In this post, I’ll look into one specific type of narrative I encountered: one where the story is told by a narrator retrospectively and interrupted here and there with the narrator’s perspective. While my sample on this kind of narrative is small, it was enough to discover potential issues in that approach – something I’ll talk about now.
This is a read that was in the queue for a while – I bought it on sale around the release of the newest movie. Yet, it was something I was considering reading so I went for it.
Sequel to Ordination I reviewed a week ago, Stillbright picks up exactly where the first book left off: Londray, the home of Baron Delondeur. By the end of the first book, Allystaire was invited for a talk with the Baron which ended with him being pulled into the catacombs. It’s exactly there where the second book starts with the sorcerer and his apprentice from the first book’s prologue “examining” him.
Of course, IdgenMarte and Torvul are not willing to leave him to his fate and hastily create a plan that would free him and even do some side damage to the Baron. Yet Allystaire manages to overpower the sorcerer to the shock of everyone and get on his way out when he’s found.
That’s, by far, not the end of the trouble, something they all know. Along with them, the nameless student and a to-be-sacrificed woman escape the place knowing that the baron will most likely give them hell sooner or later – for this and all the insults suffered from Allystaire in the past.
Their hasty return to Thornhurst has them face unexpected challenges in form of beast-men and the student’s power. They make it eventually, with some of the beast-men freed of their curse – only to face new challenges.
Servants of Braech, the sea-god, use their magic to deprive Thornhurst of rain and so starve the citizens by drying the soil. When that is finally done, servants of Fortune arrive to try striking a bargain not too good for them – and beset by ambition among their own that threatens the diplomatic attempt more than Allystaire’s straightforwardness, which is something.
Realizing that their enemies will sooner or later (and most likely sooner) came crashing down upon them, Allystaire does his best to prepare the village for the coming threat. When they come, it’ll take everything they have and even more to defend the village and what the people there stand for – which is as much as I can say without spoilers.
It still has much of the first book’s appeal: Torvul, Idgen Marte and Allystaire with their differences and teases. Joined by the sorcerer’s apprentice (later named Gideon), it adds several both funny and memorable lines. There’s also reveal of why Allystaire seems to keep distance from women – a hint of his tragic past.
It seems that the third book will flow straight from the second one as well and the end shows that there might be quite some surprise as there are visitors to Thornhurst, and quite unexpected ones.
As with the previous books, the fourth directly follows the third. Defense of Abythos ended up being a total failure due to all the creatures Tharok had enslaved and sent the humans scattered from the battlefield.
Those who survived and are capable of leading the remains are trying to create a working strategy to stop the kragh hordes yet find themselves unable to choose something they would all agree on and they’d all believe to work.
Meanwhile, Audsley is getting deeper into the secrets of the Fujiwara, secrets that are often gruesome. His path will take some twists as well, maybe more than the others.
Now, a bit more detail about the individual plotlines.
Tharok’s conquest seems unstoppable at first, yet the warlord is surprised by something he’d not expect: the White Gate. Its power knocks him out temporarily and one of the others takes the mantle of a warlord – as well as the circlet and weapon – from him, leaving him to create a plan to get them back without their help, something he eventually succeeds in doing. Then, he launches his most devastating attack on the humans who prepared their last defense. It does not go as well as he thought until he uses something that no one could be prepared for.
Tiron and the young nobles following him are one of the few that left Abythos by ground instead of portals and are moving, seemingly without a destination, through the land. That is until they encounter a group of kragh that separated from the main army. They eventually join forces with Nok and Shaya who were sent to warn and help the few remaining shamans that Tharok sent away so the medusa can’t get a hold of them.
This journey shows the contrast between Tirn’s harsh realism and the ideals of the nobles and even Tiron is shown that his approach might not be the best one – that a dream or hope can be a goal to go for, despite all the losses they face. With the help of the uncorrupted kragh, they eventually help the final battle in a way no one could expect.
