Author Sam Sykes Tweets About Writing, Characters, and Emotions (Plus My Two Cents).

You should read Sam Sykes’ The City Stained Red, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles Series, and Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy.

Advertisements

Steel Is The Answer for Abercrombie’s Last Shattered Sea Novel.

Joe Abercrombie goes in swords and axes swinging in his third volume of the Shattered Sea series of Young Adult novels. War looms over Father Yarvi, Thorn Bathu, and Gettland through the eyes of three new point-of-view characters for a novel that is closest in tone to The First Law trilogy.  Only detraction is the non-stop action and abrupt ending leaves Half A War with less room for moments of character development but otherwise satisfying conclusion. Read more for spoilers.

Continue reading

Can A Well-Made Sequel Improve The Original?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how bewildered I was over Joe Abercrombie’s “Half the World” being such an improvement over the first book in the Shattered Sea series, “Half A King”. Now that the third book in the series has been released I decided to reread “Half A King” and see if my opinion has changed.

It has. I don’t have Patrick Rothfuss’s hype for the book clouding my opinion anymore nor does the predictability of the plot bother me because obviously having read it before I already know what happen. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel that way anymore because it was overhyped and the plot was predictable. However, there are details that I missed the first time around that made Yarvi’s fate at the end seem less disappointing and more foreshadowed. His meeting with Mother Gundring at the end set up the continuing conflict for the rest of the series and I felt like I completely missed it the first time.

My point is, “Half The World” changed my opinion of “Half A King.” That usually doesn’t happen with sequels from my experience. Sequels tend to be less than or equal to the original. A poor sequel can make an opinion of the first stronger. A poor sequel can run the enjoyment of the first. What if, though, you disliked the original but loved the sequel as the case with myself and the Shattered Sea series.

What if “Prometheus 2” fixes everything about the first one? What if “Alice Through The Looking Glass” takes the taste of disappointment of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” out of our mouths? What if another Indiana Jones could make “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” worth watching? Most movies don’t get that chance and for good reason. Making a movie requires a lot of money, therefore, to invest it into a sequel to an underperforming movie would be a bad investment. Then again, not all poorly received movies do badly at the box office nor is a poor opinion of anything completely objective.

With video games, it’s more than the story you have to think about. The gameplay can completely change from one game to another. “Mass Effect 2” continues the story of the first “Mass Effect”, but the gameplay so much improved it makes playing the first one difficult to endure. “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” and “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” takes place in the same universe and the share the same history but the stories are self-contained and the gameplay is radically different enough they could have no connection whatsoever. “Borderlands 2” takes the concept of the first and blows it up twice as large to great success.

Back to books, should the first book of a series be judged on its own or as part of the whole? Yes and no. For me at least it’s a case by case basis. The disappointing epilogue of “Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows” doesn’t change my enjoyment of the rest of the books in the series but “The Well of Ascension”, the second book in the “Mistborn” series managed to ruin the first book and the third for me. Though I still enjoy it, “A Feast for Crows” is slow compared to three previous books in “A Song of Ice and Fire” but it doesn’t take anything away from them. “The Lord of the Rings” completely changes the importance of BIlbo’s journey in “The Hobbit”, but it doesn’t suddenly become any less a children’s novel.  Before it was revealed that Go Set A Watchman was revealed to be a first draft never supposed to be published I had decided to never read it knowing it would ruin Atticus Finch for me based on the news that he was now an elderly racist. Don’t even get me started how “The Silmarillion” both changes and doesn’t change “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” at the same time.

So a sequel can change the perception of the original. It can improve it and worsen it. The question comes down to like it did with “Half the World”, whether you should give the sequel to an original you were not fond of a chance? Books, movies, video games, television shows can all cost money to consume one way or another. You may not have the money or you may have too busy a life to risk the chance. Keep in mind though what you may be missing out on. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s worth risking your time and money.

 

What to Read While Waiting for The Winds of Winter.

Supposedly, George R.R. Martin has finally finished the sixth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire titled The Winds of Winter, according to one of the directors from Game of Thrones. Until it comes from the source this is enitrely speculation. Luckily, there are a lot of books out there for you to read while you wait. Fantasy has not sat back waiting around while Martin works on the book in MSDos, continuing to publish books on par with his ambitious series.

