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kassanwarrad

Kassan Warrad's Reviews

Forger of the Call of Heroes universe and author of the stories therein. You can download a free short story Inherited Wisdom, to get a sample of my writing. 

Currently reading

Write. Publish. Repeat
Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant
Progress: 121/919 pages
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
John Gardner
Progress: 149/184 pages

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is a cheater!

 

The Name of the Wind introduces you to a mysterious character, Kvothe, who resides in a backwater town. Rothfuss eloquently nudges us to consider this man is more than he seems, a man of power, an eye in a powerful storm. I flipped the pages eager to find out who Kvothe is, why he is posing as an innkeeper in a small village, and discover his impact on the world at large.

 

 

Each page failed to answer my need, rather, it introduces risks, paints threats in the superstition of a people too afraid to accept the truth. I flipped on, reading into the late hours of the night, and discovered myself in the trap too late.

 

Instead of telling us about the present world, about the threats Kvothe briefly addresses, we are thrown back in time to the beginning. Rothfuss oils the pages with carefully constructed sentences that invites the imagination to a rich world. Before you know it, you're hundreds of pages in and committed.

 

Unlike other traps, you're happy to be caught.

 

What makes The Name of the Wind engrossing is the ease of the story. It's not to say the writing is basic, rather, some claim it has large swaths of purple prose. You're eased into the story. The medium of page and ink disappear and you are an audience of Kvothe's telling. His memory sinks into yours and you see what he recounts. You are a witness of Kvothe's life.

 

Now I'm a victim entangled in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Instead of fleeing, I've bought the second massive volume. I recommend this series to any fan of fantasy, any fan of excellent story telling. Even if Patrick Rothfuss is a cheater

Swordspoint

Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

Authors are often told to write a story, than cut the first few chapters. The advice is meant to put the reader closer to the action and shear away the backstory. Such advice would have served Kushner well.

 

Once you've trudged through the first eighty pages, Swordspoint casts you into a story full of intrigues and scheming nobles. The highborn settle matters of honor by hiring swordsmen to offer contest to the offending party. Such conflicts often involve two swordsmen, each championing the cause of their respective patron. Public shame is heaped on the losing side who are forced to flee the city and lick their wounds in seclusion.

 

 

All nobles seek out the famed swordsman Richard St Vier first, a man unmatched in the deadly art. But nobles play a mortal game, one in which a sword stands little hope.  Each noble seeks to bend Richard St Vier to their plots. There was a time when such a possibility didn't exist. But that was before Richard found Alec,

 

Love is a double-edged sword. To grasp it is to feel it's bite. There is a certainty in pain, a promise of life, of living. Richard understands the cost of love, even as his exposed wounds leave him vulnerable to the cruel highborn who seek to control him.

 

You'll want to read this book. After it picks up its stride, it's not enough to stop and wait for tomorrow. Each chapter increases the stakes. The prose is clean and flows. The characters are breathing and real, and the plot is layered and complicated.

 

Had Kushner cut the first eighty pages, this book would have earned a spot on the exceptional shelf; those books which resuscitate the imagination with charged air. As it stands, it assures a purchase of the sequal  The Fall of the Kings

A Satisfying End to Broken Empire

Emperor of Thorns - 'Mark Lawrence'

There is satisfaction in endings. The ending of a series, of a book, and of the ending. Not all authors are able to finish on a high note, to give their reader the feeling of closing a book, leaning back in their seat, and filling the lungs with sweet completion. Mark Lawrence does just that.

 

It is the year of Congression, an assembly of the Hundred to vote for the next emperor. Petty politics have prevented the Hundred from coming to a majority vote in the past, and much of the same is expected this time around.

 

But an army of dead threatens the mainland, and at its head is the Dead King.

 

Jorg has carved out a significant slice of the fractured kingdoms while piecing together the mystery of a people known as the Builders. On a whim to answer the challenge of the Prince of Arrow, he travels the lands of the broken empire to better understand the throne he so desperately wants. During his travels, he unravels the laws of magic and realizes how to defeat the Dead King.

 

Now Jorg needs to become emperor.

 

The Broken Empire series has received polarized comments. Some say Jorg is too violent, the story is too dark, or the message is too bleak. I would suggest those commenters read past the first book and discover the growth of the character they so readily discard. Jorg is violent, and he is tender. He is hard, only to cover the vulnerability all of us share. He is a killer, but he is also a savior. He seethes with vengeance to protect the people he loves. 

 

Most importantly, he is aware of who he is and what he must do.

 

Not all of us can claim as much. In this, he is braver and wiser than most. Surely shining attributes, something any fan of fantasy can appreciate. As golden a hero as any.

