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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Overlooked Masterpiece of Dark Fantasy: "Monument" by Ian Graham (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Ian Graham Website
Order "Monument" HERE

Browsing around the internet one day, I came across a fantasy novel I had never heard of before: Ian Graham’s “Monument”.

Originally released in 2002/2004 (UK/US), “Monument” is the self-contained tale of Anhaga Ballas, a vagrant who, through a series of unfortunate events, finds himself the most wanted man in all of Druine and condemned to death by the Church.

Left with few options, Ballas embarks on a quest to find Belthirran, a mythical land free of the Church’s grasp . . . a land that could offer Ballas sanctuary...

Plot-wise, the book is fairly straightforward throughout with the main character Ballas basically moving from point A to point B, but what the story lacks in complexity is more than compensated for by superb pacing and constant unpredictable twists, especially a few major revelations towards the end.

Aside from the impressive plotting/pacing, the prose is dynamic, the characters convincingly rendered, the dialogue a major strength, and the world-building—though shallow compared to most epic fantasy—is intriguing, most notably the Pilgrim’s Church and the magical race of the Lectivin. In fact, the book as a whole is so well-written that it’s hard to imagine that “Monument” is just a debut.

But what I loved most about the novel was Ballas. Not just a vagrant, Ballas is also a drunkard, incredibly ugly, and willing to do anything immoral—lying, cheating, stealing, killing—as long as it benefits him. In short, Ballas is the ultimate ‘anti-hero’, and one of the most loathsome characters I’ve ever read in a book. . . but also one of the most compelling.

Overall, Ian Graham’s “Monument” is a fantasy novel that captures the grit, darkness and trope-bending of Joe Abercrombie, Richard K. Morgan’s “The Steel Remains”, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and David Keck, but executed much better. An instant favorite...


Mike said...

I long for morally gray characters who are truly compelling. Seems most anti-heroes suffer from either a)Suddent Role Reversal b)Product of Their Environments or c)Something Cool Syndrome.

Finding a protagonist whose character flaws are not a tragic result of their dilemna sounds refreshing.

Thanks for this review, definitely a book worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

Your description of the anti-hero sounds just a bit too much like my ex-husband, someone I'm well rid of. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Greg, one of our reviewers at FanLit, loved this novel, too, for the same reason.

Greg@Fanlit said...

I did very much enjoy Monument as you can see in my review on, which Kat has posted the link for already.

Ballas was just so bad and nasty, that he was like a train-wreck -you can't stop looking. It was just a gutsy story all-round.

It's a shame Mr. Graham hasn't gotten more notice over Monument. One thing that may have been a hinderance in the States; the cover illustration for the US printing is very misleading. I never gave it a second look when it was on the bookstore shelves and would've missed it altogher if Kat hadn't suggested it to me.

Robert said...

You're welcome Michael :) I think Monument sounds like the perfect book for you!

LOL! Sorry anonymous. I didn't mean to dredge up any bad memories. Though to be fair, Ballas does have some redeeming qualities ;)

Thanks Kat for pointing out Greg's review. Glad to see that other websites are covering this novel as well :)

As to why Ian hasn't gotten more notice... Well for one, you're definitely right about that US is very deceiving. Two, I think it just came out at the wrong time. If it had come out 3-4 years later, I think it would have gotten more notice along with Abercrombie, Sanderson, Brian Ruckley, etc.

The biggest problem though I believe, is that Ian just hasn't written enough. People have short attention spans and when a new author only produces one book in what is shaping up to basically be a decade...well it's not enough. Especially in this day and age when readers have come to expect a book a year from their favorite authors.

Hopefully this will change for Ian when he releases his next book. It's supposed to be a prequel to Monument so maybe the publisher will release his debut with a more appropriate cover...

Anonymous said...

An excellent read. I tire of books that have an obvious protagonist and antagonist, this story fleshes out it's characters and shows us that all men are capable of sin, some more than others and that there is no such thing as a good guy and a bad guy. I strongly recommend this book to anyone with a brain and a heart.

Anonymous said...

It was a typical morning when I picked this book along with several other fantasy novels from a bookstore box marked free. I was on a massive high of fantasy fiction, my mind pulsing with the will to read. After delving through two books I had gotten earlier I started the pages of this book. I found a world that beckoned to my thoughts as a writer: a bit dark but at the same time mysterious tale that made me want to know more. Then just like that the book had its claws in my head and I had been "hooked". It kept me guessing at the main characters story to drive them to their decisions till the very last page. I have no problems with any of the book despite the darkness if everything. Put simply this is a amazing read...

Anonymous said...

An absolutely ffing brilliant book I read ages ago..that I lost the title of,until I remembered 'our hero's' name, googled it, and found your review......Many thanks...I am going to order now...for keepers!!!


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