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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The First 2011 Major Fantasy Titles I Have - "The Hammer" by KJ Parker and "The Fallen Blade" by JC Grimwood

I have started to gather material for the list of my Anticipated Books of 2011, but in the meantime I want to talk a bit about the first two major fantasy novels from 2011 that I am very lucky to have got so far, one that I have recently read and already became a "hard to top" one, the other that will be my next read.

For readers familiar with KJ Parker's work, The Hammer can be summarized as the family drama of The Fencer series, the driven hero of The Folding Knife and the setup of The Company.

I put a long mini-review of The Hammer on Goodreads and opened a thread on sffworld and of course a full review of it and of the author's superb novella "Blue and Gold" (mini-review on Goodreads too) will come here in due course, while in the meantime you can also see my take on The Scavenger series, The Folding Knife, Purple and Black and the anthology story A Rich Full Week.

The Hammer is one of those "gotta work hard" to top it books.


Jon Courtenay Grimwood is one of the contemporary masters of sf with 10 books which range from very good to superb - even his cyberpunk is still interesting today due to its alt-history setting - and he makes his fantasy debut in early 2011 with The Fallen Blade the first novel in the Assassini trilogy.

JCG's sf consists of four loosely linked cyberpunk novels set in an alt-history future: neoAddix, Lucifer's Dragon, reMix, RedRobe, the Ashraf Bey series: Pashazade, Effendi, Felaheen set in a different alt-history future and then the loosely linked contemporary sf trilogy: Stamping Butterflies, 9 Tail Fox and End of the World Blues.

JC Grimwood is an amazing writer and I have yet to be disappointed by any of his books - I read all of course - with RedRobe, Pashazade, Stamping Buterflies and End of the World Blues being my favorites.

Fallen Blade -
from which I read several pages and it starts awesomely so it will be my next read - starts in Venice of early 1400's where the descendants of Marco "Millioni" Polo rule as dukes and poison is the preferred way of settling disputes and ensuring successions - or maybe blades, not yet clear and there is a promised vampire too who is on the cover.

Here is the complete blurb:

"In the depths of night, customs officers board a galley in a harbor and overpower its guards. In the hold they find oil and silver, and a naked boy chained to the bulkhead. Stunningly beautiful but half-starved, the boy has no name. The officers break the boy's chains to rescue him, but he escapes.

Venice is at the height of its power. In theory Duke Marco commands. But Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They command the seas, tax the colonies, and, like those in power before them, fear assassins better than their own.

In a side chapel, Marco's fifteen-year old cousin prays for deliverance from her forced marriage. It is her bad fortune to be there when Mamluk pirates break in to steal a chalice, but it is the Mamluks' good luck - they kidnap her.

In the gardens beside the chapel, Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, prepares to kill his latest victim. Having cut the man's throat, he turns back, having heard a noise, and finds a boy crouched over the dying man, drinking blood from the wound. The speed with which the boy dodges a dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. And the assassin knows he has to find the boy.

Not to kill him, but because he's finally found what he thought he would never find. Someone fit to be his apprentice.

In the meantime you can download for free the author's debut Neoaddix HERE and read Robert's take on End of the World Blues.

Edit 11/22 I finished The Fallen Blade and it was mildly disappointing though I am still interested in the sequel.
Here are my quick thoughts (unedited and all) from Goodreads with a full review in due course:

I was somewhat disappointed in this book in the sense that i expected a blow me away A++ novel based on prior experience with the author's novels (read all 10 so far) and the premise of this one - alt-history fantasy set in an Earth with some magic in the early 1400's Venice.

The book has a lot of goodies: extremely good atmosphere, you can really visualize and even "feel" the Venice of 1400;s so good are the descriptions; great vivid characters in Tycho, Atilo, Giuletta, Desdaio, Alexa and several others and some twists and turns that are excellent, while all the world building and differences from our world are very well inserted at crucial points.

But the novel's style is very fractured, full of narrative walls, the book just does not flow which surprised me a lot. It is very "jerky" and the plot does not hold scrutiny in some key parts that seem to happen only because the author wanted it so his selected set of surviving characters could get away from hopeless situations which of course kill his "sacrifice" characters... No rhyme or reason beyond authorial fiat and that was the second major negative

I would give it a B for the many goodies and while I am interested in the next book, it won't be the asap as this one was. I hope the author will raise the quality of the prose and plotting to the level of his early novels since the series has high potential.



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