Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Carnies by Martin Livings

After the controversy of my last post (yeah, I poked that bear), it’s review time again! And yes, that sentence deserved a ‘screamer’. I’ve read eight novels so far this year, and while that might not be a lot for others, compared to last year, I’m killing it. As an editor, I read a lot — flash fiction, shorts, novellas, novels (in all genres) — but that’s a different kind of reading; approached in an entirely different way. Reading for pleasure, where I can disengage the editor in me and just immerse myself in a story and sidle up to characters, is something I’ve really missed.

So I’ve dived back into my mammoth ‘to read’ pile, and Carnies by Martin Livings (published through Cohesion Press) was at the top of said pile. As with the last couple of reviews, this one also comes with a disclaimer. The Australian spec-fic community is a small and close-knit one – if you don’t know someone, you know of them. Martin is a friend of mine (and all ‘round nice guy – he loves cats), and we’ve also had short stories appear in the same publications. I soon became a fan of his short works, so I was very much looking forward to reading a longer piece. But before we go any further, it’s spoiler alert time:

 

HERE A SPOILER, THERE A SPOILER, EVERYWHERE A SPOILER, SPOILER!

carnies

 

The title alone tells you we’re heading into carnival territory, and I was hoping this was going to be an old-school carnival with all its oddities and ‘freaks’ that had a more… otherworldly feel to it than the almost antiseptic feel of what passes as a carnival today. I wasn’t disappointed.

Carnies follows the story of brothers David and Paul Hampden. David, a journalist in a spiralling career, has gotten wind of a creepy carnival in country Australia that might just revitalise his career. He enlists younger brother Paul, a sometimes photographer, to join him. David and Paul are somewhat estranged; it’s not just the large age gap, but the ultra-religious (read: fire and brimstone) upbringing at their father’s hand after their mother’s disappearance. Both men want to bridge the gap that’s developed between them over the years.

The minute the brothers drive into Tillbrook, they know (as does the reader) that something’s not quite right. It doesn’t take long for that ‘not quite right’ to show itself. A close-call that almost results in a car accident reignites the animosity between the brothers, but it’s put aside when the men head to the carnival that night.

This is the start of the brothers taking different path to the somewhat same destination. The carnies have been in Tillbrook for … well, forever, really, and the townsfolk grudgingly live alongside them. Later in the book we discover that this is due to a pact made a hundred years ago with the town and the carnies’ forebears. The arrival of David, and more specifically Paul, tears the final threads of that fraying pact apart.

At its heart, this is a story of familial bonds, of blood ties that are, in essence, impossible to deny but also as tenuous as a spider’s web. Both Paul and David sit at opposite sides of this blood – both drawn from the same vial but poles apart.

The carnies are werewolves, and while Paul is enamoured with the Alpha female, Rachel, he comes into his own via a bite from a ‘bitch’ further down the totem pole. His fate (destiny?) is sealed, and he finds a sense of belonging he’s been wanting.

werewolf 1

When Paul goes missing, David goes in search, and with the help of a secretive town “council” hell bent on destroying the carnies, manages to step in so much dog doo-doo, you know it’s not going to end well.

After an attempted extraction that fails in spectacular fashion, Paul, giving into his animal instincts, bites his brother in the throat, believing he’s killed him. He doesn’t, of course, and this sets up a finale that pits brother against brother.

It’s during David’s turning we discover the bloodline runs through both men via their mother. David doesn’t turn well; he hears the fundamentalist voice of his father, directing him to his own personal jihad. He does this well, pretty much taking out the Alpha male, Amos, in a very bloody fashion, but his plans unravel in the final confrontation with Paul.

I’m not going to spoil the ending of the book – read it, it’s a hell of a finale.

This is a great read, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a werewolf story (and the turn from human to wolf is done remarkably well by Livings), let alone one that engaged me so well. It’s a well-written story, with threads tangling all the players – none of which is ever really as it seems.

It’s not a perfect story (what story ever really is?). When David is bitten, his body isn’t collected with all the others in the clean-up – makes no sense. But my main gripe would be what I call the ‘missing scene’. When David kidnaps the Alpha male, Amos, we only see the aftermath of that confrontation. Amos has been tortured and maimed – it would have been a great to see the dichotomy between the two enemies. What information did David get from Amos? Did he get any at all? It was an opportunity missed, in my mind.

Overall, Carnies is great read, and I was happily immersed in the world Livings had created, and I’d have happily spent more time there. There are no happy endings with this story, but it is open for a sequel (which I would definitely read), but I’m told this won’t be happening. It’s a shame, as it’s a very cool world Livings has created.

