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Saturday, February 15, 2014

"The Fell Sword" by Miles (Christian) Cameron (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)



Now that it's been officially revealed that Miles Cameron is the fantasy name of the historical fiction writer Christian Cameron - whose Tyrant, Long War, Tom Swan and The Ill Made Knight series are such huge favorites - I can state here that I really wish he would write fantasy as well as historical fiction, but sadly after The Red Knight (FBC Rv) - some flaws but ambitious, intense, mysterious and offering immense promise as my blurbed quote on the UK cover of The Fell Sword states - this last novel came as a huge letdown.

Personally I believe the main reason is that Mr. Cameron bought into the idea of a long running fantasy series consisting of door-stopper novels, idea that, when it works well, it really works well so to speak, but it always stands the danger of just becoming bloat and it needs the characters, intensity and epic canvas to work. Here the canvas is present but the other two ingredients are sorely missing, so The Fell Sword reads like a forced attempt of marking time and push the page count and number of novels high, while in his historical fiction, the author lets the events flow naturally and it shows in books that are superb, while they seem to get even better as time passes...

Before getting to the novel proper and a few specifics, I would like to mention that I got The Great King and The Fell Sword at about the same time in January - both UK releases at the time - and despite being in many ways in the mood for something different, when I opened The Great King, I simply could not put it down and had to read it, but when I opened The Fell Sword, I kind of yawned the first time, read a little more and tried to make myself interested the second time but still couldn't muster the will, and only now when I really wanted to read some interesting fantasy, I decided to get seriously into it, became very interested for the first 100-200 pages, only for the book to start becoming so boring and dull that I just started flipping and scanning pages and hoping the final one will come as quickly as possible...

Here is the blurb:

"THE RED KNIGHT was one of the most acclaimed fantasy debuts of 2012 - and now he rides again. Prepare for one epic battle...

In The Fell Sword the Red Knight and his company go across the mountains to the Morea and Thrake - those are the kingdoms to the east of Alba - to put down what appears to be a local rebellion and proves to be larger. In the process, the readers will get to see a little more of the meta-plot.

The Red Knight will meet a beautiful princess. Jean de Vrailly will grow in power and worldly glory. Amicia will develop her own power while getting into a quarrel with the church that will have long term effects for everyone. Readers will meet the Faery Knight and the irks are developed as people and not ‘enemies’. The sides shift, and the stakes grow."

The short description for The Fell Sword is "fantasy as bloat": messy, disjointed, with some great moments, sorely lacking focus but also the intensity and to some extent the mystery that made the first volume a much better book despite its "bloatiness" aspects.

Yes, here we are spared a lot of the unnecessary details and gory massacres of the waves of monsters from the first book, but instead we are treated with marking time for the third volume and that is just dull.


The Red Knight - Mega Duke, ser Gabriel etc - and his company became almost a joke after a while with the same habits, same in-jokes - something else that quickly gets old - same dialogue, overall almost a parody of the earlier appearances, with only Harmodius' presence and inside voice being really interesting. 


In the other - considerably more than in the series debut - locations, there are interesting moments especially in the interludes at the Galle court, but Ser Vrailly's constant "I am the knight incarnate and I can and will kill you for not kissing my bottom" becomes just annoying repetition - ok we get it, seriously we get it, please stop - while Thorn the all powerful mage - as he believes itself, while we know better of course - is similarly boring after a while: flick the wand, next disobedient underling is dead or absorbed becomes as dull as Ser Vrailly's postures quickly - both of the villains here were much more interesting in "The Red Knight" when at least there was a limit to their specific power.

Some of the more interesting characters like Princess Irene of the blurb and her supreme adviser Maria get way too little screen time and the  city of Liviapolis fails to come to life. 

On the good side there was universe expansion and a larger canvas, but as mentioned above the lack of intensity - excepting very occasional moments like the dwarf king of Galle attempting to forcefully seduce his favorite 15 year old singer, the initial moments of the Moreean rebellion which form the best scene in the novel and are as superb as any such in all of the author's writing, Arimnestos facing Xerxes at Susa included, or the interview of Gabriel with the Patriarch - just killed the book.

Overall
The Fell Sword was disappointing and I am in two minds about the next volume - maybe it will get better and more focused as action converges back together, maybe the point of no return as my interest goes has passed, so will see. 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile at Amazon, someone finally saw reason and dropped the Ill-Made Knight's Kindle price down to $5.99!

Liviu said...

that's a good book and I expect to get and read the second volume on publication; when the author lets the events flow, the books work

Sean said...

It's a shame. I liked the Red Knight and was looking forward to the next volume. With a limited book budget, I think I'll wait until the 3rd book then and hope for the best as this middle-book syndrome thing is not uncommon in my experience, especially with a promising start (as I'm really hoping with the Name of the Wind series).

Any other 'anticipated' fantasy book due in March to potentially fill the void? Thanks.

-Sean

bob de warbow said...

the fell sword is not as bad as this review suggest imho. I enjoyed myself massively reading it. It does help if you know a bit about classical history, medieval history and the renaissance. There are a couple of libraries of historical interwoven and combined in this novel. That's why i like it. Looking forward to the next one in this series.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't able to finish The Red Knight after 1/3 of the way in. It just went from event to event, with uninteresting characters.

Liviu said...

In March Words of Radiance comes out - that is 1080+ pages and is bloaty, but it has intensity - I read a few hundred pages scattered and while I may not have the patience to read it page to page, I liked much more what I read there than here

Also there is Traitor's Blade by S. Castell which I am now reading and I kind of like it so far - sword and cloak more than epic so far but fast and fun and after a lighter opening, it got darker too

On the sf side Galaxy Game by Karen Lord is another anticipated one

A large list of releases is on our Upcoming Pages

http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/p/upcoming-releases.html

Sean said...

Thanks Liviu. I'd forgotten about Words of Radiance. I'm not much of a Sanderson fan, he's a solid author but generally uninspired imo. The Way of Kings ticked many boxes for me though, but bloat in that was also a major problem. Hopefully my local library would get a copy soon.

-Sean

Anonymous said...

Unlike Liviu, I actually found this book to be the better of Words of Radiance, Traitor's Blade and The Fell Sword, even though it didn't live up to the Red Knight. Traitor's Blade in particular I thought was very, very average.

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