Traitor’s Blade is the first volume of Sebastien de Castell’s new grimdark fantasy series. His first novel, it’s a smashing debut. I can understand why it was shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for best first fantasy novel. It’s the one I’m pulling for.
Here’s the setup. Falcio Val Mond grew up dreaming of the legendary Greatcoats and being a hero. If you look up “idealist” in the dictionary, his picture would be there. But the Greatcoats were disbanded decades ago.
Then a combination tragedy and a new king lead to Falcio becoming the first of the new Greatcoats. This king wants to reign in the excesses of the Dukes. If you look up the word “evil” in the dictionary, their pictures will be there. (When I called this novel a grimdark fantasy, I wasn’t kidding.) The Dukes rebel. The King’s last command is for the Greatcoats to stand down and not resist the rebellion. They just need to find the king’s Charoites. He calls them a type of jewel, but that’s all he’ll say. Finding them will not be easy when Falcio has no idea where to start looking or even what they are.
The novel opens five years after the king’s death. Falcio and two of his companions from the now disgraced Greatcoats are bodyguards for a major caravan master when he is murdered and they are framed for the murder. For some reason, the city guard don’t believe a naked woman killed the man in such a brutal manner. Continue reading →
Half a King is on the shortlist for this year’s Gemmell Awards. It has been a few years since I read Abercrombie. (I’m still holding out for a British edition of Red Country.) I’d forgotten just how good a writer he is. It’s easy to see why this book is on the shortlist.
Half a King isn’t as dark as some of Abercrombie’s other books. Still, it’s not all sunshine at light. The book was written by the man whose Twitter handle is LordGrimDark, after all. Continue reading →
The awards I’m talking about, of course, are the David Gemmell Awards. As I’m sure you know, there are three. The Legend Award for the best novel of the year. The Morningstar Award for best fantasy debut novel. And the Ravenheart Award for best fantasy book cover.
I’ll post the short lists below after a few comments. I’m going to read as many of these as I can, especially among the Morningstar candidates (with one exception, which I’m not going to touch).
The Legend Award is another matter. The reason is that most of the Legend nominees are parts of series, and they’re not the first installment. The exception is Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King, which I started reading last night. I intend to read some of the others, but I may not make it by the deadline as I haven’t read the books that precede them.
And regarding the other award that’s generating some attention, I’ll try to read as many of the nominees for that one as possible. I’ll read all of the short fiction nominees (that I haven’t already read) and will blog about some of them. The same is true for Best Related Work. Again, with one exception, I’ll try to get to as many of the novel nominees as I can, although as soon as my attention starts to drift, I’ll move on.
Joe Abercrombie’s next novel, Red Country, is due out in the UK from Gollancz on October 18 and in the US from Orbit on October 23. I know what I’ll be reading over the Thanksgiving break (unless I can score an ARC first). Gollancz has released the UK cover. That’s it on the right.
From what I’ve been able to learn, it seems to be a Western in a fantasy setting, where a woman seeks revenge out on the frontier.
Here’s the wraparound cover:
The US cover looks like this:
Finally, if you’re wondering what the book is about, here’s the jacket copy:
“They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried. Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…”
Leo Grin, founder of the now highly collectible The Cimmerian journal and former manager of the website of that name (see links to the right), has posted a blog in which he takes many of the more popular contemporary fantasy authors to task for how dark and (in Leo’s view) nihilistic their work is. One of the people he singles out is Joe Abercrombie, who has responded. This has, as some of you know because you’ve also responded, set off a huge online…we’ll call it a lively discussion in the comments of both blogs as well as other places. Abercrombie includes links to some other sites taking up the discussion, although I’ve not had time to read them yet. (This is the sort of thing that makes you forget about deadlines, like that addition to a lab I need to have written by the end of the day.)
I see both “sides” of the discussion, although I’m not sure that taking sides is wise or productive, as well as finding points in both posts that I agree with, as well as some I don’t. I’m going to be buried under grading the first wave of exams by the time today is over, as well as traveling starting tomorrow afternoon. Therefore, I’m going to refrain from weighing in on this discussion until next week, after I return and have had some time to reread Joe and Leo’s posts, as well as some of the others. Since Leo’s last three words were “to be continued”, I’m sure there will still be plenty of discussion going when I get back.
If you haven’t read any of this, start with Leo’s post and take it from there. And please feel free to express your opinions here if you’re so inclined.