Iskra does not get that much action. Instead, she’s mostly seen trying to keep things together, often being against the plan the Ascendant suggests – only to be shown that they both made mistakes.
Asho and Kethe
The two finally meet again, only to start quite cold as Kethe is still struggling with her new role as a virtue – only to be the last one standing. Both she and Asho are again forced to fight to the limits of their abilities and not always side-by-side as they defend different places against Tharok’s forces. The situation between them changes when Asho saves Kethe and they eventually fight the final battle together.
Also, Elom appears again and shows his skill in fixing things, especially fixing massive things that make massive damage.
This was probably the most interesting part of the book. Audsley, once hungry for knowledge, is now struggling with his inner demons as he delves into the dark secrets of the Fujiwara. With Zephyr, they plan to eliminate their leader and while creating the plan works well, it all goes down horribly. Audsley is given more facts than he’d like – facts that are too hard to swallow for him, a revelation about the Ascension’s dark background and how the faith he believed so much was nothing but a scheme built on a desire for vengeance.
It eventually goes down horribly and even the fact that his firecat Aedelbert finally returns or that he is finally rid of his demons are just a small consolation in what turns to be much worse than the kragh, the medusa, or the massive worms she summoned.
Going 5% up compared to the previous two books.
A great part of me hoped that Asho and Kethe would finally rid Tharok of his head and get done with the kragh for all they caused. How the Fujiwara substory went down was something I did not really expect and if there’s something I am really curious to see in the final book, it’s what will happen with the Ascendant empire. As the characters were considering destruction or reformation, the situation changed many times. Now that all the dark background was revealed and everything is going down even worse than expected, the change will be most likely in some other direction.
What I missed compared to the first three books was saying at the beginning of a chapter from whose PoV the chapter is told. Sometimes it was a good idea for where to end the day’s reading.
After two long years, another World of Warcraft book. Considering that I am an active player (okay, not now exactly, I am on a break for May and June) and interested in the game universe and story for the past almost 20 years (a lot of time…), it’s tough to make a review of this one.
It’s even tougher for the current situation and with the hints for where the story is going.
For my latest read, I chose something that a member of Goodreads group was mentioning being on sale. The idea seemed interesting and so I went for it, even though it was not something in the center of my attention when it comes to (sub)genres. The book is a mixture of post-apocalyptic, folklore, urban fantasy and maybe more.
So, my first self-published sci-fi read, and seems that my luck for choosing books that will take my attention is not running out, yet. This one is harder to review without spoilers, but I’ll try my best.
The book starts in what seems to be PoV of a robot or cyborg, which was new experience for me. It sets up the story well, describing the situation on Earth nearing its last stand. Humanity tried to find new homes with space travel but in the process hastened Sun’s lifecycle and sent it towards the rad dwarf phase faster than it would be naturally. As result, the life is now limited to a few cities in domes that block the deadly radiation from much stronger sun and one underground city, Subterra.
It also shows that cyborg-like ARs are remotely directed (not directly controlled, only being given instructions over radio) law enforcement units, which includes the PoV character. Things starts to get weird as it seems said cyborg is getting memories and gaining some degree of free will, leading to this line:
Could it be that someone had compromised my programming? But then how would that let me internally debate the issue?
Then the story gets to reveal that there’s much more going on and that the ARs are more than just cyborgs (not saying the details to avoid spoilers). It is revealed that the Subterran rebels are trying to reveal what is behind their missing people, the ARs and in a chain of events, they lead to even worse revelations. Which is probably all I can say without spoilers.
There are some things I feel like I should mention. First is that despite the quite nasty things that are found in labs by the end don’t go into too nasty details yet show well enough the depravities done by leaders that want to stay in high places at any cost.
Second is that I found this book by quite some chance – I rarely looked at Goodreads giveaways as (by that time) they were limited to paperback only outside of USA (for which kindle giveaways were still in beta). I found out this one and after a quick look, I eventually added it to my potential TBR list, where it waited for just 6 months, which is not that much considering the list’s size.
