Reaching far beyond sword and sorcery, The Scar is a story of two people torn by disaster, their descent into despair, and their re-emergence through love and courage.
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him. Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice. Unable to end his suffering by his own hand, Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the curse and the horrible damage he has caused, which can only be repaired by a painful journey down a long and harrowing path.
Plotted with the sureness of Robin Hobb and colored with the haunting and ominous imagination of Michael Moorcock, The Scar tells a story that cannot be forgotten.
©2012 Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Rich, vivid, tactile prose, with a solid yet unpredictable plot—and an extraordinary depth and intensity of character reminiscent of the finest Russian literature." (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
Yeah, definitely. As a matter of fact, I already did.What I enjoyed most about this book was it's generous dose of originality. In addition the character development is both drastic and still believable and Jonathan Davis' job as a narrator was excellent. I am looking forward to hearing more both from him and from the authors who I now count as part of my favorites.
Egert driving in a coach that is stopped by robbers.
Jonathan Davis did such a good job, it's difficult to say. Egert's change of character is very lifely performed, easy to grasp not only in what he says but also how he says it. But I also liked to Wanderers cold voice.
Not at first. Egert's...well... predicament made me stop more than once in the beginning, feeling too ashamed for Egert to listen on. But I always did listen in the end, and later I didn't stop until well into the night.
Wow. What an unexpectedly great read. I was hoping for some basic fantasy that might be a little bit different since this novel was originally written in Russian. The Scar is indeed basic fantasy — basic, solid fantasy with no great innovations in worldbuilding or ideas, nothing that fantasy readers aren't thoroughly familiar with — but the writing, the descriptive details, and the character arcs that drive the story, are all so deft and evocative that The Scar is like a shiny, perfect apple sitting in a cart full of apples of acceptable but clearly lesser quality.
I would compare The Scar somewhat with Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, not in terms of style or story, as the Dyanchenkos' writing is quite different from Rothfuss's, but in the way it takes a story that's old hat, old school fantasy and still makes it new and interesting. Part of this is the writing, which was particularly delightful since translations are always a bit iffy, but while of course I can't compare it to the original Russian, there was a ton of evocative imagery, descriptive detail, and strong emotions conveyed in prose that pushes this book into something of true literary quality.
The story is mostly about Egert Soll, a brash, philandering swordsman who's basically every jock bully writ large: he steals his friends' girls, he bullies and brags and treats the world as his playground, full of mud puddles that exist to be splashed in other peoples' faces, and he gets away with it because everyone loves him.
Then he kills an innocent student in a duel that's murder in all but name, the ultimate act of jock-on-nerd bullying. He leaves the student's fiancee bereft and heartbroken.
This is all the set up for Egert's oh-so-very-well-deserved smackdown. His comeuppance is delivered by a mysterious mage called the Wanderer, who goads Egert into a duel and inflicts a magical scar on Egert that curses him with cowardice.
While this has the feel of a traditional fairy tale (or perhaps a Russian folk tale), it's Egert's curse that makes the story. Until that point, Egert has been a completely unlikable schmuck, someone you can't wait to see get dirt rubbed in his face. And when he kills Toria's fiancee, you figure he's passed the moral event horizon and you can't possibly feel anything but disgust for him and a desire to see him suffer.
And suffer he does. And pretty soon you are feeling sorry for Egert Soll. The curse soon turns him into a feeble husk of a man, a hollowed-out shell of his former self who can't even take his own life. And as things get worse and worse, a remarkable thing happens: not only does Egert become sympathetic, but he becomes likable. By a cruel and ironic twist of fate, he is brought face to face with Toria again, the fiancee of the student he killed. And Toria, who also feels nothing but disgust for him initially, comes to feel sympathy for him as well.
By the time the fate of their city, and of Toria, hangs on Egert's ability to overcome his curse, you are not just rooting for him, you're cheering for him. The climax is both epic and again resonant of traditional fairy tales: Egert is given very specific instructions as to what he has to do to get out from under his curse, and of course things do not turn out quite the way he expects.
