Tag Archives: Mark Lawrence

Going to the Dark Side

IMG_0180Summer is a wonderful time of the year here in the Northwest. We have cooled off to high seventies in temperature, and other than gardening, I have time to read out on my shady deck under tall pines.

Lately, I have been restless, trying to find a good cutting-edge future science fiction tale. I dove into cyber punk with mixed results in Gibson’s The Peripheral and Charles Stross’s HaltinG StatE. (See previous blog for further comments).

Since I have been advertising my books on different websites, also with mixed results, I decided to download a few free and discounted books from Freebooksy and Sweetfreebooks. In my several marketing campaigns, Freebooksy and more recently the Midlist have given me the best results. The vaunted Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla have cost me money while delivering poor sales. Having said that, other authors claim good results from them. Once again, various factors of timing, cover, taste, and reader who just wanted a time travel book at that moment, come into play.

Post HumanSo I chose the Post Human Series by David Simpson, Mirrored Time J.D. Faulkner and Star Wanderers by Joe Vasice. Why? The Post Human series had far future humans with transhumanism where humans are using technology and science to evolve past being human. Also, there was a suggestion of inter-dimensional realities that intrigued me. I’ll admit that so far the story is chock full of future science and action. The writing flows well with few grammar or punctuation errors.

The early episodes, however, are short and choppy, skipping over large spans of time. All that I could deal with, and did, until I got snagged on the changing point of views. Rapidly switching point of view with no warning or break is a new writer’s curse, and often the writer isn’t aware of what he’s doing until it’s pointed out to him. In this case, three pov jumps in one paragraph, and I put the book down. I may pick it back up later because of the interesting ideas and technology.Mirrored Times

Sometimes I’m not strong of will and cross over to the dark side. When the temperature hit over ninety last week, I reached for chocolate Haagen Daas to cool off my mouth and make my taste buds dance.

What diet?

At the same time, I reached for a fantasy in the form of Mark Lawrence’s The King of Thorns sitting soKing of Thorns seductively on my reading table. I had read his Prince of Fools and liked it. The reviews said King of Thorns was even better. I would be traveling into the realm of dark fantasy and knew it.

Now, there is also a Prince of Thorns that you should read first, but like chocolate Hagen Daas, I didn’t mind not having another flavor at the moment and confused the earlier book with Prince of Fools.

King of Thorns is a can’t-put-down book. And that’s just what I wanted. The writing is gorgeous with gasping wit, heart-pounding action, and tear-filled emotion. A bit gritty, but bearable.

You continue the life of Jorge Ancrath who at age nine has vowed to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother, and punish his father for not doing so. Now at age eighteen, Prince of thornshe is King of Renar, having taken the land through slaughter and death from his evil uncle. Jorge is not a delicate lad. He’s on a mission to rule the world and doesn’t play by the rules.

The story begins outside his castle where he is surrounded by thousands of the Prince of Arrow’s men. Orrin Oildan, Prince of Arrow, also hungers to be Emperor and sweeps kingdoms into his hand as he marches victoriously across the land until he reaches Jorge’s rough castle. Unlike Jorge, who is beset by sorcerers at every turn and considered mean and ruthless, Orrin is the fair-haired ruler whom everyone calls great and good. Every sorcerer and witch prophesies the triumph of the Prince of Arrows for the Emperor’s throne until Jorge is weary of hearing it. But it doesn’t slow him down a whit.

The book jumps back and forth in time, starting with Jorg’s wedding day, and then returning four years into the past. There he travels with his band of disreputable friends across the land from one wild adventure to another. Adventure and wedding flip back and forth moving closer in time as the book progresses.

Clever, haunted, and powerful, Jorge has the touch of necromancy in his fingers and carries a dangerous box of memories everywhere he goes. Trying to save a young fire Mage, he also learns to play with fire.

There are also hints of science fiction within the fantasy-flavored tale when Jorge refers to “the Builders” who seem to be great men from Earth’s past. He meets a holograph who is a downloaded personality of a past scientist. The holograph tends a forgotten machine deep under Jorge’s maternal uncle’s castle. Along the way, Jorge also accumulates artifacts from the past that become important to his survival.

My only complaint with the story is that in two critical instances, the author uses my own tricky plot twist to escape an almost impossible situation. One I use in Caught in Time when the bandits try to rob and rape Rowyna, and the other in A Dangerous Talent for Time when Brand de Fyre Elitas, like Jorg Ancrath, faces overwhelming odds in a battle.

Not fair!

Mark Lawrence will be remembered for the plot twist over me, I’m sure. Just like, since July 15, another author has come out with the title Caught in Time. The second one came out last year, well after my publication. (Sound of moaning and hair-pulling)

Oh well, I liked it when I wrote it, and I liked it again in Mark Lawrence’s story. In fact, I liked his whole story a lot. It made the chocolate ice cream go down so cool and sweet, as I slipped over to the dark side.

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The Anti Hero in Fantasy

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What is happening to the hero who is firm of jaw and pure of heart? Where is the man who faces dangerous odds in order to rescue fair damsel?

