Category Archives: Paul Kearney

Writng Fantasy Heroes Arrives

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Waltz, ed.
Rogue Blades Entertainment
trade paper, 202 pages, $14.99

This isn’t a review.  That will come later, after I’ve read the book.  I don’t normally profile books until I’ve read them, but in this case I’m making an exception.  I think you’ll understand.

This volume contains 13 essays (plus an introduction by Steven Erikson) on how to write heroes in fantasy.  The contributors include (in no particular order) Glen Cook, Brandon Sanderson, C. L. Werner, Howard Andrew Jones, Ian C. Esslemont, Ari Marmell, Paul Kearney, Orson Scott Card.  I could go on.  But I won’t.  You can discover the rest for yourself.

I’ve reviewed works by several of the above here at Adventures Fantastic, and there are others on that list I haven’t gotten to yet, at least as far as reviews are concerned. There will be some great writing advice in there.  (I know, I’ve already peeked.)

I also know some of the people who read this blog are writers at various stages of their careers.  In the interest of helping you improve your craft (because I’m selfish and want great books by you to read), I thought I’d announce this book here.  And, yes, gloat, because my copy arrived today.  I’m going to steal time from some other commitments later tonight and start reading it.  I’ll post a full review when I’m done.

Writing Fantasy Heroes is from Rogue Blades Entertainment and is available from Amazon and B&N.  I was completely surprised when I heard about it.  Rogue Blades Entertainment hasn’t had anything out in a while, and they’ve been sorely missed.  Jason, it’s great to have you back.

The Best Six Novels I’ve Read in the First Six Months of 2011, Sort of

Well, 2011 is about half gone, and while I’m not going to look at the New Year’s Resolutions I posted (because I’ve exceeded some considerably and failed at other even more), I thought this would be a good time to look back over the novels I’ve read during the first half of the year that I’ve written about and see which ones were the best.

One thing quickly became clear:  I need to read more novels.  Not all the novels I’ve read have appeared here for the simple reason that some of them were not fantasy or historical adventure.  I’ve decided to keep the science fiction separate (which is why I started Futures Past and Present), and after one review, I’ve not blogged about any mysteries or detective stories.

So here’s my list of the top six (very loosely defined, as you’ll see) of the best novels I’ve read so far this year.

6.  The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Executioness by Tobias S. Buckell.  Okay, if you want to get picky, these are two books, not one, and they’re novellas rather than novels.  I”m going to stretch the definitions a little because they were written in a unique collaborative manner, take place in the same world, were marketed together, and were published at the same time.  They discuss a world filled with something called bramble, which I described in my review as kudzu on steroids.  Bramble is the side-effect of using magic and is slowly taking over the world.  And it’s a world I want to see more of.

5.  Hawkwood’s Voyage by Paul Kearney.  This one is the first of a series of five.  It’s in print in an omnibus volume entitled Hawkwood and the Kings along with the second installment, The Heretic Kings.  I’ve read both of them, although I haven’t gotten to the remaining three yet (I will).  I think I prefer Hawkwood’s Voyage to The Heretic Kings simply because of the way it’s structured.  There are several viewpoint characters, and in the first book, the viewpoint alternates between chapters.  In the second, the book is divided into sections with each section telling the story from a particular character’s viewpoint.  This is epic fantasy on a dark and bloody scale, with action, intrigue, heroism, villainy, and mystery.  They’re both much better than average, and if you haven’t read them, you should.  My reviews of both are here and here

4.  This book will be discussed later.  You’ll see why.  Trust me.

3.  The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.  This is the first in a series of at least three.  Martha Wells has been posting snippets of the next volume on her blog, but I’ve not had a chance to read them yet. This series could turn out to be science fiction at some point, but for now I’m considering it fantasy for two reasons.  One, Martha has only written fantasy so far.  Two, it reads like a fantasy.  But it has that sense of wonder you get with the best science fiction that seems to be missing these days.  It’s the story of a young man (but not a human man) you discovers who his people are and what his purpose in life is.  It has some of the best aerial combat sequences I’ve read in a long time.  Here’s what I thought of it in detail.

