The Blasted Lands
James A. Moore
Angry Robot Books
Mass Market Paperback US$7.99 / CAN$9.99
UK Medium (B-Format) Paperback £8.99
Epub & Mobi £5.49 / US$6.99
I really liked the first volume of this series, Seven Forges. The Blasted Lands is at least as good, if not better.
In order to avoid spoilers to Seven Forges, I’m going to be a little vague on plot details since The Blasted Lands opens days after the previous book closed.
Merros Dulver finds himself General of the army of the Empire of Fellein, an army that is ill equipped to fight. The enemy they are facing, the Sa’ba Taalor may well be undefeatable. Desh Krohan has received a vision warning him that the summer capital will soon be destroyed. The new Empress doesn’t realize that as dangerous as the Sa’ba Taalor are (and make no mistake, they are very dangerous indeed), the members of her own family may be just as dangerous.
There is plenty of action and intrigue in this novel, but I suspect there will be a great deal more in the next volume. Oh, and we find out why the Sa’ba Taalor wear those veils on their faces. Talk about creepy.
Moore did something that few writers can do. He kept me interested in all the players. In most epic fantasies, the storyline will become complex, with numerous people doing different things in scattered places. I usually will become more interested in one or two sets of characters and wish the author would get one with it when I’m not reading about those few.
That wasn’t the case in this book. Moore kept my interest. I think the was he was able to do that was by not giving me every detail of every character’s back story. Rather he gave what details were necessary at that time in the story, only those details. The result was a story that moved, and moved quickly.
This is a pretty dark novel, but it didn’t feel that way. I think it was because so many of the characters, in spite of some flaws, were good people trying to do the right thing, which usually ended up with some type of heroics. They were well fleshed out, and were the types of folks you wanted to spend time with.
Which brings me to another point. The Sa’ba Taalor are a nation of warriors, which includes women warriors. There’s been a lot of
noise manifestos screaming and yelling polite and reasoned discussion about the need for strong women characters in fantasy. This has too often come to mean women fighters who are as good or better than every man in the book. In other words, Conan with boobs. To the exclusion of other types of women and other types of strength.
That’s not the case here. Moore balances out his characters, both women and men, but I want to focus on how he handles women, many writers could learn a thing or two here. There are women warriors. There are schemers. There are sex-pots, or at least former sex-pots. There’s a description, brief though it is, of the wife of the commander of the City Guard which makes her sound like an interesting and unique woman.
And then there’s Dretta March, who quickly became one of my favorite characters in the book. She never lifts a sword or any other weapon, but she’s (IMO) the toughest woman in the book. She isn’t afraid to confront the general in charge of the Empire’s armies (that would be Merros) about how he took her husband from her and lead him to his death. She is capable of forgiving Merros and feeding him on a regular basis and befriending him. (There are hints that they are growing to love each other.) And she doesn’t take any of his BS when she questions him about rumors that the city is going to be evacuated. Rather she gives him some good advice, whether he wants it or not.
In short, she came across as a real person. That’s the thing that makes this series such a strong one. The characters are all individuals. Moore’s fantasy world feels more real than many, and more real than the real world as it’s often presented in books, movies, and TV shows.
I recommend The Blasted Lands without reservation.
I’d like to thank Angry Robot for the review copy and apologize for taking so long to get to the book. Below is an excerpt.