Four and half stars

Review: The Last Argument of Kings (Joe Abercrombie)

The final book in The First Law trilogy is the longest of the three and the one I read the quickest. Abercrombie had used book two (Before They Are Hanged) very well to set up the mess you knew was coming in The Last Argument of Kings.

When I say ‘mess’, I do so in a positive way. Abercrombie has worked his main characters into corners they may well not survive.

So before you read any further, I best add a spoiler warning:

INCOMING SPOILERY SPOILERS THAT SPOIL

Last Argument of Kings

We begin with the five intrepid questers (Ninefingers, Ferro, Bayaz, Luthar and Longfellow) returning to the Union from their failed journey to the old world. It’s here the decisions Ninefingers, Ferro and Luthar make as they disembark have grave consequences. Abercrombie does well to make what appear to be inconsequential decisions, life-changing ones.

The Union is still fighting for its survival, and with the death of the last royal, those of aristocracy conspire, coerce, cross and double-cross in a bid for the throne. Political machinations have never been so messy (and at times, tiresome), especially amid a war that could see the Union eradicated in its entirety.

Bayaz is his ever-scheming self, and Ferro’s quest for vengeance has tied her to the Magi more than she’d like or care to admit — a lot of which has to do with the mixed emotions she has for Ninefingers. The two had gone their separate ways despite both wanting (internally) to remain together, and for Ninefingers this will come back to haunt him in so many ways.

trilogy

There’s much that needs to be tied up in this book, and as with books one and two, it was Ninefingers, Dogman and his crew, and West who held my attention. They’re in the thick of war. With some Northerners fighting on the side of the Union, loyalties are tested on all sides… or more a blurring of those sides against a common enemy. But even within these ranks, there’s no end of problems – past rivals and scores that must be settled.

As in the previous two books, Abercrombie doesn’t shy from the horror or war. This is especially evident when Ninefingers and his old crew join up with some hill-people to fight Bethod. This is a nasty, bloody battle, and it’s here we really see just how out of control The Bloody Nine is, and what toll that takes on Ninefingers.

The Ghurkish are still knocking on the door of the incompetent Union, and West is still being stymied at every turn by regulations that make little to no sense under the circumstances. Life really did screw West over.

There’s a lot to like and a lot to… meh, about in this book. The character development didn’t quite… well, develop. I wonder if this was intentional on Abercrombie’s part – sometimes leopards don’t change their spots.

There are no happy endings here – not for anyone. I suppose some might argue that Bayaz, the master manipulator, was the only “successful” player here – player being the operative word here. When it’s all revealed in the end, Bayaz just toyed with those around him, motivated solely, it seemed out of boredom (he’s lived a while, this magi). Being as powerful as he is, a god amongst men, he manoeuvres Jezal into Kingship by such roundabout means, it seemed like a waste of countless pages of political manipulation that could well have been spent on the likes of Glotka.

Ninefingers has been my favourite character from the start, but his ending (and that’s still up in the air – pardon the pun) felt like a cop out. Glotka, however, is the stand-out character come the end of this trilogy. Despite the character’s penchant for running his tongue over his gums, I found it was him I was sort of rooting for in the end.

The dreams/aspirations each of the characters began with are shattered, all through actions (and sometimes inaction) and decisions (or indecision) on their own part. They all had crappy lives to begin with, now they’re just in slightly different crappy lives. I guess the moral is: life sux.

Jezal gets far more than he ever wished for in his life, but guess what? When you get all you desire, it never really lives up to its expectation. Same goes for Ferro. Driven by her need for vengeance, it wasn’t much of a surprise that this came back to bite her on the arse.

It does make you think (as Ninefingers and Ferro often ponder) what their lives would have been like had they made different decisions upon their return to the Union. Crappy, sure, as that’s the way life is in these books. For everyone.

When I got to the end of this trilogy, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Book two is definitely the stand out for me. Book one was a painful read until the last 150-odd pages. Book three? Great battle scenes (all of Abercrombie’s battle scenes are beautifully and ghastly choreographed), deaths of some likeable characters (always a plus if an author’s prepared to do that), and an ending that I saw coming earlier than I’d have liked.

Overall, it’s a good trilogy. Not a great one. And I wanted a great one. The dark stuff was dark, and I think that helped get me through some of the more lacklustre parts of plot. Abercrombie’s characters run the gamut of ordinary to wonderful, but I was left with the feeling that this could have been so much more.