2.  Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick.  This one is a great novel about an honorable thief who finds himself trying to save his kingdom.  The sword fights go on for pages, yet Hulick, an accomplished fencer, makes them seem like only a couple of paragraphs, they flow so naturally.  Beginning writers should study him to learn how to write a fight scene.  Loads of fun.  The complete review is here.

4.  Thirteen Years Later, 1. Twelve by Jasper Kent.  Vampire hunting during the Napoleonic Wars. Evil, repulsive vampires, not the sweet, sexy kind meant to appeal to the necrophilic fantasies of teenage girls.  The vampires in these books are pure evil and not to be trusted at all.  This is vampire hunting for the intelligent reader.  I’ve put these two books together because they are part of a greater story arc.  While you can read Twelve as a standalone, Thirteen Years Later is very much dependent on the previous book.  I put them together on the list because I think of them as part of the same work.  How to rank them, along with The Cloud Roads and Among Thieves was tough.  I loved each of these four books, but for different reasons.  In the end, I decided to use the vampire books to bookend (so to speak) the other two.  This pair of books is intelligent, fresh, and surprising.  A high water mark in vampire fiction.  Reviews are here and here.

And that’s it.  The best six novels I’ve read in the first six months of the year.  If you’re looking for a good read, you can’t go wrong with any of these.  I’ve put a widget up at the top of the page in case anyone decides to take a closer look at one of these books.  It will probably stay up for the next month or so.

I’m looking forward to what the next six months will hold.

The Heretic Kings

The Heretic Kings
in the Hawkwood and the Kings
Paul Kearney
Solaris, 702 p., $9.99

This volume takes up pretty much where Hawkwood’s Voyage left off.  Things go from bad to worse.  Hawkwood and what members of his crew have survived the voyage across the Great Western Ocean have found that there is indeed a continent out there, and it’s inhabited.  And the inhabitants aren’t friendly.

The Council of Kings splits, with three of the kings declaring support for the true Pontiff.  Declared heretics by the Church, they face assassination and civil war.  Abelelyn must make his way home through hostile seas, while the Church and grasping nobles try to seize the kingdom. 

Corfe has managed to get the true Pontiff safely to Torrunn.  Despised and viewed with scorn by the military fops who inhabit the capital, he catches the attention of the Queen Dowager, who sets him up with his own commmand.  Her son, King Lofantyr, resents her interference in what he sees as his decisions and sends Corfe out on a suicide mission with a group of barbarian galley slaves.

In the holy city of Charibon, two monks make a discovery that will literally tear their world apart.  If they can live long enough to reveal it.

And then there are those pesky werewolves…

This being the second volume of a pentology, things tend to drag a bit in places as Kearney sets up some broader story arcs.  Or that could be my perceptions.  I read most of the first volume, Hawkwood’s Voyage, while traveling.  This book I started the same week classes started.  This didn’t leave me much time for reading on top of the other things I had to deal with, like helping my wife with her job search.  Plus I got distracted by what will probably be the topic of the next post.  So it took me nearly two weeks to finish the bloody thing, something that isn’t typical for me.  So some the dragging was due to the stop and go nature of my reading it.

The characterization is as strong in this book as it was in the first, although most of the new characters introduced aren’t as fully fleshed out.  Part of this is because we’ve grown to know the continuing characters  so well, the new ones don’t have the same depth.  There are exceptions, of course.  The Queen Dowager, for all that she isn’t on stage very much, is especially complex, showing both ruthless and tender sides.

The structure is a little different as well.  It’s divided into three parts, with the first and third parts taking place in the Ramussian kingdoms, and the middle part concerning itself solely with what is happening to Hawkwood at the same time.  I rather preferred the format of the first book, where the settings rotated between chapters, with the ones focusing on Hawkwood intermixed with the others.  But that’s just my personal preference.

