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Friday, July 2, 2010

"This Crooked Way" by James Enge (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Read FBC's Review of Blood of Ambrose Here
Visit James Enge's Website Here
Order This Crooked Way from Amazon Here

Overview: Morlock Ambrosius returns! Travelling alone in the depths of winter, Morlock Ambrosius (bitterly dry drunk, master of all magical makers, wandering swordsman, and son of Merlin Ambrosius and Nimue Viviana) is attacked by an unknown enemy. To unmask his enemy and end the attacks he must travel a long crooked way through the world: past the soul-eating Boneless One, past a subtle and treacherous master of golems, past the dragon-taming Khroi, past the predatory cities of Sarkunden and Aflraun, past the demons and dark gnomes of the northern woods. Soon he will find that his enemy wears a familiar face, and that the duel he has stumbled into will threaten more lives than his own, leaving nations shattered in its chaotic wake. And at the end of his long road waits the death of a legend.

Format: This Crooked Way is 412 pages divided into 16 chapters. Each chapter tells a story or episode that eventually wraps itself into a full novel. While it has Morlock from Blood of Ambrose and a few returning characters it isn't necessary to have read the first book, but some events from the first book are referenced. It was published October 27, 2009 by Pyr.

Analysis: Blood of Ambrose was a difficult novel for me to rate. I enjoyed the story but I wasn't completely completely in love with the novel. I found the wording sometimes to be a bit hard to understand and visualize. I also found it a bit hard to get into but the ending was amazing enough to make me want to read more by James Enge. The most fascinating character throughout the novel was Morlock, so when I heard that there was a second (and third) novel planned with him I thought I'd give it a try.

The best way to view This Crooked Way is to almost view it as several short stories that in the long run will all tie together. A lot of the chapters in this novel were original short stories that James Enge had written elsewhere featuring Morlock. Of course there is added content to make the chapters flow together.

While I enjoyed the complete feeling of each chapter, I did find that it was pretty obvious that some of the chapters were at one point stand alone short stories. There wasn't a forced feeling to the chapters forming a novel, it just sometimes came across as choppy as if telling a bunch of short stories without having that one connecting element. The connecting element does come along a lot later in the novel but for the first half of the book it feels a bit like a short story collection. When I first started reading the novel I had the feeling of being told a bunch of stories that I knew should go together but I couldn't piece how they were going to fit together. Luckily it was resolved but for a while there I just sat back and read.

There is one exception to all the chapters having to do with each other and that is the Fire and Water chapter, that one was a bit random and didn't really fit with the overall picture of the novel. Besides that the rest all do tie together at one point or another.

A few of the chapters are told from the perspective of characters that Morlock meets along the way. I wasn't as into these chapters as I would have liked but it in no way swayed how I viewed the novel. My biggest complaint of this was that I wanted to see more of Morlock and didn't really care what these other characters had gone through.

Writing wise I found This Crooked Way to be a lot smoother. It didn't seem to have the classic language feel the first novel had. Maybe I had just become accustomed to the writing style or it really did have a different feel to it. The pacing of the novel felt a lot quicker and it didn't have the slow burn feel that Blood of Ambrose seemed to have.

If you enjoyed Blood of Ambrose this is definitely a book for you. If you were on the fence about Blood of Ambrose, as I was, this will definitely change your mind about this novel. If you weren't a fan of Blood of Ambrose this probably won't change your mind but it might be worth a shot as it does have a different feel to it.

Overall, I really enjoyed This Crooked Way. It was great to be able to see more of Morlock and get to know more about who he is and his personality. There were several conversations that were an absolute joy to read. Along with great conversations between characters, there is plenty of magical elements and fighting to keep any fan of fantasy engaged. This Crooked Way made me a fan of James Enge when I was on the fence about his writing and I look forward to seeing his future works.


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