Abercrombie writes well, and there are times when his words are pure poetry, but when you’re looking at close to 1800 pages of story… I expected more, but it wouldn’t stop me from picking up another of his stories just to see what tale he can spin.

stars

Running Scared

How did you spend your Friday night? I spent mine being lurched at by zombies and chased by clowns. S’true. My buddy Jason and I were crazy enough to take on Running Scared, an 8km horror-based obstacle course. That’s right, 8kms. At night.

The course was set up at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at Penrith, and trust me when I say the foot of the Blue Mountains is cold once the sun goes down, but Jase and I were ready to get our run on. Mustered around the start line were zombies shuffling about competitors, a bunch of dancing zombies (yep, it was Thriller time), and all interspersed with some iconic horror stars: Freddie Kruger, Jason Voorhees, and Pennywise, to name a few.

Me and Jase

After registering and signing two waivers (that kinda gave me pause), we were given a race number, headlamps, and directed toward the start line. At 8pm we began, first tackling a maze. I’d have to say, that was probably one of the best parts of the ‘run’. We made our way from freaky room to freaky room: a bathroom reminiscent of SAW, another that had overtones of Deliverance, and a harlequin room whose strobe lights messed with my head, but once through, it was time to run.

Now, 8kms isn’t that far really, especially on a straight course with flat ground, but that wasn’t what we faced. Scaling a pyramid of haybales (much higher than it sounds) started us off before it was time to drag ourselves across a river via a line of life-buoys (dignity and elegance be damned). We were wet now, and we were cold. It was also where I discovered the tights I’d worn weren’t really conducive to running when wet. Ah, well, it was only water.

Did I mention it was cold? But on we jogged. Now, I understand the idea of the run was to introduce a fear factor, but neither Jason nor I quite got that. At one stage, we were chatting as we walked (I can’t run 8kms non-stop, sue me) and we were suddenly distracted by two camera flashes to our left. Immediately to our right, a chorus of groans rose from a pile of zombies hidden near the track. We paused a moment then continued our chat, much to their disappointment.

zombies

Our next obstacle… well, it was more super-slide. “Keep your feet up,” one man told us. Confused, Jase and I began to slowly walk down the plastic wondering about the warning when our feet went out beneath us and in almost perfect synchronicity we fell backwards and slammed our heads against the ground. Head-lamps went flying as we sped down the hill and into a nasty looking pit of sludge. Feet up!

It was gelatine-based slime and it sucked at your sneakers as you tried to walk out of it. You couldn’t shake it free. It clung to us in all the wrong places and it felt like we’d shit our pants. We commando-crawled back up the hill (and we were filthy) before tackling our next obstacle. We had to traverse rope netting suspended between two shipping containers. Best way? Barrel-roll. Now, I don’t know what went wrong but I somehow managed to hurt my nose; on the plus side, Jason said it showed him how not to do it. Laugh we did, long and loud.

And on we ran. It was dark, the only light we had was from our headlamps. Zombies lurched from copses of trees, clowns jumped out as us, but the fear was more from what the next step would feel like in our crappy-pants than what went bump (or groan or scream) in the night.

Now, we could hear the squeals of others as they were surprised and scared, but it never really got to either of us. Were we inured to it because we’re horror writers? Nah. I think it was more exhaustion that got to me, and we really could see them coming. The obstacles did test your co-ordination and staying ability, and the 8kms (in those pants) felt like 80kms.

We waded through more slime, crawled under blood-covered obstacles and manoeuvred through a twisting canal filled with tyres. It was here that a zombie grabbed my ankle. Normally, this would have made me jump, but I was cold and tired and too busy laughing at our ungainliness.

Two and bit hours later we crossed the finish line. Tired, filthy, and still enjoying a laugh.

Overall, we had a great time and a great laugh. Not quite the fear factor we’d imagined, but that doesn’t matter. The amount of effort and attention to detail put into the event by the organisers was brilliant. The actors did an amazing job portraying their characters, and the general vibe of the whole thing was fantastic. I had a blast, and I know Jason did too.

Finish line

Things I learned:

  • Sliding down hills should be done on your arse, not your feet;
  • When barrel-rolling over rope-netting, duck your chin into your chest (no, really, this is a must);
  • Slime in your pants… just no; (and why my kids walked funny when they crapped their pants as toddlers);
  • Laughter can get you through anything, especially synchronised head-slamming;
  • Clowns are scarier when they’re alone. And silent. Just staring;
  • When the zombie apocalypse hits, I can outrun those buggers (bring it on! Ahem);
  • Muck and slime can get into places it has no right to be;
  • Nothing beats a hot shower.