On the surface, this is a swords & sorcery novel, but the sorcery is treated the way sorcery should be, as something vague and mysterious and not usually seen, a plot device rather than a suit of powers. And there are only a few swordfights, and each one serves a very specific and dramatic purpose in the plot.
So, this isn't really a swords & sorcery novel at all, though it has all the trappings. It's a very psychological novel about egotism, courage and cowardice, grief, and redemption. It's a heroic epic and a romance, and a dark Russian fairy tale with shades of Rothfuss, Wolfe, and Dostoevsky. There's some action and a little bit of magic, but the character arcs are more important than the plot arc.
Apparently the Dyanchenkos are very popular fantasy authors in Russia, yet this novel is the first one to be translated into English. I hope more follow. While this book may not appeal to you if you have no interest in traditional fantasy, I highly recommend it for all fantasy readers, and I'd argue that it has a psychological depth that transcends its genre.
If you've been bemoaning the wait for the next Patrick Rothfuss book, or wondering why nothing modern ever reads like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, read this. The Scar is epic in a personal sense, lyrically haunting, and felt on every human level. Jonathan Davis did an amazing job at narration, catching the emotional nuances. I now count this among my favorite books, and Davis among my favorite narrators.
Fluid, Robust and Beautiful.
Egert, the author made me hate him and then pity him then in the end he was the man that he deserved to be.
Great character vocalization! He really brought out the pain and the angst that Egert felt and made it a real weight bearing thing for me.
yes, reactions from anger at Egert in the begining, to the gut wrenching realization of the plans of the tower.
the was the first story I have had the pleasure to listen to by Jonathan Davis and the first book by Sergey Dyachenko that i have listened too.. and it was just awesome.
and again and again and again.This book is by far my most soulful and beautiful read in years.I am lifted and inspired. This story hits a note within and that note resonates deeper and deeper. At random moments I think about how this story made me feel when I read it; and that moment is enriched.
It mostly made me cry. It also made me hopeful that some day there would be smiles again.
This is one of those stories that is older than the people who wrote it. Its as though they reached back in time and coaxed a precious memory to live again and explain itself.The translator should get some kind of award.I would love to hear what someone who can read both languages would say.
This book has a promising beginning with the main character starting off being so annoying you hate him instantly. He deserves everything he gets! The two duels are engaging and well written. The idea is a good one and I read on fascinated at how he was going to learn to become a better person. He can only get better from where he starts, but lessons are hard learnt and from here the character development is slow, and the story begins to drag a little. I found the love interest hard to believe, even the way it was written.
This is a fine story with imagination. The plot develops reasonably at first then there is a lengthy period of deep suffering and humiliation that is reminiscent of Tolstoy. I am sure this is a matter of personal taste but I was bored by the lengthy crushing weight of the development of this singular point. Perhaps that is the authors' intention; the hero must undergo this tedious crushing experience. Much like going to law school!
Sinner saved by grace!
This is in my top 5 and if I really think about all the books I have listened to it is #2 for sure!
The encounter with the wanderer at dawn and the outcome from that meeting...
The knife throwing scene in the beginning of the book. There are many more.
What scars you.
This book is so well written and Jonathan Davis deliverers each line with perfection. You will not fall asleep! The writers are very creative how they describe the scenes. I wish they would bring their other books to the US and to Audible. I want more!
Yes because the performance is first rate and the writting style is simply beautiful. It is a beautiful yet dark journey. A complete exploration of your emotions as you listen to the unfolding of Eggert life.
Eggert - so scarred by the journey
This is an incredible experience to listen to the discriptive articulation of what is going on and just letting yourself melt into it.
The entire book is a moving experience.
