Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

It feels like forever since I did a book review. I refuse to check how long it really has been. Regardless, this is a good book to return with.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. In fact it is Scott Lynch’s debut novel, but there is nothing in this book that makes you think, debut, but rather everything about it screams of excellent craftsmanship. It is set in a world that is not our own. For me it lies somewhere between dark fantasy and epic fantasy with dashes of sci-fi thrown in. The other genres included are crime and adventure.

The number of genres should give a fair idea of just how encompassing this book really is. It is set in a complex civilization almost completely unlike our own, with absolute rules and protocols regarding everything: royalty, nobility, merchants, guilds and even thieves. This civilization is built upon the ruins of another whose creations are still incomprehensible. The city of Camorr where the events of the novel take place, is an interconnected network of islands. This makes some situations very interesting as almost all of these waters are shark infested.

Take for example, the description of how entrenched into the Camorri culture revenge truly is: for me it comes out most clearly through an anecdote of an annual ball game. Out of two best friends, one plays on one of the teams and the other is the judge. The judge says it was not a goal and his friend’s team (the team of the island of Cauldron where they both lived) loses. The judge and his family are basically exiled and move to another city.

He comes back decades later, hoping to reconcile and sees and old man on the docks. He is astonished that this is his friend and wonders if he is still remembered.

“Markos,” he cried. “Markos, from the Cauldron! Markos! The gods are kind! Surely you remember me?”

Markos turned to regard the traveler who stood before him; he stared for a few seconds. Then, without warning, he drew a long-bladed fisherman’s knife from his belt and buried it, up to the hilt, in Gervain’s stomach. As Gervain stared downward in shock, Markos gave him a shove sideways, and the former handball Justice fell into the water of Camorr Bay, never to surface again.

“Not across the line, my ass,” Markos spat.

Verrari, Karthani, and Lashani nod knowingly when they hear this story. They assume it to be apocryphal, but it confirms something they claim to know in their hearts—that Camorri are all gods-damned crazy.

Camorri, on the other hand, regard it as a valuable reminder against procrastinating in matters of revenge—or, if one cannot take satisfaction immediately, on the virtue of having a long memory.

This anecdote and those of its ilk, give not only a good idea of the rich culture of this world but also give a flavor to the events. Would it not be easy for a reader to relate to crazy acts done in the name of revenge by Camorri after hearing this story? Stories like this, bring the world and its culture alive. The writing is just so good that even the most alien of concepts become so real as if they are happening right in front of the reader.

Map of the island city of Camorr

Locke Lamora is the leader (the garrista) of the Gentlemen Bastards, a small group of con-men. The book starts with how he was sold to Father Chains, a blind priest (who is not blind and the priest part is debatable) who teaches him and a select few other orphans how to be perfect con-men to the nobility. The others are the twins: Calo and Galdo Sanza, Jean Tannen and Sabetha (who does not make an appearance). Bug is a 12-year old boy that the Gentlemen Bastards have taken in and are tutoring in the present. Their headquarters is the Temple of Perelandro, the God of the Forgotten, while in truth they worship the Thirteenth God, the Crooked Warden of thieves and rogues.

All throughout the book, we see how Locke and the others grew up under Chains’ tutelage as well as the current events as they are unfolding. The two timelines are interlinked beautifully with events constantly relating to each other, and woven together seamlessly into this are descriptions of the world.

The Gentlemen Bastards are brothers and their loyalty to each other is astounding, especially considering how they are completely amoral.  The Sanza twins bring comedy, with their tricks, including a reputation that makes people draw weapons when they offer to play cards. Jean, the bruiser of the group, known for brutal efficiency with our without his twin weapons, usually has his nose buried in a romance. Bug is enthusiastic, chipper and tries to give back as good as he gets to the four men raising him. Nobody truly expects what Locke what would do next, not even Locke, but you do learn to anticipate madness executed with brilliant flair. Locke has no qualms, not about anything and his only concern is related to victory and to taking care of his pezon, his gang.

The story involves several parallel plotlines, a coup against the head of all the criminals in the city (Capa Barsavi) by a man no one knows (Gray King); Locke’s elaborate scheme of robbing a Don and Dona of Camorr; the training that the Gentleman Bastards underwent in the past; the tests that Chains put them through and how it all links to the present. In the end it all comes together so well, that I was mesmerized.

I can talk on and on about the world building and character development but at the end of the day, I do have to finish this review. The truth of the matter is, this is a book to be savored, enjoyed; it has the feel of an epic, the colorful language of a sailor and the absolute genius of an excellent story-teller behind it.

The next book in the series is Red Seas Under Red Skies and yes, I immediately started it after finishing this one. Maybe when I review it I will be able to talk about more than the world. Right now I am still in love.

This is a must read for anyone who likes fantasy, or crime, or adventure or dark fantasy. You get the idea.

