Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Book Depository: Part IV

111: The Blood Knight - Greg Keyes. The Blood Knight is the third volume in Keyes's A Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series. It took me longer to read the first hundred pages of this book than it did the remaining three hundred. I just could not get into the story despite being thrown into action and some battles and a bit of mystery. Keyes slowly reveals some of what came before, so if you are fuzzy on what happened in The Charnel Prince, I suggest that you take the time to go back and read it. What we do know is that Prince Robert has taken over the throne of Crotheny, having assassinated most of the royals except for Queen Muriele (now captive) and Anne Dare (on the run). Robert is also dead...yet somehow alive. Got that?

Good. Now, Anne Dare is seeking an army to take back her throne and the Briar King is still on the loose doing lord knows what but making brambles grow where he walks. Leoff, the composer, is in prison because a symphony he composed inflamed the peasants against Robert.

Now, Stephen, the former monk has been captured by slinders, creatures of the Briar King and he has a long journey in front him. Anne sends Aspar, her holter (forest ranger, let's say) to find Stephen. With Anne are Cazio, the hilarious foreign swordsman (think Inigo Montoya) and Neil, the knight. Still with me?

No? That's okay. After we get past the first hundred pages Keyes really draws the reader in and he hooked me with the richness of the world. I forgot my frustration and was enveloped in Crotheny and the magic and oddness of the world. Keyes is doing interesting things with the high fantasy genre and this series and it is worth reading to see how he develops it. That isn't much of a recommendation, but describing the story at this point is nearly impossible because Keyes has a shifting viewpoint (like that of George Martin) where the characters are barely interacting with each other and doing vastly different things that you can not quite figure out how they will intersect and form the core of the story to come. The most interesting thing is that he has taken a group of characters the reader has come to view as "good guys" and I have a very strong feeling that he is starting to turn one or two of them to "bad guys" even though the characters themselves haven't changed...but the situations have and it's an odd turn because you can see a couple of characters starting to line up on different sides without them realizing what is happening.

By the end of the book I was sold and am eagerly awaiting The Born Queen. It's worth the effort to get through the opening.

112: A Short History of Myth - Karen Armstrong. I read this book because it is the first volume in the Myth series where popular authors (I think popular) tackle various myths (Margaret Atwood takes the first myth in the Penelopiad). The title of this book tells you everything you need to is a short history of myth. Armstrong (A History of God) breaks the slim volume into sections based on historical era and covers the evolution of how humanity has viewed and used myth and what some of those myths were.
And I almost fell asleep reading it. Honestly, I didn't care. That's not a knock on Armstrong, but more that the subject matter of an academic overview of myth is dry stuff, especially since we're not reading the actual myths here. Move along, nothing to see here.

113: Honored Enemy - Raymond E. Feist and William R. Forstchen. Honored Enemy was originally only released outside the United States as part of the Legends of the Riftwar series that took place during and around the time of the Riftwar series. Feist was not able to come to a deal with his US publisher for more than 5 years until finally, the series is coming to the United States. First up is Honored Enemy.

Set 9 years into the Riftwar it features no characters we would know from the main series but instead tells of Hartraft's Marauders, a band of soldiers tied to Yabon, but with autonomy to operate behind the lines of the enemy and do as much damage as possible. The Kingdom men are fighting the Tsurani from Kelewan, but when a band of Moredhel (Dark Elves) pin down both the Marauders as well as a platoon of Tsurani under Asayaga, the enemies must join together in temporary truce or fall to the Dark Brotherhood.

I didn't expect much from this book. Feist's Riftwar Legacy, based on computer games, was rather bad and if it took five years to get published in the US how good could this one be?

Apparently, very. Honored Enemy is a strong story of two enemies working together through mutual distrust and cultural differences to stay alive. The story is told through the viewpoints of Dennis Hartraft, Asayaga, and occasionally from Borvai, a moredhel chief pursuing the humans.

Feist does well with collaborations as his Empire trilogy with Janny Wurts was very strong and this book with William Forstchen is also strong. There is good characterization and development of Dennis and Asayaga and the pace of the story is swift enough that we get past the fact that this is only a small episode in the scale of the Riftwar and features no major player. But it's a good story, perhaps even a ripping yarn which Feist so proudly told early in his career.

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