A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs the footsteps of Ringil Eskiath - Gil, for short - a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose world-weary cynicism is surpassed only by the quickness of his temper and the speed of his sword. That sword, forged by a vanished eldritch race known as the Kiriath, has brought him unlooked-for notoriety, as has his habit of poking his nose where it doesn't belong.
Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but that doesn't stop his mother from enlisting his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery. Grumbling all the way, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one luckless young woman. Grim sorceries that have not been seen for centuries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of an all-but-legendary race known as the Aldrain, cruel yet beautiful demons feared even by the Kiriath.
Now Gil and two old comrades are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.
©2009 Richard K. Morgan; (P)2009 Tantor
I read. What more is there to know?
I was a bit nervous about beginning this series due to the negative reviews and somewhat low overall rating. Now that I've completed the entire series, I figured I should come back and offer my opinion for others who may also have reservations. In short, the series is fantastic. I've read the Altered Carbon series and really liked it, but actually like this series even more. If you're read Morgan before, then you generally know what to expect. This book and the entire series is well-written, intellectual, multi-layered, philosophical, and has great action. The characters are also extremely interesting, particularly the three main characters, who I continue to miss now that the series is over. Truly great stuff and I'm confused why some reviewers have been so critical of the story. It may be because of the foul language (which I loved, because it's always artfully and appropriately done) or the gay sex, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the story or characters. I'll admit that the gay sex did at times make me uncomfortable, but to the extent that's a problem, I figure the problem is with me. Good fantasy writing should make us think and push us to really consider why we feel the way we do, and I think this book served that function for me. If you like smart, gritty fantasy (e.g., Abercrombie, Stevenson, Bakker, etc.), there's simply no question you should check this out. Also, as for performance, Simon Vance knocks this series out of the park (as usual). That dude is seriously talented.
Passionate lover of literature. Give me a good read and a passionate narrator and my money or credits are yours!
Richard K. Morgan (The new 'god' of Cyber Punk) jumps the genre to keep himself free from pigeonholes. All Mr. Morgan's books have had extreme feminist leanings and his comics where a feminist steroid of the next generation! This book does not disappoint on those fronts, but if you have issues with Male on Male homosexuality or any homosexuality for that matter than stop now.
Now that everyone with a pre-disposed dislike for a majority of the books interpersonal views has left, Mr. Morgan has written a good, strong book. This is not Cyber Punk, or anything remotely close to the corporate mechanisms of 'Market Forces' of the past. This is a book of swords, horses and wagons, and not in a War Hammer 40,000 version either. The book is well written, as can be expected of any Morgan book, and his character inter-play has lost none of its wit. Strong story, good characters and a lengthy listen. A good book that missed a five star for some over the top gay sexual verbiage that seemed to be there only to antagonize the intolerant and not to strengthen the story.
Even so this is not your average medieval dandy prancing the countryside. He is a strong male character who cleaves Demons, and annoying toadies. The character isn't a perfect specimen of human gayiety to spite the intolerant either. He is flawed, (as with EVERY RKM novel) with horrible family relations, misses what he sees as a simpler time who has been out of favor and action just long enough to not know the right people, who has the power, and seems to be complaining about a small widening of the midsection. Him and his sword still kick some butt. A well rounded book, and many thanks to Mr. Morgan for his hard work. The narrator's voice lends a gruff voice to polish off the strong male character Mr. Morgan has written.
This was a tough book to get through, and a tough book to evaluate/review.
1) Overall I liked it, although I would not recommend it to some of my friends who might be mortified by the graphic gay sex throughout the story. In fairness, this is, or should be, no different than graphic heterosexual scenes, so I figured that it was just different and therefore somewhat uncomfortable.
2) Throughout the novel I kept feeling like this was part of a bigger story that I had missed .. or was somehow missing as it unfolded. Because he has created whole worlds, it was a little hard for me to keep the character names and races straight .. probably a physical book would have been easier because seeing the words somehow helps me keep obscure references a bit straighter.
3) The main character is tormented, and I found myself wondering who he represented metaphorically.
4) There are key characters about whom we have to guess a lot because their circumstances were merely alluded to or hinted at .. hence my earlier comment about there being a larger story of which this is just a part.
The tale wound around so much it was hard somethimes to recognize the plot. I was delighted when our three "heroes" hooked up with each other .. but it was already the end of the book.