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Negotiations

Posted: January 10, 2013 by Arushi in Original Fiction
Tags: , , , , ,

Another Micara post. I just cannot stop writing about her though even I am not entirely sure where she is taking me. Well, we’ll find out sooner or later, I’m sure.

I actually went and checked and these are the posts that I have written in this story collection so far (in order of reading):

  1. Kind Regards
  2. Choices
  3. Fireworks
  4. Love is Blindness
  5. Negotiations

Mya, who actually shows up below for the first time, is the cousin Micara goes to avenge in Kind Regards.

Sword

Negotiations 

Micara slept curled up in the attic, her back fitted into the corner.  One hand was clenched around the blanket and the other around a dagger. It was a full day before she woke up and came downstairs, starving.

I was dragged into a court full of people who hated me even though they had never seen me before. I was thrown at the mercy of a man who had none. A man who would show me nothing but cruelty. But then, hostages are not taken to show the goodness of one’s heart.

“How are you?” Dena asked in a small voice as Micara was about to dip bread into the soup Talbot had served her.

Micara paused, the bread hovering, before she placed it aside. She started to push away from the table when Talbot placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Drink the soup, child.”

I could hear nothing over the pounding of my own heart, but I could see them, as vicious as hunting hounds, baying for my blood. There was no safety for me anymore. A peasant is never safe. A princess is always safe but when she loses that safety, the world rips her apart.

She looked up at the big inn-keeper. His eyes were kind as always and she nodded. She picked up the bowl and drank down the hot liquid, knowing that if she stopped, she would not pick up the bowl again. She stared blankly around when she stood up, not knowing where to go. What to do.

“Mya could probably use some company and Nara some help. It’s the two of them and three children there in that small cottage.” Talbot said mildly and she nodded, mouth drawn tight. Knowing this was a lifeline thrown at her, crumbs to a beggar and having no choice but to take the charity.

I knew they wanted to kill me. I was the next in line to the throne so my father had sent me as a hostage, but in this land, a woman did not rule. They thought me useless. They would kill me and have my brother next. They were right and they were wrong. I would never sit on my throne now, but my brother too would never be sent here. No matter what, I would live.

Dena started to speak but her father silenced her using a small shake of his head. Micara was already gone.

“You do not have to understand something the explanation of which hurts your family Dena. You just accept it and always remember to protect them.” He said quietly.

Dena nodded.

“Good girl. Go help Darlene now.”

I stood straight. I wondered what would happen next. Then he stepped forward and called me his. Just like that. He played with words like they were his very own orchestra. Before I knew it, I was claimed by the Prince as his personal plaything and even the King agreed to leave me alone. I was nine.

Micara knocked on the door of the cottage and suddenly found herself being hugged fiercely by the oldest of Talbot’s daughters. Mya had been stunningly beautiful before. She was still beautiful but death looked through her eyes now.

Micara was smiling when she pulled away, then she was dragged inside and greeted by Talbot’s wife Nara and the rest of his children who had all moved to the country with their sister as she recovered from her injuries.

The bright cottage had no room for brooding and soon she was drawn back tightly into the circle of the family who loved her like one of their own.

I waited and I waited but instead of torturing me, he raised me. He gave me tutors and books. He gave me freedom and he gave me knowledge. He gave me everything. He made me forget I was a hostage. He forgot that I could become his weakness.

“Now tell me what made you run from the city.” Nara said quietly once everyone but the three of them was asleep. It was a statement, not a question. Mya nodded encouragingly and Micara sighed. She had learnt a long time ago that one could never lie to Nara.

“I met him again. I saved his life.”

“That is good, no?”

Micara sighed, thinking back on the conversation she had had with Shay before leaving the castle.

 “You made sure that I did it, that I knew you were in danger. You waited and waited, knowing that I would not allow any real threat to your life to exist.”

 “Yes.” Shay had never lied to her and he would not start now.

Micara nodded. “You should have asked me to come back instead of playing games. Now people are dead.”

“I do not know how to ask. Also, this way, I knew you would come.” He shrugged his wide shoulders and Micara’s mouth tightened.

“It has been years, my love.” He whispered and true pain flashed in his eyes before he hid it.

“He should have come to me. He played games instead, even risked his life. Foolish.” Micara growled.

“Does he love you?” Nara asked softly, knowing that Micara was angriest about him risking his life.

“I have never doubted his love for me.”

“Then tell him your terms of surrender.”

Micara laughed softly before she called out, “You hear that Shay? I know you’re spying on me. Come talk to me, the negotiations will be held in my territory.”

In the castle, Shay smiled.

King of Thorns

You know one of those times when you’re absolutely starving (not really, but I’m sure you get the idea) and you eat/drink something for the first time? You know how it feels like a slice of heaven?

