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
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!]
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!
This is Morgan's worst novel, except perhaps for Market Forces. I found it needlessly hyper-detailed (to the point of obscuring the plot itself).
Both Morgan and Neal Stephenson need to brush up on Truman Capote's advice: go back through your novel 3 times and remove extraneous verbiage. Like Stephenson's "Anathem", this sounds like a rough first draft. Or, perhaps, the equivalent of a 4 hour long film. Editing please - for God's sake please!
I really tried to like this gritty and obscenity laden novel for its unique take on an old formula, or seemingly unique to this specific genre - i.e., an openly gay protagonist. Only I came away caring nothing for any of the characters. In fact, I felt more for the villain of the story than I did the hero, or anti-hero in this case. Sexual preferences aside, I was hoping for at least one strong, committed relationship - something to make me care. Nope. Just a whole lot of sex. If it wasn't performed, then it was yammered about constantly in all its lurid detail. No depth of feeling, no doing something or going on a quest because they *cared.* Just "I'm going because so-and-so made me." *insert eye roll here* Bor-ing. If you don't care why you're going and doing the things you do, then why should I? The author spent more time on the sex and the obscenities than trying to move. the. story. along. Most of my time was spent wading through the constant F-bombs than it was trying to get into the novel itself. Am almost prepared to swear that ever other sentence is peppered with it - multiple times. That would be pretty impressive, if it wasn't so bloody annoying. Seems the only reason this novel was written is to showcase the F-word in every way possible and to cash in on Ringil's sexual preference...in other words -- a gimmick with no hint of depth in sight.
Like many the gay stuff put me off a little. But really the gay part is a very small part of a long and exciting book.
I've listened to all of Morgans CyberPunk books and he's made the switch to fantasy very well.
Lots of swashbuckling action and intriguing characters.
The hero has feet of clay which makes it even more interesting.
The narrator is British so I'd suggest that you listen to a excerpt first as his accent might annoy some.
He wasn't bad but I would have preferred the narrator from the previous Morgan books.
I still gave this a 5 star as I couldn't put this down.
Maximum discouragement for anyone considering devoting 15 hours to this rambling, and sometimes completely confusing effort.
It's interesting to see a popular author strike out into new territory, but if this is the result, I judge it a complete failure. Mr. Morgan may decide to continue to explore this genre, but he should let a couple fans and, help us all, a talented editor provide some strongly discouraging advise.
It's the weakest listen I've encountered from Audible, after around 5 years of rather heavy use (I drive a lot.)
By the way, if anyone is intrigued by the gay sex that is occasionally thrown in - the main character is gay - don't bother. It's uncomfortable even for a gay man to read. I'm not sure of the author's motives, but for a guy who can write a reasonably erotic straight encounter, this is a puzzling and failed attempt. I can't imagine that a single living gay man could listen to this without bursting into laughter. If you must, at least find a gay consultant. Not good. In short, an embarassment to an otherwise interesting author.
Morgan is best known for cyberpunk, and here he brings the gritty, noir-ish "realism" of that style of writing to medieval fantasy. Set in a detailed fantasy world that plays with tropes as much as it embraces them, Morgan nevertheless peppers this world with the same characters from the seedy underbelly of life that add the distinct color and flavor to cyberpunk. Take away implants, give them spells and swords, and it's no different.
As an antihero/protagonist, Ringil works. He's just gruff enough not to be a sympathetic Noble Homo, but challenges the conventions of how people typically view homosexual men. Ringil is a man's man... and that's the way he likes it.
Morgan peppers his dialogue with profanity, but it never seems affected or out of place. The sex scenes aren't graphic; I think the reaction people will have to them is born out of the Other-ness of homosexual sex rather than any inherent graphic nature to Morgan's description. I didn't find them to be a detraction or a gimmick at all. They were a natural extension of Ringil's character and behavior, and making him a prude wouldn't have fit the story well.
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