Did I mention this is on the dark side? But well worth the listen, you will love the writting.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Maybe it was the slightly "Russian" flavor of the highly readable translation by Elinor Huntington, or maybe it was the fearless examination of the human heart, or maybe it was the frequent feel of Russian folktales, but while listening to The Scar (1997/2012) by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, I kept imagining Dostoevski writing heroic fantasy. Typical genre tropes like mages, arch-mages, and sorceresses, creepy apocalyptic cults, powerful and mysterious artifacts, and a pseudo-medieval setting appear, but the Dyachenkos are so fresh in their treatment of the fantasy elements and so ruthless in their exposure of the human soul and so witty in their story-telling and so original in their metaphor-making that The Scar feels like a breath of bracing fresh air cleansing the stale genre.
The novel opens in the martial and macho town of Kavarren, which is dominated by aristocratic families and the Guardsmen to which their privileged sons belong. Each family's home is a fortified castle, and their main forms of entertainment are drinking, wenching, dueling, and boar fighting. The star of the day is twenty-and-a-half-year-old Lieutenant Egert Soll, a handsome hunk of a genius swordsman who has fought two duels ending in deaths, as well as others ending in assorted injuries for his adversaries. He has his way with any woman he wants, throwing knives near willing barmaids one moment and sleeping with the wives of superior officers the next. Egert's hapless sidekick Karver Ott basks in the great young man's glory, but also suffers from his self-centered and callous treatment. Egert is a thoughtless bully and a superficial lothario until into town one day comes a seemingly mismatched couple: the scrawny and humorless scholar Dinar, whose fingers are ink-stained rather than sword-callused, and his fiancée Toria, the most beautiful woman Egert has ever seen. Egert immediately sets about seducing Toria with his bold charm and ready money, but she is immune to his wiles, and seems genuinely more interested in pursuing the scholarly quest she shares with Dinar in the Town Hall's ravaged records, the search for a manuscript written by a legendary mage called the Sacred Spirit Lash who, having gone insane, left behind an army called the Order of the Lash that still exists and is waiting impatiently for the End of Time.
How the Dyachenkos develop their novel from the fateful encounter between Toria, Dinar, and Egert is disturbing, moving, romantic, and unpredictable. They write appealing and complex characters, like the mage Luayan, the Dean of the University of the big city that makes Kavarren look like a provincial backwater, the young student Gaetan, nicknamed "Fox" for his mischievous and clever antics, the beautiful and intelligent Toria, and, of course, Egert, for whom life, after surrendering itself to him so easily for his first twenty years, becomes an existential harrower. The characters get into unpredictable situations that evoke a delicious suspense.
Although some of the Dyachenkos' descriptions and metaphors feel odd, as when Egert's "blades started to move like fish thrown out of the water onto the ground," or wrong, as when a dagger whizzes by his ear like a bullet, even though apparently there are no guns in the fantasy world, most often they are vivid and interesting, as when "An enormous, impudent raven was strutting ceremoniously through the wet university courtyard like a judge" or when Toria "spoke reluctantly, like a doctor assuring a patient who is near death and covered with sores of his imminent recovery." Another neat moment comes during a cold spell, when "Red-breasted robins with white snowflakes on their backs were sitting on girders attached to walls, looking like the guards in their bright uniforms; and presently the guards themselves strolled by, with their tall pikes and their red-and-white uniforms, shivering just like the robins."
Jonathan Davis gives his usual perfect reading of the novel, effectively varying his delivery for the different characters without straining after dramatic effects. His conflicted Egert, wise Dean Luayan, irreverent Fox, and commanding Toria are all perfect.
The Dyachenkos' imagining of the ironic and devastating twists and turns that life and destiny may put us through, as well as their evoking of a rich fantasy world with its own history, make for a compelling read (though after the nearly unbearably suspenseful climax of the novel, the resolution feels too brief and rushed). The Scar stands on its own, but also feels as though there may be an as yet untranslated novel before it and one after it. People interested in unconventional heroic fantasy and Russian (or Ukrainian) literature should try The Scar.
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