My Friday night was awesome. How was yours?

002

Review: Topsiders (Scott Tyson)

I very much enjoyed this read but I’m going to begin this review with a disclaimer.

It’s fair to say quite a few of my reviews will have a disclaimer of sorts; as a writer, I have a lot of writerly friends and colleagues who pen the genre I love reading, so there’s bound to be cross-overs from time to time. Scott Tyson falls into the cross-over category. While I’ve worked with Scott on another project, I was not involved with either the pre or post-production of Topsiders. Yes, that is me mentioned in the acknowledgements, but that was for providing general advice of a writing/editorial nature. My only knowledge of the Topsiders story was based solely on the back-cover blurb. I did not receive a free copy of the book – I buy the books that fill (overfill?) my shelves, and do so gladly.

topsiders

Okay, now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on with this review. Oh, and big-arse spoiler alert here: I’ll be talking about the end of this story so if you don’t want to be tainted look away now…now I said! Stop peeking through your fingers!

Topsiders is a tale of twos: two worlds, two families, two journeys and two protags. Told through the eyes of father (Bill) and son (Mathew), we follow each as they embark on separate (though intertwined) quests into an abandoned house by the river. You know this isn’t going to end well.

The story started a little slowly for me; the small glimpses I had of the goings-on in the house made me want to be there, not reading of the dynamics between the adult-couples, or the jostling hierarchy of 14-year-old Mathew, his just-older brother Guy, and love-interest Claire. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are well-drawn and believable, I just wanted to get into that house… or rather, beneath it.

As we’re told this story from two points of view, we know that overly-cautious Bill isn’t so keen on investigating the house, but provoked into doing so by his estranged wife Judy, and lured by his lust for family friend Helen (despite Helen’s husband Phil), Bill plunges into the darkness of the house. When the parents go missing, Mathew, Guy and Claire (Helen and Phil’s daughter) head up their own search party.

Tyson does well to flip between the two parties. Access to the world below is through a tunnel hidden behind a picture in the bathroom – our first glimpse of this is done remarkably well, which only heightened my belief that we needed to get to this point sooner. The tunnel is creepy, and you know they shouldn’t enter, but they do (as we’ve all done things we know we really shouldn’t), and here we really see Bill’s cowardice come to the fore.

Mathew and Claire soon follow suit, determined to find their parents and the now-missing Guy. Tyson creates tension here, and his use of monsters-hiding-in-darkness fear is done very well (sometimes what is unseen is more frightening that what is). Bill, now alone, is at a crossroads – he’s seen (kinda) what lies below and he wants out, but Mathew’s arrival forces Bill’s hand.

Once both arrive at the heart of the monster’s home, the horror of what really lies beneath is shown in its total brutality. There are parts of this story that aren’t for the feint-of-heart, but I liked that Tyson didn’t shy away from brutality – this is a horror story and horror happens.

Once in the cavern, we’re shown the true heart of all involved: the monsters, Bill, Mathew and Judy. Tyson shows us that sometimes there’s not a lot of difference between those that live below and the ‘topsiders’. It’s a hard ending, but there’s a truthfulness to it that made the story all the more enjoyable. There’s a Laymon-esque quality to Tyson’s story – a collision of worlds that is honest in its brutality. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this story, but let me say that Tyson doesn’t soften that blow but delivers it how it must be delivered.

My main issue with the story was its slow beginning, and I think part of that goes to the world Tyson’s created beneath that house – this is where the true story lies, and I think the relationships explored at the beginning could well have been given to the reader while the topsiders were underground. I believe it would have amplified their dynamic. I wanted more of that world, and those trying to survive in it (monster and topsider alike), especially when you take into account that last chapter.

Tyson has left this open for a sequel, and given the point of view of that protag, I would gladly read it.

On a Goodreads scale, I give this a 4 out of 5 stars.

 

 

Review: Before They Are Hanged (Joe Abercrombie)

I’ll be completely honest, I went into Before They Are Hanged with pretty mixed expectations (I believe I actually gave a long-suffering sigh when I took it from my bookshelf). If you’ve read my review of book one in Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy, you’ll know how often I almost gave up on this series. If I hadn’t made it to those final 150-odd pages of book one, I’d never have picked up the second book in this trilogy.