I have read many books by this author and this is up to the usual high quality. Most important, the writing is good. Scifi/fantasy books often have interesting story ideas but the writing and language can range from mediocre to truly awful. Morgans stories are quite original [this one perhaps a little less than others], and writing is so consistently good the stories really come alive. This includes the plotting and especially the language.
As far as the sexual content goes, realistically, it was no more prominent in this story than in any other Morgan novels meaning that there is some and it is consistent in tone with the rest of the book.
And yes there is gay as well as straight sexuality depicted - you know- just like in real life! In Morgans other books as well as this one, we get plenty of scenes of straight sex graphically and imaginatively delivered, and dont forget one of the main plot lines of this story involves the legalized trade in female sex slaves! That seems to cause no alarm. But when male/male sexual interaction occurs suddenly it is over the top as another reviewer wrote-come on! [BTW one of the other important characters is a Lesbian, but that is not pointed out possibly b/c we dont have to endure any sex scenes with her.]
The protagonists sexuality is a natural, normal part of his life and is depicted as such. We see how he is hassled by ignorant bigots and betrayed by his own family over it [just like in real life too!] And we also get to see when he finds some pleasure and companionship. To handle it any other way would be stilted and weird. Thank you Richard Morgan! This will be refreshing especially for gay people but also any straight people who want to imagine a world where gays exist and are even sometimes the heroes and heroines [just like real life!]
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Richard Morgan has a way with words and a great sense of pacing. His depiction of action sequences, especially hand-to-hand combat, is unsurpassed. His characters are well fleshed out; you will get to know them as the story unfolds—get to know them perhaps a little too intimately for your comfort level. You may cringe every time they have a scene, but they will not bore you.
As I alluded to above, this book fits nicely into the category of Modern Fantasy. Gone are the world-saving quests of Middle Earth. There is no Elven magic ™ here; no grand struggle between good and evil. What you will find here is a story set in an un-kinder un-gentler world; a world where the heroes are unlikely and oft times unlikable, but, for that reason, all the more believable. Richard Morgan has a real sense of the inherent depravity of man which he employs in character creation that makes everything he writes essential listening—this is proved by his mastery of first Science Fiction, in his earlier books, and now Fantasy.
And now for something completely different: a bit of awkward philosophical introspection. I first read this novel in print after reading the amazing Takeshi Kovacs series. Fantasy is not my usual thing but Morgan is so good that I thought it was necessary to read. On that first pass, I was revolted by the explicit depiction of the deviant sexuality of the main character, Ringil. I examined my outrage and discovered that it was founded on my sense of morality, a sense that should have elicited the same level of disgust when reading depictions of fornication and adultery, which is prominent in much modern fiction. Take for example two very popular fictional characters: Ian Fleming’s womanizing spy, James Bond or Donald Westlake’s murdering thief, Parker. If morality is the basis for outrage then these need to be considered offensive as well. So my self-righteous outrage was misplaced. It was based on my personal proclivities on such matters. Now that I have dabbled in other modern fantasy novels I find this level of sex to be a common feature in the genre. Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series comes to mind as another example. The thing is, these novels are not about sex, the author uses it as a device to provoke a gut response in the reader — once you realize that, you can see it for what it is and try to enjoy the story. Morgan has chosen to populate this book with characters that are rude and crude and worldly. If they did not engage in despicable acts they would lose their credibility as ruffians and blackguards. Without crossing the line of decorum let me try to give another observation. A tabulation of the hetero acts that are explicitly depicted in this novel will reveal only those “positions” that can be performed by homo practitioners as well. This indicates to me that Morgan is tweaking the audience. Yes he has an agenda of promoting tolerance based on his anti-Christian worldview. No it not done gratuitously. Morgan is systematic in his agenda, deliberately forcing us to examine our own hypocrisy in having selective outrage. I am still not comfortable with the scenes in question, but my second pass through this novel has made me realize that they are effective in evoking an emotional response from the listener; no mean feat for a seemingly simple Sword and Sorcery tale. .
Simon Vance has the air of a proper English gentleman. His vocalizations help smooth out the rough patches and make them less irritating. When a particularly harrowing, or particularly explicit, scene is being read by Mr. Vance (or is it Sir Vance?) I cannot help but think of Monty Python who could make the ridiculous seem sublime.
