventure, but would probably recommend reading the trilogy to meet the full cast of  heroes first.

tforces.thank you again to Angry Robot for the early read!!