I was wary, sure, I’d been burned with book one, and this was a longer book (although not by much), and my resolve to finish all books I start meant this could become tediously frustrating.

Before they are hanged

Spoilers ahead, so read on at your own risk…

So, Before They Are Hanged…? Now this was a story I could sink my teeth into. Where book one had been a chore, I down-right enjoyed this story. With trilogies, I’ve often found that the second book is where the story falls down, flails, if you will; where the story becomes more of a way-station between books one and three. But Abercrombie takes the tension he’s built at the end of book one and (mostly) runs with it.

It’s a dark, punishing look at a world that’s on the brink of change. And according to the characters telling this story, it’s not going to be a change for the good. The Union is screwed, but they’re the facilitators of their own undoing. As a long-term ruling power, they’ve become lackadaisical, especially with their army, focussing more on pomp and ceremony than actual fighting skills, and it doesn’t take much for these weaknesses to be exploited.

For me, the story is carried by the characters. Abercrombie has really pulled his socks up with characterisation here – he’s challenged his characters to change, and they’ve bit back hard, resisting his push for it but undergoing it nonetheless. Ninefingers is still my favourite character (the Bloody Nine!), although Dogman and his crew are all very close seconds – I could happily read about their exploits, and their dialogue is excellent. Ferro took a while to warm to, but her harshness and dogged thirst for vengeance (regardless of self-realisation) endeared her to me.

Glokta is still the intriguing character he was in book one, but watching his edges being chipped away… this isn’t going to end well for anyone. The revelation (for me, anyway) were my feelings toward Luthar. I had no interest in this character in book one. He was a bland waste of space, and I had to consciously stop myself from skipping over his pages in book one (a hard task indeed). He starts off this way in book two, but his interactions with Ninefingers are some of my favourite. Luthar can still be a bit of a pratt, but if he’d have changed to someone of good character and compassion… well, that would have felt like a slap in the face as a reader.

The battles that take place within this book are grim, bloody and in-your-face, just as they should be. Abercrombie doesn’t shy from the horror, the ugliness, and the unfairness of war. Shit happens. A lot of bad shit happens. People die. Horribly. People live (also horribly). And those we want to live, die; those we want to die, live. That’s war. It’s not pretty. It’s not glorious. Abercrombie does it shitty justice.

There’s a lot at play here, and Abercrombie’s worked it well, giving us more of the characters and fleshing out the culture of this world and its roots. The Union is fighting (rather poorly) for its survival, but there’s war happening on all fronts here: Bayaz and Khalul, Glokta and Sult, Ninefingers and Ferro (sex/companionship as a battle), West and the pompous colonels, and all the internal battles of the main characters… it’s everywhere and I liked it.

There are multiple plot-threads in this second instalment but it’s not too messy. Each new sliver of information, each cross and double-cross adds to this ongoing chess game. They’re all playing – each character a king in their own game, but pawns in the games of others. It’s this… greyness of storytelling that kept me turning the pages – nothing is ever as black and white as it seems.

This isn’t a completely glowing review, as at times the pacing seemed a little off. There are times when Abercrombie really grabs you with his storytelling, then lets you go, asking you to wander around a bit while he gets his soldiers all in a row. I found that most of this was to do with what I like to call ‘politics-interruptus’. It’s the telling of what’s going on that drags at the book; yes, I understand there’s politics involved with this story, but we really did get our understanding of these machinations with book one (in slow, slow shovel-fuls), there’s little need to rehash it in book two. Give the reader some credit; we can carry the pseudo-religious-politico games through on our own.

Overall, Abercrombie’s written a fine second book in this trilogy. Before They Are Hanged was a story I wanted to keep reading, and while book three awaits, I’ll be taking a breather with another book before heading into the epic 700-pager that awaits with the Last Argument of Kings.

(On a Goodreads scale, I give this 4/5 stars).

 

Review: The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie)

I didn’t read anywhere near as much as I wanted last year (I’m talking for pleasure, not work), so this year I’m setting about turning this around. I’m also wanting to read more fantasy (of the darker kind), as the novel I’m writing has fantasy roots. Aaanywho, I picked up Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The First Law’ trilogy, and as I’m about halfway through book two, I thought I’d chuck the review of book one up here.

So, here we go…

This is a 2.5 star rating, but I’m going to review this book as two parts because that’s exactly how it read to me – like two books… and sometimes even two authors, who put ‘The Blade Itself’ together.

