Review: Deadhouse Landing (Path to Ascendancy Book 2) by Ian C. Esslemont

 

Review: Deadhouse Landing (Path to Ascendancy Book 2) by Ian C. Esslemont

 

Shorter Review:

If you liked Dancer’s Lament then you will love Deadhouse Landing.  Featuring the same story-focused narrative, albeit delivered with broader brushstrokes, Esslemont delivers another engrossing tale of the early steps in Kellanved and Dancer’s ascent to legend and godhood.  Once again providing a fascinating glimpse at the hithertofore mysterious past of two of the more engrossing and enigmatic figures from the Malazan universe.  Equally important is that knowledge of the wider Malazan meta-narrative is not necessary to enjoy the book… although it does add a lot.

 

 

 

Longer Review:

Deadhouse Landing picks up the story of Dancer and Kellanved shortly after their disastrous attempt to wrestle power from the Protectress of Li-Heng.  Not souls to dwell on past mistakes or failures, they set their sights on a new challenge, the piratical isle of Malaz.  Admittedly this ambition is perhaps more to do with happenstance than an outright plan per se, but when has a plan ever survived contact with reality?  Especially when these two are involved.  So when faced with a small pirate kingdom, rising tensions with the neighbouring sea power Nap, and, let’s face it, Kellanved’s individual approach to reality, Dancer has his work cut out trying to fend off knives in the back, cutlasses in the side, and monstrous teeth in the shadows.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 5: Waylander by David Gemmell

 

Waylander Image 2

The Fantasy Equivalent of a Western Gun-slinger

 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 5: Waylander by David Gemmell

 

 

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

I know, I know, last week I was banging on about Legend by Gemmell, and here I am singing the praises of another of his books.  Honestly, there are a lot of books that will come up in this series of Favourite Fantasies, and it just so happens that a few are Gemmell books.  Although I think I will leave a bit of a break between this one and the next Gemmell that I want to talk about.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 4: Legend by David Gemmell

 

Legend_Book_Cover

 

 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 4: Legend by David Gemmell

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

Published in 1984, Legend by David Gemmell is one of those books that just captured my imagination as a young fantasy reader.  On paper it doesn’t seem like much; A youngish flawed hero seeking redemption, a grizzled veteran warrior™ drafted back in to save the day, a slightly improbable romance with a warrior maiden, a colony of mystical warrior monks, and an invading horde of barbarians™.  It even has the pseudo-medieval European setting, strange magical powers that don’t seem to adhere to any kind of rationalised system and a strange sort of theocratic, religious warrior cult.  Even the writing is more journalistic and pared down than one usually expects in fantasy.  So all in all it doesn’t really sound that impressive.  And yet… and yet… it blew my tiny little read-a-holic mind back then and made me become a devoted follower of Gemmell as he began to churn out novel after novel in the Drenai universe.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 3: The Belgariad Quintet by David Eddings

 

Belgariad-and-Malloreon-by-David-Eddings

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 3: The Belgariad Quintet by David Eddings (and also Leigh Eddings as it was revealed)

 

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

The Belgariad (starting with Pawn of Prophecy and ending with Enchanter’s End Game) was a series I read as a young reader.  I devoured the five books over the first week of my summer holidays.  I absolutely loved them.  So much so that I got my local bookstore to advance order the next books as they came out.  But before I get into discussing them, this is a series about Fantasy books that I loved that may not have stood the test of time and that my more modern, jaded and cynical self sometimes cringes when I think back.  Annnnnd, yes, the Belgariad falls foul of the modern gaze.  So what I am proposing is that the first part of my discussion will be a little more about what I loved about them when I first read them, and then I will give a warning before I go on to discuss some of the more problematic areas of the series that I see now.  Fair enough?  That way if you love them you can enjoy reading the first sections, and can entirely skip my mean-spirited destruction of nostalgic childhood reading memories.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 2: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Feist - Daughter cover 2

My favourite cover of Daughter of the Empire 

Favourite Fantasy Books Part 2: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

Following on from Magician, one of the books that really captured my interest as a young reader of fantasy was Daughter of the Empire by Janny Wurts and Raymond E. Feist.  Admittedly I picked it up because it was related to the Riftwar books, but to be honest I was captivated when I started reading it.  This is the first book of a trilogy that spans a time period slightly off-set but related to the first trilogy of Feist’s Riftwar.

 

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Favourite Fantasy Books Part 1 : Magician by Raymond E Feist

Magician-cover 1

The cover of the first edition of Magician that I ever owned.

Favourite Fantasy Books

Part 1 : Magician by Raymond E Feist

 

This is a series of posts about fantasy novels that I love, or loved, and that really got me into fantasy.  Some of them have not really stood the test of time, some I grew out of, and others are still great.  But all of them fed into how I came to love fantasy and how I perceive the genre.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist is the first book of the massive Riftwar Cycle, although back when I read it, all those years ago, it was simply Magician and book one of a trilogy, the Riftwar Saga.  Something a great deal more manageable than the 30 book ‘cycle’ it is now.  I was probably 12 or so when I picked it up in my local Waterstones bookshop.  It wasn’t the first fantasy book I ever read, but it has certainly been one of the most influential on my early fantasy reading tastes (even though they have evolved over time) and it really consolidated my love for fantasy.

 

For those that don’t know it, spoilers abound below, but let’s face it when a book is published in the early 1980s and has been republished many times since, you can’t really call foul on spoilers.  At some point you have to admit that a story is fair game particularly after 30 years.  But the warning is there regardless.

 

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In the Dragon’s Den: Interview with Steven Erikson Part 3

 

erikson

In the Dragon’s Den:  Interview with Steven Erikson Part 3

 

 

TCD:  Picking this up again, we were talking about SF, and it and your love of absurd comedy masking some pretty pointed observations and satire brings me on to Willful Child 2: The Wrath of Betty (coming from Tor in October I believe).  What can you tell us about it?

 

SE: Willful Child was a bit thin on the background universe.  I mean, I didn’t really have time for that stuff.  It just got in the way!  It definitely got in Captain Hadrian’s way.  But having set up the situation and the main characters, the second novel needed to bit more depth (depth, in fiction-writing terms, is what the characters have to wade through), which in turn meant more of the background information brought to the foreground, thus adding, er, depth.

So it’s a deep novel.  Deeper.  With more depth.

Anyway, my advance readers recoiled at first, since for some inexplicable reason my satire meter was cranked way over.  It bears keeping in mind the fuel that powers satire.  It’s a savage thing.  As much as one may go for laughs on the surface (and interestingly, most of the reviews of Willful Child more or less got locked on that surface stuff, with only a couple exceptions that I’ve seen), it’s the vicious current beneath it that drives the impulse to write this kind of fiction.

In other words, I needed to be fed up in order to write these books.  So, that inclines one to turn language into a weapon (and why not, we’ve weaponized everything else).  The way I see it, satire can use a scalpel, or it can use a broadsword.  It can also use both and everything in between, depending on the circumstances.

Curiously, if you look at some of the best satire, say, the stuff on television (The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy), you can probably track how each series got more and more vicious as it went on.  This ramping up may appear on the surface to be nothing more than the need to escalate the shock quotient (possibly in acknowledgement of the numbing effect of multiple shocks), but what I see in it is the growing desperation of the creators in their efforts to shake us all out of our apathy.  And the more you fail, the angrier you get.

Wrath of Betty started out wielding not a scalpel, not a broadsword, but a flamethrower.  I had to halt part way through to toss the weapon and run around stamping out fires.  And then tone things down some.  So it took a bit longer than the first book.

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