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Monday, October 21, 2013

"The Path of Anger: The Book and the Sword I" by Antoine Rouaud (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Order The Path of Anger HERE
Read the first two chapters at Gollancz's site.

"There will be blood. There will be death. This is the path of anger. . .

Dun-Cadal has been drinking his life away for years. Betrayed by his friends - who turned their back on their ideals in favour of a new republic - and grief stricken at the loss of his apprentice, who saved his life on the battlefield and whom he trained as a knight in exchange, he's done with politics, with adventure, and with people.

But people aren't finished with him - not yet. Viola is a young historian looking for the last Emperor's sword, and her search not only brings her to Dun-Cadal, it's also going to embroil them both in a series of assassinations. Because Dun-Cadal's turncoat friends are being murdered, one by one. . . by someone who kills in the unmistakable style of an Imperial assassin. . ."


The Path of Anger is Antoine Rouaud's much hyped world debut in various languages, including the original French (La Voie de la Colere - Le Livre et l'Epee: I) and English with a literal translation of the title and it has been a highly expected novel of mine for a long time, so I got a copy the moment it was out and I read it fast as it was quite a page turner.

Story-wise, it is hard to talk about the book without major spoilers which while I suspected some on general principles, the author's able misdirection made them a surprise as execution went. As structure, the book alternates the present - starting as the blurb indicates with the famous general and knight Dun-Cadal with power to command the "animus" - you know what that is from Star Wars and the like - now wasting his final years away in drink, while everything he believed in crumbled around him, and the past where it is recounted the story of his protegee "Frog" who had saved his life in a rebellion and whom Dun Cadal took to court as a squire and helped him realize his dream of becoming a knight too. 

As opposed to the usual fantasy genre structure of alternating chapters, the book uses the literary fiction technique of switching in mid-paragraph between the times and as that is done outstandingly, The Path of Anger stands out from the usual genre offering. 

While I had some quibbles about the plot especially about the wedding at the end which really didn't make sense at least as our current understanding of the position of the respective characters in the world of the series, the main drawback is the almost complete lack of world building which leads to the novel reading as characters acting in theater with props, very well done for what is, but in contemporary top tier secondary world fantasy, we need more, namely a sense of the world beyond a few cliches.

The ending is at a good stopping point, wrapping up the main plot driver of the novel and preparing for what comes next when the "book" and "the sword" of the title series should start revealing their significance - their identities are pretty obvious from the start as the blurb talks about the sword, while the book in cause is mentioned every few pages...

Overall, The Path of Anger has outstanding writing style - I would say arguably better than anything in contemporary secondary world fantasy genre - superbly drawn characters and narrative momentum and it is a novel that if it were about college students/professors, historical personages in a context and maybe even sf in a logical future of our world, it would have been awesome but as fantasy it falls short due to minimal world building which modern "serious" fantasy of the secondary world kind requires to be in the top tier.

While not yet a top 25 of mine - though it may grow more on me with time and/or new installments  - I highly recommend The Path of Anger for its major positives and I am definitely interested in the sequel as I want to see both what happens to the main characters and where the storyline of the book and the sword goes...

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