This is probably one of the best books I've ever read. I have highlighted SO MUCH of this book. Carey really outdid herself this time with fantastic lines packed with wisdom, uncommon intellect, and actions, thoughts, and environment effects that I would never have thought of in my own writing. Take the very beginning of the novel for instance: Tanaros's unbuckling his helm to find sweaty helmet hair, his scabbard snagging on the carpet as he takes it off, his sword's hilt digging into his side when he bends over, and Aracus showing up suddenly to meet Cerelinde, smelling of horse, leather, and nighttime air. The only complaint I could possibly have is that the character's features and the landscape and buildings are not thoroughly described so I am not sure how to imagine them, but when it comes to the characters' action, the sequence of events, the intricacy of the world and the plot, Carey does not fail to impress! I am a high fantasy series writer myself and I am highlighting and analyzing her book not just for fun but also because there is so much talent to be observed and gained from her writing. If you are not familiar with her Kushiel series, Namaah series, or Hel's Agent series, I would also highly recommend you acquaint yourself with them at the soonest opportunity!
This review applies to both Banewreaker and it's sequel, Godslayer. The series can be read at three different levels and works quite well on any of them.
First, it is an entertaining piece of epic fantasy, written from the perspective of the nominal villains. The central character is an anti-hero somewhat in the mode of Michael Moorcock's classic Elric. The writing is strong and the action is compelling.
On its second level, the series is a hilarious poke in Tolkein's eye. While I have no access to Ms. Carey's thinking, it's completely clear to me that the novels contain strong elements of parody, although they are written in a completely serious tone. While not borrowing completely literally from the Lord of the Rings, the choice of characters, themes and settings is not coincidental. And if any doubt remained, Carey actually places some of Tolkein's most easily identifiable quotes ("How has it come to this?") in the mouths of characters on the opposite side.
But on its third level, this novel tackles moral issues that have vexed philosophers and theologians. Satoris, the Sunderer, is a Satanic character drawn from Milton's Paradise Lost (quite explicitly - Carey quotes Milton). But this is also a view of the Tempter as Prometheus, bringing an essential gift to the world. At the same time, Carey raises one of the fundamental questions that underlies Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling" - why is it a moral necessity to obey the Most High? Satoris is evil because of his disobedience to Haomane, first among the Shapers - but it is never clear why Haomane must be unquestioningly obeyed. The Ellyon (obviously elves in the Tolkein mold) live to worship Haomane in the same way that Christian doctrine describes the Seraphim perpetually worshipping God - but seem to be almost entirely lacking in free will. Indeed, even accepting the concept that Haomane is infinitely good, Satoris is still necessary to the existence of free will - also a concept explicitly acknowledged in the series. (I think it was Borges who argued that the only two relevant characters in the New Testament were Jesus and Judas - it's the same sort of idea.)
The effortless functioning of the series on all three levels ranks Carey's work right up with Gene Wolfe in the pantheon of "important" fantasy, in my opinion. Highly recommended.
I love Carey's books, but Banewrecker and Godslayer didn't seem at all like her writing until the last half of Godslayer. The story was fantastic; relatively well developed characters you care about and a dynamic plot, but they lack the richness of detail in the Kushiel/Naamah novels. There was no way to get a mental image of where places were in relation to each other or even what the different races/characters looked like. The characters themselves had a lot more potential for depth and they felt flat and forced compared to her other books.
I recommend them for reading, but whatever you do, do not spend any money on the Kindle versions. No punctuation at all on most pages, awkward or misplaced page and paragraph breaks, and repetitive word use. There was absolutely no editing or quality control involved in transcribing these volumes for e-book release, and while I thought for a while that I could just glaze past the errors for the story's sake, I was very wrong. They're glaring and obvious and really took away from the immersion and enjoyment of the story.
Epic, but not my cup of tea. If you liked LOTRs this might strike yours. But I don't like stories of war even if magic and dragons do reside therein.
As opposed to most of the Kushiel's Dart series, this book is very male heavy and the women were weaklings or brought to that state by the loss of their particular magic.
The beginning, more like the first half of the book was difficult to read. It was the set up of the characters and the planet. I think it would have been better to have a list of characters at the beginning or end of the book and set off running with the actual stories. My husband owns the actual book and I couldn't get into it. But with my Kindle set on text to speech, fastest, I was able to get through the whole book!
As my three stars predicts, there was redeeming features. One of those was the point of view. This book set up the main characters, the "bad guys" to prove them not so bad. Then we take a look at the "beautiful people" and find them carriers of ugly. That made this worth reading.
The other aspect I found redeeming, Jacqueline Carey wrote this and her poetic nature is found throughout. You can feel the beauty of the forest, the devastating thirst of the desert.
It is worth the read, it just isn't one of my favorites. We'll see how I feel about it when I get around to reading volume two, Godslayer.