April 2, 2020

Book Review: The Skybound Sea

Sam Sykes’ The Skybound Sea, Book Three of the Aeons’ Gate Trilogy, is a remarkable cap to an absolutely action-packed trilogy.

First, the title is very enigmatic. The explanation comes well into the book as our adventurers work their way — individually or in teams — to the island of Jaga to stop Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen, from returning to the land of the living. Jaga is where sky and sea have no boundaries. The action in the skybound sea with water plants and swimming creatures acting as though they’re in the sea tweaks the imagination. It adds another level of complexity to an already somewhat less than simple plot and cast of characters.

Our heroes/heroines continue their personal battles with internal and external demons throughout this book. What remains surprisingly intact is their dedication to the quest and, by extension, to each other. All are needed to make it happen, and each works to that end. The character development, interplay and evolution is fascinating and not so fantastic. At any point, dark or light could prevail. Sykes never really lets us know until it happens.

I was very taken with Sykes’ concise and still very descriptive depiction of beings, landscape, and combat. As I’m writing this, I can still see in my mind’s eye physical attributes of various characters, the essence of the skybound sea, and the ebb and flow of the several conflicts throughout this story. Description is always key to storytelling, but essential in a fantasy story. Until the author puts pen to paper, all the color lives only in the author’s mind. In my opinion, Sam Sykes nails it.

I’m thinking we’ve not seen the last of Sam Sykes; possibly not the last of the adventuring team that survives Aeons’ Gate, either. That works for me. I for one am anticipating whatever Sykes is serving up next.

Book Review: Age of Misrule: World’s End

World’s End is Book One in Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule.  This is one roller coaster ride of a story with really interesting heroes and really terrifying villains.  Chadbourn has a seriously dramatic and memorable way of painting scary. It’s successful in showing the dire circumstances awaiting the world, if it’s champions are not successful in thwarting the plan of the bad guys.

The story takes place in England; begins under London Bridge when Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher see a large, horrifying creature take the life of a man.  What follows is a race across England, with heroes gathering to fight the menace, and the menace with the advantage of age (they come from Celtic mythology), strength and number.  It’s really a pretty amazing tale that pulls the reader along pretty easily. It was really tough to put down. The human race’s champions are mere mortals and everything that implies. The subtext of the human interaction of those champions is as interesting as the battle to save the human race.

When Book One closes, the reader is left wondering if good really is and also what the final twist means for the next part of the story. I am looking forward to continuing the journey and can easily recommend this first volume. Kudos, Mark Chadbourn!!

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself  is the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy “The First Law” and is also Abercrombie’s amazing first novel. In April of this year, I came to have the third book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, and I decided to read it as a standalone and not wait ’til I could acquire Book One.  It did stand alone…easily.  I had questions, however, and knowing that I’d started at the end, I went back to the beginning to see if there were answers.  When one starts at the beginning of a story, this is usually not an option, so I was happy to take the opportunity.

My curiosity was mostly about Glokta, the Inquisitor who’d once been a champion. Was he that champion in the first book?  Will we learn how he came to be who he is now?  Then, there’s the crew that went on the quest for ‘The Seed’.  How did their relationships develop and change?  What is behind the veiled references to past events in each of their lives?  How did these people all find each other?

I got answers.  Glokta is already his Inquisitor self in The Blade Itself, BUT there is considerably more back story on him.  The same is true of the other central characters.  Knowing already where they finish, I found it fascinating to see where everyone started in this story.  In many ways, there is a giant chess game played out over three volumes, and one could look at it in two ways.  Either everyone is a pawn….or no one is.  Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one person who is played from the beginning, and really, the reader is kind of happy to see it.  Even though all the characters are being played to some degree, each has his or her own self to put into play and that makes for somewhat unexpected outcomes.

Abercrombie’s visceral description of battle that I noted in Last Argument of Kings is no less so in The Blade Itself.  The entire story, despite the number of characters, flows easily and draws the reader from word to word.  The character development is wonderful; the story is dramatic; the details are relevant.  Abercrombie’s use of soliloquy offers insight that might otherwise not be offered.

I can easily recommend this trilogy to lovers of fantasy, as well as anyone who appreciates a good story written well. I was thinking to read this first volume and, having read the third, let it lie.  Now, I see I’m going to have to read Book Two, Before They are Hanged, as well… Such a sacrifice…