Over the Christmas holidays I finished in short succession books three, four and five or The Monarchies of God series. My overall impressions after the break!
For the most part I was very impressed with the Monarchies of God series. The setting, characters and plot were gripping. However, the curious structure of book 4 and 5 did feel a little jarring. Book four winds up all but one of the main story plots in an exciting climax with some great military fantasy campaigns and battles. One scene in book four depicting the ransacking of a town whilst Corfe is forced to position his army outside the town was harrowing stuff. The passage featuring the rape of a small girl forced me take a bit of a break but certainly highlighted the effect of war. Throughout this the Hawkwood/Western Continent plot stumbles on in the background taking the forefront at last for the final book.
Ships From the West is set 17 years after the end of book four. There’s a lot I didn’t like about this book. For one thing despite being set 17 years later it doesn’t feel like the characters have changed. At all. How did the events of book 3 and 4 change King Abeleyn and Corfe? Seemingly not at all. What did they do in this interim? Well they both built up armies and then Abeleyn sent out his men to die in little ships. Did his advisor really think that was a good idea? It just felt very detached and rushed compared to the rest of the series.
In addition many of the main characters from the previous books die – off camera. It feels kindof cheap to have the people we’ve been following just disappear. Perhaps that was Paul Kearney’s message: in war people don’t get heroic endings. It’s here that a distinction really has to be made with George R R Martin who Paul Kearney is often compared to on fantasy forums. GRRM might like killing main characters but you can never accuse him of doing so in a way that isn’t dramatic and important for the story plot. Apparently this has been edited slightly in the new release, Century of the Soldier, but it should have been evident at the time.
I’ll certainly give some more Paul Kearney’s a try. His newish standalones The Ten Thousand and Corvus are supposed to be much better than these. I got them for my dad for Christmas so will try to await on his opinion. Although he reads a lot slower than me so we’ll see how I do!
Currently winding up Altered Carbon which I’ll blog about in a day or two. After that something more literary or factual. We’ll see!