Some of these recommendations are simlar to A Song of Ice and Fire, some only share the same Fantas genre, and lastly is a list of those recommended by others but whose qulaity can be corroborated. By the time you finish this list, maybe the real release date will be announced. Maybe even the book will be released by the time you’re done.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

Before They Are Hanged.

The Last Argument of Kings.

First Law World by Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold

The Heroes

Red Country*

Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Slow Regard of Silents Things (An in between novel.)

Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Red Seas Under Red Skies

The Republic of Thieves

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice

Royal Assassin*

Assassin’s Quest*

Crescent Moon Kingdoms by Saladin Ahmed

The Throne of the Crescent Moon

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim

Kill the Dead

Aloha from Hell

Devil Said Bang*

Kill City Blues*

The Getaway Gods*

Novels by Neil Gaiman

Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett

Neverwhere

Stardust

American Gods

Anansi Boys

The Graveyard Book

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Books by China Miéville (There are others but I can’t recommend them.)

The City & The City

Kraken

Embassytown

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisen

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Broken Kingdoms

The Kingdom of Gods

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (Though I did not like books two and three.)

The Final Empire

The Well of Ascension

The Hero of Ages

Shattered Sea by Joe Abercrombie

Half A King

Half the World

Half A War

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium

The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings

The Silmarillion

The Dark Tower by Stepehen King

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

Wizard and Glass (The worst in the series.)

The Wolves of the Calla

The Song of Sussanah

The Dark Tower

Other Books

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

 

Books Recommended by Others / Series I Haven’t Read Yet

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings

Words of Radiance

The Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Fool’s Errand

The Golden Fool

Fool Fate

The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy

Fool’s Assassin

Fool’s Quest (coming in August 2015)

Assassin’s Fate (forthcoming 2016)

Other Books

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

*Haven’t read yet but didn’t want to cause confusion by breaking up the series.

 

 

Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World is What Half A King Should Have Been.

Last year, one of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, said Half A King was “[his] favorite Abercrombie book yet. And that’s really saying something.” So naturally I decided to buy, and all his other books. I started The Blade Itself a week before Half A King was to be released and ate it up like I had The Name of the Wind and The Lies of Locke Lamora. When Half A King arrived I read it and when I did I couldn’t wait to finish because I wanted to go back to reading The Blade Itself.

The fact that Half A King was Young Adult didn’t bother me, but everything else did. It all seemed so predictable, paint-by-the-numbers kind of characters and plot. Then the ending came too quick and too anticlimactic. By the end Yarvi broke the greatest sin for a protagonist, I no longer cared about him.

So it was with great reluctance that I started Half the World, the second book in the Shattered Sea series. I need that Joe Abercrombie fix but needed it to be quick because I was right in the middle of reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I was absolutely blown away.