Did you know you can put in a set of Ear-Buds, slap your Hearing Protectors over them, and Mow the lawn, Weed-Eat, etc, without your book being drowned out by engine noise? I recently listened to "Augustus" while wandering through the Roman Forum. I'm on my third set of "Sleep-Phones". I've been addicted to audible since 2004... I think my friends are starting to suspect I have a problem ;)
Clear your schedule before you start this book. Give yourself plenty of time to listen, think, and then listen some more. When reading anything Morgan writes I always feel as if I'm dull-wittedly missing about half of the story, while the other half goes over my head high enough to give me nose-bleeds if I try to think at a height needed to reach it. There's always meaning within meaning, stories within stories, and morals to the stories beyond what you at-first come away with.
Having had the privilege of corresponding with Richard in depth a few years back, I can tell you that he doesn't need the usual "cheap writer's tricks" to make you feel out of your intellectual depth; he's simply a highly intelligent man, with a gift for conveying that intelligence.
As is always said, Morgan's books aren't for the kiddies.. Graphic Language and explicit sex that shatters whatever taboos you can imagine. Richard doesn't write in sex scenes to excite, he writes them in to get your mood where he wants it to be to enhance the emotion he wants you to feel as you read/listen onward... If that sort of thing bothers you, he's probably done what he set out to do. A couple of taps on the "15 second advance" Icon will get you past them without taking away from your understanding of the overall story-line.
Being a hardcore Sci-Fi enthusiast, I fell in love with Morgan's writing during "Altered Carbon", but I followed his books into the Fantasy Realm simply because "Morgan Wrote Them". I haven't been disappointed yet.
This is a very intelligent reading of a difficult book. I was frankly disappointed by the print version, but Simon Vance manages to get beyond the jokes, cliches, homages and frank missteps to find the vein of utterly unsentimental humanism I look for from Morgan. Passages (and profanity) that only grated on the page play better here. Fair warning -- there is a good deal of graphic sex in the first half. I think it works (well, mostly) as characterization and as plot device, but you won't want to listen to it in the grocery store.
If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.
I came to this book as a great admirer of Richard K. Morgan's sci-fi, especially Altered Carbon and Thirteen. All the themes in those books are here--the embittered, burned-out warrior, who still possesses great ability, comes out of a kind of retirement to avenge the wrongs done to the weak and poor by the powerful and rich. The twist here, of course, is that in lieu of a 22nd or 25th century setting, we get a swords and sorcery fantasy.
The other reviewer is certainly right to warn that the book is filled with foul language, gay sex, and deep cynicism. But Morgan fans should take the leap. I think Morgan is only getting better with each book!
The story itself has an atmosphere of constant brooding tension and incipient horror.
The alien-ness and magical creepiness of the antagonists was a refreshing change from standard fantasy fare, and the protagonists - weary, drug-addicted 30-somethings - were fresh as well.
He does great voices.
The part with the heads on the trees was incredibly creepy.
The problem most people will have with this book (and with Morgan's other books) is the frequency of explicit, extended sex scenes. In the audio version, it's difficult to skip these.
I've somehow gravitated to fantasy lately (e.g., the Mongoliad), but this one takes the cake. It does for swarthy, sword-wielding heroes what the Kovacs trilogy did for regular sci-fi. I was a bit reluctant because the hero, Gil, is very different--spoiler alert, he's gay--than every other main character in this field; still, my respect for Morgan's works forced me to push my prejudices down and give it a listen. Halfway through and so far nothing has managed to throw me off, and there's nothing as graphic as Six Feet Under managed to put on the airwaves. One of the attractions of RM's other works has been his vivid (some might say lurid) narratives of Takeshi's erotic exploits; fortunately, we don't get the same level of detail with Gil (so far). Ah, well, something for everyone. And admittedly, there is no shortage of heterosexual passages in here....
The method of unraveling the plot is much the same as in his other novels--it's a Gordian Knot. Much has to be, if not taken on faith, at least deferred until later in the story as salient facts get sprinkled around to explain just what the hell is going on. This is one of the things that makes Morgan so damnably good--he doesn't coddle the reader with a linear exposition of who and what something is, or how they are related...the reader must come to put it together as the story progresses. And the descriptions of scenes and things are as poetic and vibrant as any Morgan fan has come to expect. So, in short, this is highly recommended. If you are gay, you might enjoy parts of it more, if not...it's a small price to pay.
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