Thursday, October 23, 2008
Bitter Gold Hearts, by Glen Cook
Bitter Gold Hearts
Glen Cook returns to TunFaire with Bitter Gold Hearts, the second (of twelve, so far) novels following the exploits of a private investigator named Garrett. Though he walks through a low-tech fantasy-land populated with dwarves, ogres, trolls, were-creatures, vampires, and magic-users, Garrett himself is reminiscent of the pulp detective heroes of the past. He may be the protagonist with a soft spot for the dames, but he can also be a hard and sarcastic man who does what he needs to in order to get the job done. In short, he may rub most of the other characters the wrong way, he’s a blast to read about!
During Sweet Silver Blues, Garrett spent much of the novel away from TunFaire and in a very dangerous region called The Cantard. Bitter Gold Hearts keeps Garrett much closer to home, with only the occasional foray to the outskirts of TunFaire. While the Cantard may have a reputation for nastiness, TunFaire may not be much safer for Garrett as his new case takes him away (for a time) from the slums and into the much richer neighborhood of The Hills (I swear, this was written YEARS before the tv series). Garrett is approached by Amiranda Crest, a beautiful young woman in the employ of the Stormwarden Raver Styx (great name, by the way). Karl Jr, the son of Raver Styx has been kidnapped while the Stormwarden is away and Amirdanda and Domina Willa Dount (sort of like a major-domo) would like to pay the ransom and get Karl Jr back before the Stormwarden returns. Garrett plays his initial role, but is hired to do other stuff surrounding this case and it is not long before things go badly and Garrett is thrust (or, thrusts himself) into the middle of this case / situation.
Though there is a less of a straightforward narrative to Bitter Gold Hearts than in Sweet Silver Blues, Bitter Gold Hearts is a notable improvement over the first volume. It is difficult to say exactly what is better or why Bitter Gold Hearts is stronger, but it is. The interactions between Garrett the Loghyr are excellent, but I don’t think that is exactly the reason. There is plenty of sarcastic, joking dialogue, strong action sequences, dames, a little bit of magic, a strong character in Raver Styx, and overall just excellent writing from Glen Cook. Top to bottom, Bitter Gold Hearts is stacked. Despite dripping with the trappings of high fantasy, Bitter Gold Hearts is a detective novel through and through. The writing of the characters and the investigation are key here and Glen Cook does it well.
Bring on Cold Copper Tears!