  • Yarvi’s weakness was his crippled hand and how that limited his abilities. Thorn and Bran, though, suffer from internal struggles of self-doubt, anger, and worthlessness. I found this far more engaging because once you figured out Yarvi was clever, you knew he’d always think his way out of any limitations his hand caused.
  • Yarvi’s story seemed more coming-of-age, as most YA is, but Abercrombie blends Thorn and Bran’s coming-of-age with the hero’s journey as the two become stronger and prove their worth to the rest of the crew.
  • The lore of the Shattered Sea is explored and expanded upon. Half A King seemed so focused on getting back to Gettland that the rest of the world didn’t seem to matter. Plus, the history of the elves, magic, and what disaster they caused is given to us to small amounts to entice the reader’s interest.
  • With a bit of age and without his point-of-view Yarvi’s cleverness is more impressive and without his inner monologue, much more cunning.
  • With war looming, their cause seems more desperate, the tone more serious, and with better protagonists I’m more worried if they’re going to make it out okay. When events go awry and the characters make a mistake they could have avoided, I am more concerned. When the characters get seriously hurt, injured, and killed I know Thorn and Bran are not completely safe (even though they are.) It’s easier to believe the protagonist isn’t safe when they’re not so clever.
  • I had to reopen the first book to discover that Thorn was the thirteen-year-old girl who witnessed Yarvi, with his short time as king, dueling with Keimdall.
  • When characters from the first novel are reintroduced, it’s a sure sign of a better book that even when I don’t fully remember the first book Abercrombie makes me feel something for them in the second.
  • The romantic tension between Brand and Thorn simmers slowly and never overtakes the main plot or the action. By getting both of their point of views, you get to be frustrated as they each have the same doubt about the other liking them. Sexual tension builds, romantic mishaps happen, and they both get to the point where you wish someone would just sit them both down and go you’re crazy for one another, just kiss already. Someone does and without feeling like a Deus Ex Machina.
  • Abercrombie does this through Rin, who through her brother’s and hers experience of hardships teaches Thorn a lesson above privilege, appreciating what she haves, while giving Thorn enough information to figure out what an idiot she’s been with Brand.
  • What is a well thought out move, just because they are together doesn’t mean Brand and Thorn’s self-doubts don’t just go away.
  • While war is often romanticized in books such as this, especially considering it’s based on Vikings and Norse culture, seeing Brand’s trauma and struggle with the morality of raiding villages hit hard. Then when he stands up for peace and the king praises him for it you feel proud of him also.
  • The twist with Grom-gil-Gorm, Mother Isriun, and having Thorn as the Queen’s chosen shield to fight Grom was such a satisfying moment, like when Eowyn reveals herself to the Witch King.
  • Then to have Grom, having grown tired of Mother Isriun’s orders, sparing Thorn, turning away from the High King, and forging an alliance with Gettland was a resolution I both didn’t see coming and thoroughly enjoyed. I just assumed, probably because I’ve read so many books where the child becomes the great warrior and avenges their father, that Thorn would find a way to kill Grom.
  • Bran in the end shows his own cleverness against Father Yarvi proving himself as someone who stands in the light, as he puts it, without feeling as if his story has had a bad ending. Plus, a marriage proposal awaits Thorn.
  • Then to end with Thorn telling off Master Hunnan and becoming a teacher just as Skifr did was the best conclusion this story could get. Perhaps one of these pupils will become the protagonists of Half A War. I’m looking forward to it.

Speculations for Joe Abercrombie’s next The First Law trilogy

Author Joe Abercrombie tweeted this today:

Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy was one of the best fantasy series I have read in years. I ate it up nearly as quick as Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower or more recently Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards. It felt like reading The Lord of the Rings if Middle-Earth were as brutal of a world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Just like people you’ll love the main characters one minute and hate their guts another. I never saw the twists coming, and when dialog was spoken I thought afterwards of course they would say that. I left reading the books thinking I could write something like this because of the ease of the prose then jealous when I realized how wrong I am because these books were brilliantly written. It’s one of those series that leave you floored as a reader and a writer.

As always remember that there are spoilers ahead.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

I have to say ahead of time I have not read the First Law side books though I do know the big reveal of Red Country. Red Country, being the latest book in the First Law timeline takes place thirteen years after The Last Argument of Kings. So here is what I am speculating will occur in the next trilogy.

