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Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Harald” – D. D. Friedman

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This is a review of “Harald” by David D. Friedman.

Beware the storyteller with a sword.

Harald Haraldsson, farmer, sometime commander of the allied armies, and the best storyteller in the Northvales, has a problem. The new king prefers subjects to allies and the Emperor – who has the best infantry in the world – has once again set his sight on Kingdom of Kaerlia. Harald has to put alliances back together, raise an army from the Vales where nobody owes allegiance to anyone, end a civil war, persuade a young king that he is making a very large mistake. And do it all with as little killing as possible.

But wars are not won only by fighting, even the Emperor’s troops has to eat and drink; Harald has a lot of friends, and a story, sometimes, is more useful than a sword.

It is a rich world we are thrown into, well thought out and yet not unnecessarily complicated. There is clear variations geographically, the cultures are excellent and it’s varied enough to not get confusing. The characters are well made, and I personally love that the main character throughout the book is an elder man – he’s a father and even grandfather – just short of getting too old for wars. He has experience and he isn’t shy about drawing on it, teaching others or even meeting old enemies. The stories Harald tells gains him friends and access to most places.

There are a few things that I feel knock this book down. First of all is the manner in which it is written. The structure of the sentences. There is nothing wrong grammatically as far as I can see, it’s just that the sentences are short, factual, to the point. Almost clinical and cold with very little embellishment, and sometimes it was difficult and confusing the follow who said what about whatever. Sometimes I had to read ahead to understand what had been said before even if it should have been obvious when I read it. What is worse is that this isn’t constant. In the last third of the book it deviates from the strict, short sentences. Not a lot, but it does.

Secondly I felt as if I was reading a clinical report about something, not a fictional story. I couldn’t quite get lost in the story in the same way as other books, I couldn’t quite get empathic with the various characters. Even during the exciting moments the excitement wasn’t really there. It was more like a historical recitation at school. Thirdly from the middle of the book and out we suddenly start to periodically experience things from the enemy’s side. It could have worked better than it did but few to none of these people have been mentioned before. I also feel like Harald as a character is a bit too smart/too successful in countering and anticipating the enemy’s moves even with the years of experience that he has. And lastly it was like reading two different stories in one book with a very sharp and abrupt time-skip in the middle.

All in all, I’m rather satisfied with the book. It’s good, rich and interesting, but could have been written in a way to make it more alive to the reader. Worth the time to read and I recommend it!

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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Books

 

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“The Demon Cycle” – P. V. Brett

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This is a review for the first two books of “The Demon Cycle” quintet by Peter V. Brett – “The Painted Man” and “The Desert Spear”.

Sometimes there is very good reason to be afraid of the dark…

Arlen lives with his parents on their small farmstead, half a day’s ride from the isolated hamlet of Tibbet’s Brook. As dusk falls each evening, a mist rises from the ground promising death to any foolish enough to brave the coming darkness. For hungry demons materialize from the vapours to feed, and as the shadows lengthen, all of humanity is forced to take shelter behind magical wards and pray that their protection holds until the dawn. But when Arlen’s world is shattered by the demon plague, he realizes that it is fear which truly cripples humanity. Only by conquering their own terror can they ever hope to defeat the demons. Legends tell of a Deliverer: a general who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. Now Arlen must risk leaving the safety of his wards to discover a different path, and offer humanity a last, fleeting chance of survival even as the desert people of the south come riding north, set on saving the world.

The story is set in a world plagued by demons that rise up every night to feast on them, and gripped by fear. Wards made up by magical runes offer some protection but are weak and prone to failing at the worst possible moments unless properly maintained. With fear and demons running rampant amongst humans this isn’t a nice world to live in even for those who master the wards and the runes. It is a fascinatingly dark world where humanity is still hanging on despite the dangers and the death. The way the demons are used is inspired and elegant. It isn’t just a random element occasionally showing up, it is there every single night, and it is in every single action.

I have very little negative to say about these two books. The world is excellent and diverse, the characters are just as good, and the demons are the stuff of nightmares. We follow three different characters throughout the books, and this is where my only hesitance comes into play. I was never fond of books where characters split up and we follow each one, hopping back and forth. That was ruined for me by The Wheel of Time” series. And in these books – especially book two – we seem to forget almost completely about one of the characters. He hardly shows up. This could, however, just be a personal pet peeve.

All in all, this is a wonderful series and truly well written. And, at some point, I might even read the third book – “The Daylight War” – and the books following it at some point.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2013 in Books

 

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