That slice of heaven was Prince of Thorns. I hoped and prayed that King of Thorns would be able to recreate that taste, and that was wrong of me. It was a different dish, though not entirely, and I was not starving anymore.

Still, King of Thorns, the second installment of the Broken Empire trilogy did not disappoint. The layout follows the pattern that was started by the first book. Two timelines, one now, and one from four years ago, with random information about the ‘Brothers’ spread out before chapters.

But more layers are added to this one. For one, throughout the book, Jorg is also reading Katherine ap Scorron’s journal. So that is a third perspective which is introduced and you know that he is reading it after everything that is happening in the book has already come to an end. That is, the start of the book, is also the end, yet the beginning is vague enough that you truly have no clue about what is going to happen next.

As if that were not enough, in the four years later part (called Wedding Day for obvious reasons) you also get information about four years ago because Jorg has sealed some of his memories in a box. So as they come out, you (and he) live them now, again.

It is a huge puzzle, being put together from many different directions, systematically, but in seemingly unrelated patterns until it all comes together and you can suddenly see the big picture. It just clicks.

I like those kind of movies, but not so much the shows and the books coz they tend to drive me crazy. This one managed to give just the right number of clues. So I had a good guess about what had happened, I just needed to know the how of it.

I had a grand time reading this book. Jorg was… different. I kept looking for the Prince I had just left behind in the previous book, and caught him in glimpses, but right until the end, he does not completely reveal himself. There is a reason for that, but then, there is a reason for everything.

Yet, even this different Jorg, has not lost his touch. The man he is becoming does think of the consequences unlike the past, but does it (whatever it may be) anyway because that is the way he is. Still, you have to admit, some maturity has sunk in:

““How old are you?”

I felt the Brothers stiffen. It can be annoying to always have the people around you think you’re going to murder everyone who looks at you wrong. 

“I’m old enough to play with fire,” I said.”

King Jorg is different than Prince Jorg, but still extremely intriguing. I cannot say more, without giving away a lot of spoilers, but one thing is for sure, the sheer defiance and pride that is a part of his personality is mesmerizing to watch, especially because he can take a joke. Mostly.

My expounding on the series, the books and Jorg are done. I do wonder how I would like this series a second time around and for that, I will probably give it another go before the third and final book comes out.

Prince of Thorns

For a LONG while now, I’ve had a hard time finding a book to really get into. I think the last one was Death’s Rival and even that I took forever to start. Right now I have around 5 books from series’s that I am actually into, but cannot make myself actually start any of them.

Now during this, I came across a cover in the Goodreads awards. It reminded me of the anime Kuroshitsuji, so I checked it out. That was the cover for King of Thorns which is the second book in The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence. So I went to the first book in the series, Prince of Thorns and started reading.

Considering the first paragraph of this post, it’s easy to understand why I would have expected to leave this book in the middle. Or the better chance was to finish it, but find no real joy in the reading of it. That didn’t happen. It just sucked me in, and I could not put it down, not until I was done.

When Jorg was nine, his mother, the Queen and his younger brother were murdered in front of him, while he hung helpless in briar thorns. Thus started this tale of revenge that turned into a quest to conquer all the kingdoms and win the Hundred War.

Now, four years later, he leads a band of bloodthirsty cutthroats and is on the path to taking everything as his own. He says he will be King by the time he is fifteen and he works towards it by playing the game. The game we saw in A Song of Ice and Fire is played here, but only one person is truly a player, because he uses everyone else as a piece. It is beautiful and morbid and infinitely cruel yet just as fascinating to read about this Prince as he moves around, murdering, pillaging, slaughtering, but always with a method to his madness.

The whole book is written from Jorg’s POV and his take on everything makes it an amazingly wicked read. It may be just that its been forever since I read a book whose protagonist was an anti-hero, but still, it is beautifully done, and no, no one wants to redeem anyone, least of all Jorg himself. I think this sums the angst angle up:

“It’s (evil) what I am, and if you want excuses, come and take them.” 

This was so refreshing. I didn’t want him to be some sap who turned to good, who was all angsty and guilty and he. was. not. The Prince of Thorns is consistent in his character. He is what he is, and if you cross him, he will kill you no matter who you are. If it serves his purpose, he will kill you, and if you annoy him, he will probably kill you. No, he won’t even care afterwards, though he might remember, depending on the fact if the info has some use to him.

It is that kind of absolute ruthlessness that this thirteen (almost fourteen) year old Prince has, and it is this that he will use to unite the Broken Empire. The Broken Empire which I am pretty sure is Europe, a few thousand years from now, after we destroyed most of our world by unleashing nuclear weapons on each other.

The book keeps moving between the present, and the past (four years ago) when Jorg initially left his father’s castle for revenge. The plot comes out beautifully and the story is nicely layered. Jorg carries it all, but other characters also shine through.

Definitely a book I would recommend, for I am now rushing to close this so I can go read Book 2 in the series.