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Review: The Cold Commands

September 4, 2013 Leave a comment

The Cold Commands
The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ringil Eskiath is one of my favourite characters in all fiction.

In the previous book, The Steel Remains, he was a jaded war hero without a cause, trying to content himself by trading on past glories and bedding any man he could convince to let him do so, until he was recruited into a quest that required his particular skills. The events of that quest left him hollowed out and broken in spite of his victory, and with a hatred of slavery being just about the only thing he is still passionate about.

By the time The Cold Commands begins he has made an enemy of just about every slaver in the Empire and is running out of places to hide, while also having attracted the attention of dark powers he doesn’t understand and doesn’t much care about either. He ends up back in Yhelteth, home of the other two main characters of each book, fellow war heroes Archeth Indamaninarmal and Egar Dragonbane.

However, they both have problems of their own. Egar is sexually and spiritually frustrated, unable to be with the woman he loves and with no purpose in life beyond harassing the local religious zealots. Archeth has received a dire warning of an imminent threat that could bring down the whole Empire, and has to convince the Emperor to launch a major expedition to a place that may not even exist, while also trying to manage Egar’s frustrations and Ringil’s lack of tact or respect for the machinations of empire.

At first it seems like it’s Archeth’s expedition that would be the core of the story, but her plans are overshadowed completely by Ringil and Egar, who manage to upset the tentative balance that is just about keeping the city and the nation from erupting into civil war. In the process they uncover a grave threat much closer to home, and that again needs somebody like Ringil to try and put a stop to it.

More so even than Takeshi Kovacs, main character of Richard Morgan’s brilliant sci-fi trilogy, Ringil is a broken, disillusioned man who knows that his actions won’t much matter in the long run. Like Kovacs though he still tries and he still fights, because what else is there? As long as he’s still alive he’s going to do his damnedest to be an obstacle to anybody who deserves to have their plans thwarted, who seeks to take advantage of people or start a war, because that’s what heroes do. It’s cost him every part of himself, he no longer cares about much of anything at all, but he’s still a hero and he’s a fantastic character for it.

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Reading: Unseen Academicals

September 11, 2010 1 comment

Unseen Academicals cover

The UK cover above looks much nicer than the US one.

(Click the image for a link to the source)

I’m back from my holiday, and during that first weekend away I was able to sit down and read a book in large chunks, something I frequently put off in favour of other things that feel more demanding of long sessions (games in particular, but also TV, films and the internet). Most of the time I just chip away at a book a chapter or two a day.

The book was Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, the thirty-seventh book in the main Discworld series (which doesn’t include the several Discworld books aimed at younger audiences and the non-Discworld ones Pratchett sometimes writes in between). The series has run pretty much as long as I’ve been alive and has undergone changes along the way, starting as straight-up parody of fantasy tropes and clichés before moving into satire, all the while maintaining a fair amount of consistency in the world. Like a lot of the later books, Unseen Acamedicals focuses almost entirely on the sprawling city of Ankh-Morpork, which itself has evolved from a typical medieval fantasy city into something more Victorian, the presence of magic and the quirks of the Discworld itself putting a unique spin on the various industries and services that steadily come together during the books.

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Reading: A Feast For Crows feels like a spin-off

A Feast For Crows

I dislike posting images without a caption but have absolutely nothing to say here. Feel free to make something up.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading through George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. At the time of that last blog post I was just starting Blood and Gold, the second part of the third book (in the UK it had been split into two because of its length), which was excellent. Martin is telling the story of the place rather than of any specific character so he does so from the viewpoints of many characters within each book, which means he can be very brutal when it comes to killing off major characters, even ones that have been central parts of the story right from the start. It creates the impression that nobody is safe and means that the entire drive of the books can suddenly end and change, forever altering the nature of the story. It does also come with a downside which I’m about to get into, so the rest of the post will contain spoilers for the series.

The rest of this post contains spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire:

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