I also am a little puzzled with where Kearney is going to go with the next three books.  Some major plotlines are introduced and then resolved by the end of the book.  It would seem more logical to me to continue them out through at least one or two more volumes.  But there are enough new plot threads here that I’m sure there are plenty of surprises ahead in the three books to come.  Fortunately they’re sitting on the shelf in the other room.  I’m going to focus on some short fiction, and since I’m hopefully going to be attending ConDFW in a few weeks, reading Jack McDevitt’s latest novel since he’s one of the guests.  I intend to get back to the series within a month at the latest.  I still think this is some of the best fantasy I’ve read in quite a while.

The Monarcharies of God: Hawkwood’s Voyage

Hawkwood’s Voyage
in the Hawkwood and the Kings
Paul Kearney
Solaris, 702 p., $9.99

Over the last few days, I’ve been at a conference.  You can always tell when you’re at a conference of physicists.  There’s just something about them.  The long hair.  The no hair.  The facial hair.  The leg hair (on the women).  We just sort of know how to recognize each other.  While it wasn’t the best conference I’ve attended, it was far from the worst.  And the best part of it, at least in the short term, was the plane ride. 

No, not ’cause I got frisked by a good looking TSA agent.  Security was a breeze, surprisingly enough.  The best part was I read Hawkwood’s Voyage and made a dent in The Heretic Kings, the second book in The Monarchies of God pentology by Paul Kearney.  I must admit I’d never heard of the man until recently, when I came across a copy of one of his other books. 

Side note.  I managed to find a couple more of his books while I was at the conference in a nearby used book store.  If they’re as good as this one, I’ll be reading everything he wrote.

Hawkwood and the Kings collects the first two novels in the series.  There are a number of plot threads, and I’ll try to summarize the main ones here.  There was once a large empire which stretched over most of the continent, a continent that bears some resemblance to Europe on the map provided.  Then the empire fell apart as the different provinces rebelled.  The heart of the old empire is still an independent country (so to speak), but at the time of the book’s opening, it doesn’t really interact much with the rest of the continent.

The church is dominated by the Inceptine order, an order that bears a strong resemblance in many ways to the Jesuits.  There are other orders, but they’re kept in their place by the Inceptines.  One particular Inceptine, the Prelate of the kingdom of Hebrion, has started purges of any foreigner or Dweomer in the kingdom.  The Dweomer are those who have some innate magical ability.  Captain Richard Hawkwood, himself a foreigner, has agreed to take two ships loaded with Dweomer across the great Western Ocean in search of a mythical continent in which to found a colony.  The king of Hebrion, Abeleyn, is trying to curb the growing control of the Church of the Saint in his kingdom.  In the east, the Holy City of Aekir, home to the Pontiff of the Church, has fallen to the Merduks, invaders from the east who bear more than a pasing resemblance to Mongols.  The sole surviving soldier of the siege of Aekir, Ensign Corfe mourns the loss of his wife and everything else he loved at the hands of the Merduks.  The Pontiff is missing and presumed dead.  And the Prelate of Hebrion seeks the position of Pontiff for himself…

There’s a lot more than that or course.  I realized as I was reading why the suspense was so strong at times.  It was because the characters seemed like real people to me, and as a result I cared what happened to them.  There’s plenty of action and intrigue here to satisfy any fan of epic or heroic fantasy.  Kearney doesn’t shy away from the gritty details of combat or court life.  The battle scenes throb with passion, bloodlust, and fear.  I’ve not read much nautical fiction, something I intend to rectify, but the chapters that take place on Hawkwood’s vessel brought life on board a ship alive for me.  And showed how terrifying it can be to be at sea when something on board begins to hunt and there’s no place to go.

Hawkwood’s Voyage was first published in 1995, and if it had an edition here in the states, I missed it.  I won’t miss any of Kearney’s other fiction.  This one held my attention all the way through.  Usually when I finish a book, even one I’ve enjoyed immensely, I’m ready to move on and read something else, and by that I mean something different.  In this case I went straight into The Heretic Kings.  If you haven’t read Kearney, give him a try.  You’ll be glad you did.