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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Two Short Reviews: Bakker, Kristian (by Liviu Suciu)

Since I am trying to showcase as many 2011 interesting books of various kinds as I can, but the number of full reviews I can do is limited and is becoming even smaller due to various reasons, it is inevitable that some books won't receive as complete coverage as I wish. I keep the continually updated post with 2011 books read HERE. Here I will talk about two books I would have usually reviewed in full, but since I cannot do it, I will just summarize my thoughts.

First, one the highly awaited novels of the year: The White Luck Warrior by Scott Bakker. I greatly enjoyed the original Prince of Nothing trilogy though I was less enthusiastic about The Judging Eye (FBC Rv) which at the time I thought it was too prologue-like. Now after reading The White Luck Warrior, I realize that my discontent had to do with where the author took the series more than anything else.

The White Luck Warrior (D, series drop) was the first truly disappointing major expected release of 2011 for me. Most of it I would say it's probably me moving on beyond the kind of book this represents but I found it dull, boring and pretentiously empty. All the talk about kings, faith, all the philosophizing for which Scott Bakker is renowned just made me yawn and I couldn't give a fig for any of the characters of the book, except for Kelhus of course. If the No God would come and sweep them into history more the better.

A series drop and I kind of regret it given how much I enjoyed the first trilogy at least at the time, but overall books about ancient evil awakened and the mobilizing of huge armies to combat it, all done in an earnest, "oh, I am taking this really seriously" manner seems to have become another sub-genre I will give a pass from now o
n. I'd rather have some subtlety, some irony, some understanding of the human nature, than what the author offered here and the only thread that was palatable for me in The Judging Eye - with Mimara and Achamanian - became here another "fight and philosophize fest" that I could not wait to be over even at my fast reading rate.

The only redeeming moments were the ones with Kelhus who as usual was pure awesomeness since he is the only "alive" character of the new series, but few pages here and there cannot compensate for the drudgery of the rest.

Odin's Wolves (A/A+) by Giles Kristian is the third and temporarily last - hopefully since I want more for sure - tale of the Viking adventurers under Jarl Sigurd and Raven his protegee seemingly marked by Odin.

The promise of Raven: Blood Eye and Raven: Sons of Thunder is fully realized here with a rip-roaring tale of adventure, intrigue and even occasional heartbreak, that starts on the coasts of France, passes through Moorish Spain, the Mediterranean and ends as expected in Constantinople where the throne is fiercely contested by ambitious nobles and generals, while Sigurd and his fellowship may just be the ones to decide who wears the purple...

Since Odin's Wolves picks up where Sons of Thunder ends, the increasingly diverse band of Sigurd and Raven having just lost their treasure to save their lives, needs another goal and the Jarl sure provides it. On the way they have the usual adventures, great duels, cunning tricks, great banter and blood curling happenings, while the book keeps the "no putting down" breakneck pace of the first two volumes. The ending has a special quality to it because it provides enough closure to be satisfied with the trilogy as a whole, but leaves open the future of our heroes for more adventures to come. Bring them on!


Confuzzled Shannon said...

I wonder if my husband would like the viking series. It is the first I have heard of it.

Liviu said...

i expanded a bit more about current Viking series in the review of Sons of Thunder linked in the post, but of the 3 main ones i know about (Robert Low and Tim Severin being the other 2), this is the one I really liked; of older books, M. Ennis' Byzantium and H. Harrison sff take on them in the series The Hammer and The Cross are also favorites

Angela said...

You had me at Viking! Another series to add to my TBR list! Thank you so much for sharing it!

Dogma75 said...

Liviu if Kristians's books met your taste then you should try Robert Lows' Oathsworn series.
Imho it's the best Viking series on the book market atm.

Liviu said...

I tried them but did not really like them - did not click with me for whatever reasons, so I would not consider them bad the way I consider the ultra-popular Roman books by Conn Igguden who meet my definition of junk; there is also a series by Tim Severin and I felt same as with the Low one, something that is not bad but just does not matches my taste

The non-fiction book by Robert Fergusson (Vikings) is quite interesting and grounds all of these well btw

Dogma75 said...

Liviu did you read all of them?
I had also problems with the first couple of pages of "the whale road". It was another style as I was used too. But after about 50 or 60 pages the story sucked me in. The other three books are also better then the first one.

If I compare Kristians' "Raven - blood eye" with Lows' "Oathsworn"-series then it is like comparing popcorn-cinema and well thought plotline. Don't understand me wrong Kristians's books are really good but they are completly different then Lows.

I read the first book of Severins series and I really didn't like. It was just boring. Iggulden disappointed me too. I have the first three books of his Rome-series and I couldn't read more then 30 pages of the first book and had to lay it away...

If you want to read a good Rome-Series then try Harry Sidebottoms' "Warrior of Rome" series.

Is Ferguson really that good? I looked for a homepage of him but didn't find one?

Liviu said...

I will take a look at the Low books again then, see if i can muster enthusiasm.

Jason said...

Bakker get's better with every book.

I just finshed reading White Luck Warrior a couple days ago and I gotta say that I love it. I especially enjoyed any scene featuring Cleric (might be my new favorite character right behind Achamian).

To my mind, the entire series is some of the best written, most inetlligent and enjoyable (I devour these books) the fantasy genre has produced in quite a long time.

If you are looking for simple, escapist genre fiction, look elsewhere. Bakker's work requires some effort on the part of the reader but the effort pays off.

Liviu said...

To be honest i rarely can take take earnest fantasy seriously these days; my strong dislike of the fantasy hereditary dictatorship (eg kings, emperors...) settings that made me avoid the genre with few exceptions until the past several years, kind of reasserted itself recently - and Bakker is the same, princes, royal (godly even) families...

I want fantasy without kings, or if there have to be kings/queens better be villains, stupid, manipulative - Joe Abercrombie and GRRM like - if you want

Cursed Armada said...

R.Scott Bakker's White Luck Warrior was amazing...I completely disagree with your review...Bakker's work is like a fine wine, you cant just speed read through. I imagine you read a lot of books, so I'm sure a lot of plot-lines were shaky with you... I recommend a re-read of at least the judging eye before you open this one... Bad review...IMO

Anonymous said...

i have to agree with jason....the white luck warrior is one of the best and most engrossing books i've had the thrill to read since Bakkers last book...the man is on a whole other planet of fantasy....but there aren;t any vikings!!!.....maybe his next series will be the aspect viking....heres hoping!!


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