  • Sand dan Glokta and Jezal dan Luthar will no longer point-of-view characters. Jezal will make an appearance, maybe even just a mention but won’t have any prominent plot points. Glokta will be a prominent secondary character to one of the point-of-view characters.
  • There will be three or four new point-of view characters to replace the one we’re losing: Jezal, Glokta and Collem West.
  • I’m on the fence on whether Dogman will still be a point-of-view character.
  • Logen Ninefingers (still alive as revealed in Red Country) and Ferro Maljinn will be the only returning characters with a point-of-view.
  • What the Bloody Nine is will be fully revealed in Logen’s quest to confront Bayaz.
  • Bayaz manipulation of the North and the Union will begin to unravel but perhaps not fully free of the First of the Magi until the third First Law trilogy.
  • Ferro will have to deal with her madness if she is to accomplish her goals with the Gurkish.
  • The spirits that Logen can talk to will become more prominent again, and why he can do so will be revealed.
  • Perhaps Bayaz himself will have a point-of-view exploring his background with the other magi.
  • The Great Eastern Library will make an appearance
  • Maybe even one of the other magi not seen in the original trilogy will get a point-of-view to explore Bayazs background.
  • We will finally meet Khalul in person, perhaps through Ferro but like Bayaz his downfaill won’t come until the next First Law trilogy.
  • Tolomei will be released or break out from the House of the Maker
  • It is implied that Bayaz killed Juvens, we’ll find out why.
  • The other side will be explored more, perhaps be a main focus of the plot.
  • The mythology of Euz and his four sons, Kanedias, Juvens, Bedesh and Glustrod will be explored.
  • Logen Ninefingers will be actually dead by the end of this trilogy, having started what will be the downfall of Bayaz.
  • However, the Bloody Nine may not. With Logen dead the Bloody Nine may takeover to wreak havoc in the third trilogy.
  • Luthar may die before the end of the second trilogy.
  • There is no way there is only two laws by Euz. A third law will be revealed.
  • Cawneil, one of the magi, may be forced to give up her slothful ways in the Great Western Library, possibly even have a change of heart about being a cynic.
  • Zacharus may take a stand against Bayaz, and he will fall doing so possibly revealing Bayaz’s more sinister nature.

Obviously this is all based on having not read the three World of the First Law books, as I understand Bayaz makes an appearance in one of them.

There’s nothing like the feeling of discovering a new favorite book series and I hope Abercrombie will continue to do so with the next trilogy.

Late to the Party: Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself.

As far as book go, it isn’t often that I have the forethought or the word on the street to get in on the ground floor of an author or series of novels. Joe Abercrombie is no exception.

I bought the first book in his The First Law trilogy after pre-ordering his new book Half A King. Once I start reading The Blade Itself my first thought was that I have should have read this years ago. Eight years later I’ve finished the first book and I want to read the second book right away. This is highly irregular for me.

I don’t know what it is but I can’t read the second book of a series immediately after reading the first. I get distracted, I get bored, I lose focus, my eyes start to trail off and by the end I can’t remember what really happened. I’m going to be clear: this is a not a slight of the quality of the novels but a flaw that I have. Just look at this list of second books I’ve tried to read immediately after the first and either didn’t enjoy it as much or since discovering this flaw about myself, stopped reading to pick up another time.

  • A Clash of King by George R.R. Martin
  • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  • The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
  • Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

I can recall my experiences with all these books. You know when you read the words but don’t really take in what they’re saying? That happened to me with A Clash of Kings and The Restaurant at the End of the Universes? One, I missed hints to major plot points that would come in future books and the other I was too bored to enjoy Adam’s delightful sense of humor.

I think with The Wise Man’s Fear I got the furthest before putting it down, maybe a hundred pages? This was around the time that I was discovering this flaw about myself and I loved The Name of the Wind so much that I didn’t want the experience of the second book to suffer. With Kill the Dead, the second book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series I read the first page, could feel my restlessness settle in and immediately put it down.

Now, Red Seas under Red Skies I remember putting down for maybe a month or two before I had to pick it up again in order to keep up with a friend who was reading, a much faster read than I am. Same thing happened with The Well of Ascension the year before and my opinion of the Mistborn series as a whole suffered for it. That book was torture for me to read through, I found it slow, I found the main character Vin to be a whiny idiot who made the worst decisions and by the end I didn’t care about anything that was happening. I just wanted to finish and when I did I didn’t bother picking up the third book even though my friend had already gotten halfway through it. That was December of 2012 into January 2013 and only now have I even started the third Mistborn book, The Hero of Ages. Guess what? I actually am enjoying despite the sour taste the second book left in my mouth. 

There are of course exceptions. If I read The Lord of the Rings I can read all three front to back with no qualms. Sometimes I’ll just read one only because I have read them so many times and want to read something new but the point is I can read all of them front to back without getting that restless feeling. Same thing happened with most of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. It wasn’t until the fourth book that I got restless and even then I only read one book in between before reading book five, six and seven.

The point of all this is that I want to read Before They Are Hanged, the second The First Law book right now. I need to know what happens to the characters now rather than later. I want to know more about the world, about it’s past and what is going to happen next. If an author can get me to do that then the books must be damn good.