Lately he’s the clever, disfigured dwarf (Game of Thrones), the contorted torturer (The Blade Itself), or a multi identitied spaceship (Ancillary Justice).

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And the fair damsel is an ass kicking chick with knives to spare and attitude.

The two books I read this week have both.

Prince of FoolsThe first is Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools.

Jalan Kendreth of the Red March, tenth in line to the throne, likes boozing, gambling and womanizing. He is a man of no ambition and an admitted coward and liar.

He is a royal prince, who adheres enthusiastically to the rights of royally. As he leaps out of a noble lady’s window pursued by an antagonistic older brother, he justifies his roguish actions with a wide grin.

He admits to cowardice with nary a qualm, never revealing he was running away when he ran into the surprise attack and won the war. He’s acclaimed a hero, and doesn’t hesitate to trade on the glory it brings, always forgetting to mention his true intention at the time.

He lines out his philosophy by saying, “Enjoy the world while you can, I say. A shallow enough philosophy by which to live, but shallow is what I got. Besides, deep is apt to drown you.”

Through an act of sorcery, Jalan becomes entangled with a fierce Viking slave, Snorri ver Snagason who is bent on revenge for atrocities to his family. Snorri is a blonde mountain of a man with a abundant courage and a good heart that turns dark when violence taps into his “blood rage.”

Throughout the whole book Jalan is pulled along in Snorri’s wake as he struggles to free himself from their sorcerous bond. Snorri misinterprets a lot of Jalan’s actions as heroic, while Jalan recognizes the more realistic truth of his intentions. Often he tries to ply the influence of royalty only to find the farther away from court and his own country he goes, the less influence it wields. Deference turns to yawns as Jalen scrambles to find new levers with which to survive.

Prince of thornsEvidently there is a prior series that begins with Prince of Thorns set in this same universe and wildly acclaimed. The story is dark and edgy. While there are dark and edgy moments in Prince of Fools, the humor between the two men as they struggle with each other, gradually becoming fast friends, dominates the book. I loved the banter and developing friendship as the two search for release from each other. But when Jalan is told that all he has to do to be released from Snorri is to order him killed, he responds by inquiring if perchance there might be another way.

Mark Lawrence writes a thoroughly engaging story with their “buddy adventure” as the main thread. If you like your hero a bit tarnished, and your world rich with description and magic, then I recommend Prince of Fools.

 

Hunting PartyI’d never read anything by Elizabeth Moon, but I heard her name often enough. So I thought to try one of her novels. Several people in my book group offered enthusiastic suggestions, so I settled on the first in a series called Hunting Party.

Descended from a famous family of Admirals, Heris Serrano resigns her commission from the military due to mysterious circumstances that gradually are revealed. Although beneath her dignity, she hires on to captain a space yacht owned by Lady Cecelia de Marktos, a wealthy eccentric.

Lady Cecelia’s passion is riding horses, and she is bound to a hunt at Lord Thornbuckle’s, known to his peers as Bunny. Owning an entire planet, Lord Thornbuckle has recreated his version of an old English hunt. Unfortunately, before Cecelia can get away, her sister ropes her into taking along her spoiled son, Ronnie, and his three friends, George, Bubbles and Raffele. Bubbles is Lord Thornbuckle’s daughter.

Seems Ronnie, the profligate son, bedded the prince’s current mistress and then bragged about it, causing full royal fury complete with death threats. So Ronnie is put on probation and sent away with his maiden aunt and a few friends.

All the commotion has set back the schedule, and Heris is pressured to get underway without a full inspection. Only gradually, after launch, does she come to realize how lax and sloppy the former captain ran the ship. A serious problem develops into the journey that requires they put in the nearest shipyard for repairs. Heris tries her best to calm down her new employer who will miss opening day by suggesting a bet. If the repairs extend past a certain deadline, she will learn how to ride, and if they make their timetable, Lady Cecelia will learn about her ship.

Contraband is discovered as parts are replaced, causing legal delays, so Heris agrees to train on Lady Cecelia’s mechanical mount on board the ship and ride at the hunt. Cecelia relents and agrees to learn more about her yacht. The two develop a friendship.

They arrive, a bit late, but intact. Ronnie is bored by the hunt and suggests a midnight escape in Lord Thornbuckle’s flitter with a picnic at dawn. Bubbles remembers a childhood island where the family would go camping. They head there, but as they approach the island, they are waved off. When they circle back, they are shot down.

It turns out the island is being used illegally for a different kind of hunt and Heris’s former crew is involved. Now Ronnie and his friends are also in danger for their lives.

Moon turns in her version of The Hunger Games that involve an old nemesis of Heris’s and a mysterious Mr. Smith that wears boots that leave a royal print.

Plot drives this story and provides a pleasant tale with danger, friendship, intrigue and bravery. Not a wilting violet among these strong females with Heris as the kickass captain who can take charge when things become dangerous, and who has extra guns and attitude to spare.

 

 

 

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