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Monday, November 8, 2010

“Surrender to the Will of the Night” by Glen Cook (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Glen Cook Wikipedia Website
Order “Surrender to the Will of the NightHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Lord of the Silent Kingdom

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Glen Cook is a contemporary American science fiction and fantasy author, best known for The Black Company fantasy series. His bibliography also includes the Garrett, P.I. paranormal mystery novels, Dread Empire, Starfishers and The Instrumentalities of the Night.

PLOT SUMMARY: Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knows how to kill gods. It is knowledge that makes him dangerous, but also puts him in danger—from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his knowledge for their own purposes.

For example, Piper’s sister Heris and his living ancestor Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god, Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade into the Holy Lands against his fellow Pramans.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain ranges are going under the ice, and fast. The Wells of Power, everywhere, keep getting weaker. And the old evils, the Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time, have begun to ooze back into the world...

FORMAT/INFO: Surrender to the Will of the Night is 496 pages long divided over forty-four numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mostly via the main protagonist, Piper Hecht. Other viewpoints include the Ninth Unknown, Cloven Februaren; the Maysalean Perfect Master, Brother Candle; Nassim Alizarin, the Mountain; Helspeth Ege, Princess Apparent of the Grail Empire; and Piper’s sister, Heris. Considering the scope and complexity of The Instrumentalities of the Night, it’s highly recommended that readers finish The Tyranny of the Night and The Lord of the Silent Kingdom before attempting Surrender to the Will of the Night, the third volume in the series. Expect an ending in Surrender to the Will of the Night that wraps up most of the major plotlines in the book, but also acts as a cliffhanger/tease for the next volume in the series.

November 23, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Surrender to the Will of the Night via Tor. Like the previous Instrumentalities of the Night novels, cover art is provided by Raymond Swanland.

ANALYSIS: After reading The Tyranny of the Night and The Lord of the Silent Kingdom, I felt The Instrumentalities of the Night was developing into some of Glen Cook’s best work yet, and Surrender to the Will of the Night only confirms that thought...

Once again marrying the no-nonsense characterization, military action and dark humor of the author’s Black Company novels with the epic scope and inventive magic of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, as well as the complex medieval European/Middle Ages-influenced religion and politics of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire and Kate Elliot’s Crown of Stars, Surrender to the Will of the Night is another hugely rewarding entry in The Instrumentalities of the Night series.

Plot-wise, politics remain front and center, this time revolving around the Grail Empress’ desire to launch a crusade to purge the Holy Lands of the Praman infestation with Piper Hecht leading the charge as the Commander of the Righteous army; Bronte Doneto’s ascension to Patriarch; secret documents declaring the surprising heir to the End of Connec; and Indala al-Sul Halaladin’s attempt to unify the kaifates of al-Minphet and Qasr al-Zed in order to undertake his own crusade. But overshadowing all of the world’s political matters is the looming threat of the powerful Instrumentality, Kharoulke the Windwalker.

Of these numerous storylines, I most enjoyed the one with Kharoulke the Windwalker and those tasked with defeating the Instrumentality, including the Ninth Unknown, Cloven Februaren, Piper Hecht’s sister, Heris, the Aelen Kofer (dwarves), and the ascendant, Asgrimmur Grimmsson, who was largely responsible for freeing the Windwalker in the first place. Mostly taking place in the magical Realm of the Gods where the Old Ones were imprisoned by Asgrimmur in The Tyranny of the Night, this particular storyline felt similar to reading a Tad Williams fantasy novel. However, true to form, Glen Cook provides his own unique spin on such familiar epic fantasy trappings as magical worlds and mythical races, while keeping the reader unbalanced with unexpected twists & turns, like the surprising way Kharoulke the Windwalker is handled. For most of this storyline, narratives are provided by the entertaining Cloven Februaren and the resourceful Heris, who are highlights of the novel.

That said, Piper Hecht remains my favorite character in the series, and once again is awarded center stage in the third volume of The Instrumentalities of the Night. What I love most about Piper is his grounded, no-nonsense approach to everything in his life—his job, family, friends, co-workers, enemies, the Instrumentalities, et cetera—which, more than any other character in the series, embodies the spirit of Glen Cook’s timeless Black Company novels. More than that though, Piper Hecht is just an incredibly interesting individual who has to deal with a ton of intriguing complications in his life from leading a double life as Piper Hecht—complete with a fake wife, fake children and a fake history—that feels more real than his actual life; to enduring the burden of being the Godslayer; harboring a dangerous attraction to Helspeth Ege, the Princess Apparent of the Grail Empire; and being related to a family of powerful magic-users; while new complications include Piper finding a way to prevent Empress Katrin—who becomes more insane over the course of the novel—from launching a crusade into the Holy Lands; Krulik & Sneigon selling godshot and falcons (the weapons used to kill Instrumentalities) to anyone who can afford it; and even more assassination attempts.

Of the other main characters, Brother Candle is once again mainly an observer, resulting in the most boring chapters in the novel, but thankfully the Maysalean Perfect Master is not given very much face time. Nassim Alizarin’s narrative meanwhile, is somewhat similar to Brother Candle’s, as his chapters act primarily as a window for what’s happening in the Holy Lands, including setting up what could be future confrontations with Gordimer the Lion and the sorcerer, er-Rashal al-Dhulquarnen. Disappointingly, the novel only dedicates a few short chapters to Helspeth Ege, but considering what happens to her sister Katrin, the Princess Apparent is primed for a much larger role in forthcoming sequels.

Comparatively, Surrender to the Will of the Night possesses many of the same strengths that are present in The Tyranny of the Night and The Lord of the Silent Kingdom, including a rewardingly elaborate story, unforgivingly complex politics, a huge & diverse cast of characters, and epic action sequences. Unfortunately, Surrender to the Will of the Night also possesses many of the same weaknesses, including a noticeable lack of a map or glossary to help readers process the immense amount of information that is available, a writing style that occasionally does too much telling rather than showing, and prose that is sometimes too sparse for it’s own good: “The children smirked and giggled at breakfast. Hecht ignored them. It was a fine day. He had no obligations. He planned to stay right here and do nothing.” However, because of the increased roles of Cloven Februaren and Heris; the entertaining Windwalker storyline; and a number of exciting developments involving the discovery of Ferris Renfrow’s secret identity, the deaths of five powerful rulers, and the revelation that Piper Hecht/Else Tage might not be the Godslayer after all; Surrender to the Will of the Night is the best Instrumentalities of the Night novel yet.

In the end, Surrender to the Will of the Night and The Instrumentalities of the Night series is required reading for anyone who loves Glen Cook or considers themselves a true fan of fantasy literature...


Jon said...

You do the most thorough reviews I think I've ever seen. Great work! I love Glen Cook's novels, especially the Black Company. I read the first two books in the Instrumentality of Night series, and I'll definitely have to check this one out pretty soon.

Robert said...

Thanks Jon! I really appreciate the comments and hope you enjoy Surrender to the Will of the Night :)

Lindsay Buroker said...

Thanks for the thorough review. It's been many moons since I read the Black Company books, and I was wondering if Glen Cook had any new series out. So he does. :) I'll have to find Book 1 and get reading!

freeline said...

Ah , an excellent synopsis and critique
In my innocence , it seems that I was unaware of any weaknesses. Perhaps , I am not Perfect , either.
I enjoy the banter between characters esp , Hecht and Consent and everyone else for that matter
i mention the Series ' Instrumentalities ' in my blog. , mostly as a weakness that I have
And my inability to find enjoyable reading , so I keep re-reading this series. Thnx


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