Fascinatin' Rhythm

February 10, 2014

Strong as Steel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thurulingas @ 3:02 pm
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The Alloy Of Law -- cover image

Brandon Sanderson: The Alloy Of Law

 

 It has taken me a while to get to this novel, a follow-up to Sanderson’s acclaimed Mistborn trilogy, which, while rough around the edges, still delivered some rip-roaring fantasy action while also being heavy on the interesting-magic-system shenanigans so popular these days with, er, Brandon Sanderson.  (Among others, but Sanderson is definitely in the forefront of them.)

He has taken his story in a direction many fantasy authors, especially those with large-scale mediaeval settings in their past, have shied away from: the industrial fantasy, complete with gunslingers and the beginnings of mechanism.  Of course, Sanderson’s world-building in Mistborn, with his metal- and alloy-based magic system, lends itself particularly well to such a development, and one of the many attractions of this novel was in seeing what Sanderson could do with it.

His tin ear for character names rears its head once again, however (“Waxillium”, really?) but aside from this, the story is engaging if lightweight.  The villain of the piece is only slightly more than two-dimensional, but serves as an adequate foil for the hero.  It might have been more interesting for the initial villain we encounter to have been more than a simple harrowing encounter and nightmare fuel for pages to come — he was reminiscent of Pratchett’s serial killer in Night Watch — but alas, no.  Instead we have a scarcely believable slide from moral probity to moustache-twirling, monologuing antagonist to Waxillium(?)’s hero.  The best character moments come in the interactions with the love interest Marasi, who should be played by whichever English actress comes closest to Rachel Weisz of The Mummy vintage in the movie.  She has the same academic focus, a superficially narrow competence which suddenly broadens out to encompass all sorts of applications, and an endearing self-deprecating heroism which really made her shine for me.

The heist-caper plot was fun, if again lightweight, but then Sanderson had said explicitly in the pre-publication publicity for this novel that it had turned out much lighter than he had expected.  If he revisits the world again (which fans fully expect him to), then he has certainly laid lots of groundwork here for further exploration.

 

January 5, 2014

Steal Away

The Republic of Thieves: book coverScott Lynch: The Republic of Thieves

I had great expectations of this, and for the most part, they were fulfilled.  Having followed Locke Lamora from his debut in The Lies of Locke Lamora through the sequel Red Seas Under Red Skies, and thoroughly enjoyed both, this was one third novel that had set a very high bar for itself.

Lynch’s prose pulls me in very easily, like slipping on a very comfortable glove.  You hardly notice it’s there — it is entirely at the service of the story, and this story was of the characters and their relationships.  The most believable relationship in the entire sequence thus far, for me at least, has been the one between Locke and Jean, his opposite thematically and physically.  But the central relatinoship of this novel was between Locke and his crush-cum-obsession, Sabetha, and, not having experienced the kind of helpless longing described, I found it hard to believe that Locke, otherwise painted as a character whose moral compass was more windvane and whose delight in trickery, misdirection and scheming would make a cynic of even the best man, could fall so far for a woman as to be blinded — and blind-sided — so frequently.

Sabetha herself, however, was a delight.  A mouthpiece for female emancipation and suffrage, she was so much more, and never better than when puncturing Locke’s patriarchal view of his pursuit of her.  The various turns of the major arc in the novel, which pits them against each other in an attempt to control the outcome of an election, were intertwined with a rekindled romance between the two, now older and wiser than when they first tentatively got together.  And the second strand of story, where the unfolding of that original passion was detailed, proved an interesting if unfulfilling foil to the major arc.  Having the Gentlemen Bastards put to work as jobbing actors learning to inhabit their characters to more effectively equip them for future endeavours was at first sight a problematic side issue, whose relevance only became clear when the eponymous play they mount starts to have echoes in the situation they find themselves in in the to-be-rigged election.  But Karthain can hardly be called a Republic, though the mages who control it are certainly thieves.  Or is it that the grand revelation at the end of the novel makes Locke an even greater thief than we had thus far beleved, and magic the means?

To be resolved in the next instalment.  I had wondered if this would turn out to be a trilogy, and when the revelations began, it started to feel like an ending.  And endings there were, if not the ones expected.  But we now are set up for a glorious finale — or a middle trilogy, possibly, as the structure feels more like Bakker’s sequence of trilogies than anything else.  Whatever the case, whenever Locke and co. make their next appearance (at an election near you, perchance) I shall hurriedly rush out and grab a copy

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