I picked up ‘The First Law’ trilogy on a recent trip to my local bookstore. The sales clerk raved about it, and a quick check on Goodreads showed great reviews, so I was pretty excited to get started. Grimdark!

The blade itself

Here there be spoilers…

I have a like/hate relationship with this book. I began intrigued by the story, and with Logen Ninefingers especially (if it weren’t for him, and later his ‘merry’ band, I’d have thrown the book at the wall), but the further I moved into the book, the more frustrated and annoyed I became. The story started strong enough, Logen Ninefingers, talking with spirits, the Shanka – all good, then in came the world of the Union, and in particular Inquisitor Glokta and Captain Jezal Luthar – two very different peas in an almost farcical pod.

Glokta is an interesting character; once one of the Unions most famed soldiers, after 700 days at the “mercy” of the enemy, he’s a crippled, toothless shell of a man and now the best torturer the Union has. Abercrombie does well to make the reader believe Glokta is an old man; I was surprised to learn he was in mid-thirties. Glokta’s Practicals are also a nice touch to the man – Frost especially. At times, I was cringing at the amount of internal monologue Glokta has; less is more, and repetition can become tedious.

Captain Jezal Luthar is an awful parody. Godawful. The back of the dustjacket describes Luthar as a ‘paragon of selfishness’, but I found him to be lazily written. I’ve absolutely no problem with unlikeable characters, if fact, they often make a book, but Luthar is… well, did I say godawful? Especially when he’s marked against a character such as Ninefingers or Dogman, for instance (fleshed out and well-rounded). There’s room for shallow characters, but not room, I believe for shallow characterisation. Sure, he can really only go up from here, and there’s nothing BUT growth to be had, but Abercrombie shows he can write a great character, it’s more like he couldn’t be bothered with Luthar and that makes the book suffer in my eyes.

When I said farcical, that’s exactly what the Union is… with a few clichés thrown in for fun: a fat, dementia-riddled absurdity of a king; a ridiculously stupid crown prince more worried about fashion that his empire; the king’s guard (I’m talking 40-odd men here) who cower, whimper and almost piss themselves when their king is vaguely threatened (seriously? no one’s buying that); and a religious council (let’s call a sect a sect) who pretty much have their hand up the king’s bum like a puppet. Yes, I understand the need to make the Union appear as defenceless and gormless as possible, but this is beyond believability – I can suspend belief, I can, but c’mon!

sheldon1

The one man in the Union who does understand the ridiculousness (and danger) of the situation is Major West, a commoner risen above his station, much to the derision of the blue-bloods (yep, I see that cliché too). But him, I like.

350 pages in and it was a struggle; where was the story arc? Where was the plot? It was Ninefingers and his old crew that kept me turning the pages… well that and I’m stubborn. I was finishing this book, and I was going to be honest in my review.

Then something happened. The story finally kicked in. It had been wandering all over the place, almost as if it were trying to find its way. When Ninefingers, Bayaz, Luthar, and Glokta walk into the House of the Maker it was like they awakened the author. The writing (mostly) fell into place, and I began to see the story Abercrombie wanted to tell.

From here on in I read the book quickly; I was interested and intrigued, and even grew to tolerate the beige that is Luthar. The magic, both dark and curious, began to show its other hand, and the Eaters are a great creation. THIS is where the story should have begun. This is also where I realised the first 350-odd pages had been the longest character introduction I’ve ever read. From here, Abercrombie pretty much holds his own. The ‘Bloody Nine’ chapter is a bloody good read, and the scene where the Bloody Nine rises is a stand-out.

For me, the structure doesn’t do the story justice; I was close to giving up so many times but perseverance got me through. Thing is, a great read shouldn’t be about perseverance, especially when the last 150-odd pages were a good, and at times, a very, very good read.

I can’t forgive the amount of times ‘Er…’ appeared, though, I just can’t. Everyone says it. All. The. Time. If I’d have made a drinking game of it, I’d have been hammered a couple of chapters in. If I’d based the game on exclamation points, I’d be back in the mud. (Ping to the editors on that – less is more, less is more!!!!!)

drunk dog

Make no mistake, Ninefingers and his old crew carried this story for me; they were the only ones I was invested in.

So… here we are at the end of this review that will get two ratings: 1.5 stars for the first part, and four stars for the end. Nothing we learned in the first part, couldn’t have been given to the reader in a hundred-odd pages without losing any of the understanding of characters, culture and the history of the world Abercrombie has created.

I’ll start book two, and see how it goes. Though I’m now a wary reader.