The Flames of Shadam Khoreh
Release Date: 20130605
Publisher: Quillings Literary Services
In 2011, I raved about The Winds of Khalakovo, the first instalment in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Lay of Anuskaya. I acquired the follow-up, The Straits of Galahesh, several months before it was released in 2012. Unfortunately, the first 50 pages felt impenetrable even after reading them a dozen different times. When Beaulieu announced the upcoming release of the final volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I committed myself to finishing the second novel in order to read the conclusion. Despite a long, arduous struggle through The Straits of Galahesh that never really abated, I’m so pleased to call The Flames of Shadam Khoreh a rousing success that exceeds all of the expectations placed on it by Beaulieu’s exceptional debut.
A rousing success that exceeds all of the expectations placed on it by [The Winds of Khalakovo].
Beaulieu’s third book begins nearly two years after the events of The Straits of Galahesh. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited. The rifts between worlds grow ever wider, and Nikandr believes Nasim is the only one who can close them. I offer only the most basic of framework because to reveal more would result in endless paragraphs as to call Beaulieu’s narrative sprawling is a gross understatement. Before I go too far into what makes The Flames of Shadam Khoreh a success, I think it’s important to couch it in terms of what came before. Continue reading
A Memory of Light
Release Date: 20130108
Publisher: Tor Books
After nearly twenty three years and countless millions of words vomited out upon thousands of pages, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series finally concludes with its fourteenth volume, A Memory of Light. It has been a memorable series for those who’ve read, it albeit for some such as myself, it has become more an exercise in patience and restraint, waiting to see if the payoff justifies to any extent the laborious parsing of repetitive descriptions, redundant sentences, clothing and furniture porn, hackneyed villain motivations, etc. My own opinion of the series has fluctuated between a diversion during my last semester of grad school in the Fall of 1997 (it was a change of pace from reading Hitler’s memoirs and speeches for my grad seminar/research) toward it being a repetitive, poorly structured (and written) clunker of a novel/series. I wrote a series of posts on re-reading the Jordan-penned books, most of them for the first time since the release of the ninth book back in November 2000, and the re-reads did little to improve my deepening dislike for the series. Yet the first semi-posthumous release, co-written by Brandon Sanderson, I thought at first was a marked improvement. That was before I began to understand while reading the second co-written volume, Towers of Midnight, that the planned three-volume conclusion to the Wheel of Time series was terribly flawed in terms of narrative structure, characterization development, and prose. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I ordered A Memory of Light and read it. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst-written books in a series renowned for its mediocre, bloated prose. Continue reading
The Tyrant's Law
Release Date: 20130514
Publisher: Orbit Books
A dark-haired woman had taken the stage, her smile haughty and wild.
“Come!” she cried, her voice filling the darkness. “Gather near, my friends, or if you are faint of heart, move on. For our tale is one of grand adventure. Love, war, betrayal, and vengeance shall spill out now upon these boards, and I warn you not all that are good end well. Not all that are evil are punished.” Clara felt her throat growing thick, her heart beating faster. The words seemed like a threat. Or worse, a promise. “Come close, my friends, and know that in our tale as in the world, anything may happen.”
pp. 110 – 111
“Anything may happen.” This phrase, more than any other, exposes the heart of speculative fiction. Removed from the accepted and understood restrictions enforced by a real world setting, speculative fiction is allowed to explore themes, ideas and conflicts that might not naturally intersect in the more restrictive boundaries of traditional literature. This speculative playground is even more powerful when it is used to create a world, and fill it with conflicts and themes, that raise questions of issues that readers ask themselves about our own world. Few in-progress epic fantasy series do this as well as Daniel Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin, further proved by its third volume, The Tyrant’s Law. Continue reading
Towers of Midnight
Release Date: 20101102
Publisher: Tor Books
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legends fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
This quote, which opens the main sequence of every single The Wheel of Time book, can, with some alterations be applied to reading, memory, and the impressions formed (and altered) from the commingling of the above. I am not by nature someone who trusts wholeheartedly my first impressions; too often they change with time and further reflection. I have found this to be the case with this now-thirteen-volume epic fantasy series. When I reviewed the twelfth volume (and the first where Brandon Sanderson wrote most of the material in place of the deceased Robert Jordan), The Gathering Storm, I perhaps was a bit too forgiving of that book’s shortcomings because I reviewed the book after not having read most of the other volumes since 2000. Certainly my memory did not jibe too well with my experiences re-reading the first eleven volumes this past spring and writing commentaries on my impressions. In short, it was a slog re-reading this series. Not merely because of the myriad subplots nor because there were repetitive and yet shallow social commentaries, but also due to the creaky, non-graceful prose and uneven characterizations that often left me feeling cold. Despite the change in authors and the plot developments that one might expect in the penultimate volume of such a ponderous multi-volume series, Towers of Midnight, after some reflection, is a flawed volume in a very flawed series. Continue reading
The Gathering Storm
Release Date: 20091007
Publisher: Tor Books
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has been one of the most sprawling, character-intensive epic fantasies of the past twenty years. Spanning millions of words, this series, now reaching its twelfth volume out of a planned fourteen, has spawned dozens of fansites over the years, as well as engendering heated debates over matters ranging from how well (or not) the author managed to portray female characters to questions of character identities and motivations to even a fictional murder-mystery that still remains unresolved seven volumes after its occurrence. Some view passages, such as the (in)famous “wind passage” that opens the first chapter of each book, as being hallmarks of a great talent. Others read the same lines and wonder how the story ever managed to become even more turgid and bloated than the previous volume.
One of the most sprawling, character-intensive epic fantasies of the past twenty years.
Debates such as these point to some intrinsic quality of the series that barely allows for there to be a middle ground. There is something for almost everyone, depending if one likes an action/adventure tale, political intrigue, social commentary, or even elements of a puzzle novel. Sometimes, there is too much of it all, and readers who enjoyed the earlier volumes might end up finding the past few volumes to be rather plodding, tedious affairs. After reading the eighth and ninth volumes, The Path of Daggers and Winter’s Heart, I found myself going years before even thinking of picking up the tenth volume, Crossroads of Twilight, which was perhaps the most difficult book to complete reading of them all at the time. Continue reading