Third is that I wondered if the name is, in any way, inspired by the movie Total Recall (though I only saw the 2012 version). In conclusion, it is well possible, there is the theme of getting memories back slowly while being thrown into action (again, can’t say much more without spoilers).
In conclusion, the story has potential and I’ll be waiting for the sequel(s).
I followed reading the final book in the trilogy the day after reading the second book. Compared to the second one, the PoV shifts are not that numerous or sudden, but that is great part due to the story converging in two places: around Wulfric and around Rodulf.
Rodulf keeps his scheming and takes it to the next level, resulting to multitude of atrocious acts. Adalhaid is finishing her studies with plan to leave the city as soon as she finishes what Aethelman could not, knowing that she’d not be safe remaining around if she succeeded (and would probably not live long if she failed). She has some obstacles in the way, partially due to the headmistress having some aversion to Northlanders.
In the meantime, Wulfric returns from his journey overseas only to end up tangled in a messy webs of politics and traitors. And as it tends to be, he just can’t kill those, no matter how reasonable his suspicions are, without a proof his enemies are not willing to give.
He is lured away from the city on a quest to find a blade worthy of a hero, realizing it’s a trap but having no choice. He gets some insight and understanding on the way and just as he returns, the story seems to be getting to the finale… which it would be, if not for the narrative, as I mentioned in my review of the second book. It is here when it shows as trouble. When you know that some characters will survive, it kills the surprise.
I also though some characters maybe deserved a bit better end (no spoiler to who) and that the ending, shifted several years later, is quite anticlimactic. One would expect that after dealing with an uprising led by traitor, a monarch aiming for peace would do all in his power to have all the schemers, and especially the head, searched and dealt with at any cost, yet it is not the case here.
The good part was in the head Intelligencier (that’s how the inquisitor-like sect is called) who shows compassion for the sake of his family, realizing that despite what many would think not all magic is bad.
My final verdict for the book, and the whole series, is that it was great read that sucked me in, but could be much better if not for the spoiler-ish narration.
Also, I guess this will lead to me writing blog posts about some topics I wanted to cover: my thoughts about PoV/narration and my thoughts about what is (or not) good or satisfactory ending.
As I mentioned at the end of my review of “Wolf of the North“, I was tempted to get into the sequel right away, but for reasons delayed that. The story was captivating, so I blazed through the second book in two days, but it had its issues.
Given how the first book ended, with Wulfric at the run (both away from Leondorf and towards his revenge), Aethelman with is own goal, Rodulf scheming more and Adalhaid with her own choices to make, there were many sub-stories to follow.
That itself would not be an issue, but how the PoV shifts were handled was troublesome, often changing several times in a single chapter, something that might confuse some readers. Worst, these plot parts were happening at different places, detached enough that just following one character for a while would be enough – there was no hint that they happened at the same time to require these abrupt shifts (except when they converged, of course). Personally I’d guess they were supposed to build suspense but I did not feel it that way.
The book also showed why I don’t like books told in this kind of retrospective with shifts to the narrator retelling the story much later, for one reason: it is easy way to spoilers, which was the case in this book. As enjoyable as it was, since maybe half of the second book, it turned from “how it will end?” to “how it’ll get there”, which is quite a pity.
Sequel to Blood Song, Tower Lord follows the story of Vaelin Al Sorna and his fellow brothers of the Sixth Order. The first book ended with failed oversea invasion which caused the small group that was together until then to be separated, which also changed how the story is told, switching between multiple points of view: Vaelin, Princess Lyrna, Reva and Frentis ‘the climber’.
Before I get to the story itself, I think I should say that the change made the second book a bit more enjoyable to me for some reason.
Vaelin, after the end of first book, decides he had enough of war, especially as the one he fought in was forged from lies and greed. He spent five years in enemy’s prison, lost some of his friend and for the others, had no idea where they were, if they were even alive – which he does not know.
When he finally returns home, he’s sent to be Tower Lord of the Northern reaches, hoping that to be a calm time spent away from the wars, greed and lies. Continue reading