 

Then, the ending. I will refrain from commenting further on it. Besides, I'm too busy leaning back in my chair and musing. Fantasy is an echo of our world; the heroes commentaries of our ideals. A fragment of Jorg resides in us all. Are we brave enough to embrace him?

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon -  Naomi Novik

Throw a dragon in any book, and you're sure to catch my attention. After that, the writing has to keep it.

 

We are introduced to the Nopoleanic Wars set in a world where dragons are used for aerial combat. Of the various breeds, the Chinese produce the best and most prized. When such a dragon is seized from a French frigate, the English rejoice as if a major battle had been won.

 

Not everyone is happy by the news. The dragon is about to hatch, and the crew of the Temereraire must subject themselves to selection by the dragon, or it would become feral and only useful for breeding.

 

The remainder of the story revolves around dragon and handler (the selected human), the bond they forge, and the training they endure to defenders of England. This, mixed with the low regard of anyone in the aerial corps, puts the main character through rejections, forces him to sacrifice all he has worked toward, and assimilating into the new life as a dragon handler.

 

The story has a good plot, an interesting premise, and dragons. What more could I want? 

 

Novik does a commendable job of constructing a competent story. The prose is clean, and the pacing consistent. What lacked was emotion. The story is written in third person limited with a distant voice. Instead of describing the main characters (there are two) emotions, we are told they exist. The "telling" detracted from immersion and distanced my experience to where I could analyze every detail of the story. I found other flaws.

 

Although the premise was sound, the logic behind it didn't settle. Dragon intelligence varies as much as human, but it is clear that all are sentient, self aware, and have free will. Yet they seem completely under the control of humans. Even the feral breeders do not simply fly away. What's worse, none ask themselves why they are fighting a war between two human groups and baring the brunt of the sacrifice? Why are they asked to kill each other for the sake of another species?

 

There are more gripes about the dragons, but I won't dwell on them. I will, however, focus on the relationship between the two main characters Laurence the dragon handler and Temeraire the dragon. The deeper I got into the story, the more their bond grated on me. It is clear their love for one another grows, but the sentiment between them felt a bit much. As if the author wanted to showcase a utopian platonic male relationship by using a human and a dragon.

 

But the human is asking the dragon to kill for the sake of his nation. And the dragon is a dragon. How is it that such a ferocious, self aware, and highly intelligent beast becomes nothing more than a motherly puppy in the presence of this tiny human? Temereraire barely voices any complaints or challenges the control of an inferior being. He isn't caged, chained, bound by magic, or similarly forced to service. Yet he happily does as his master bids, even if it is thinly veiled behind affectionate acceptance.

 

Perhaps my preconceived ideas of dragons interfered with the enjoyment of this story. Even though, I think the author should have invested further thought into dragons, the advantages they have, and their motivation as self aware, free thinking beings. As it stands, they served as nothing more than a target for the dragon handlers affection.

Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns  - Mark  Lawrence

Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns is a fast-paced, gritty, onion peel.

 

Stay with me.

 

The first few chapters seem the average fantasy fare tinged with blood and questionable morality. The main character, Jorg, witnesses a traumatic scene and wants justice, but is denied it because of the games the nobles play. Denial sours his soul. Much of what a boy of his age may concern himself with is discarded. He only understands death, violence, and the nagging draw of retribution.

 

The story unfolds chapter by chapter, revealing secrets of that fateful scene, and crystalizing the setting the story takes place. The author is vague in his descriptions, but uses nouns that drag at your lips with consideration. And when you thought you understood everything there is to know about the story, the last couple chapters surprise you.

 

A review of this story wouldn't do without addressing the "grimdark" moniker placed on so many stories of this type. Some have complained that this story is too (insert dark themed descriptive here). I don't see none of it. Yes, there's violence and dark characters, but if you place the story against the setting itself, you can understand why. The lands suffer from a years long, one hundred nation war for the throne of the collapses empire. War is not a pretty thing made of shiny-clad plated heroes with flowery words and angelic profiles fighting against obvious enemies of humanity.

 

This isn't clean fantasy. The enemies look like the protagonist who looks like you. People are killed to advance an objective. Peasantry suffers the whim of nobility. This is how it was, how it is, and how it will forever be as long as the story encompasses humans for its cast.

 

That's the point. This story is about humans and what we become when survival is the ultimate prize. It's about carving justice from the hides of people, and not orcs. It's the story of us, or the potential us, and this is what riles the conscience of those who complain of the content.

 

I have some questions of the worldbuilding for this story, but will hold back until I read the entire series. I think Mark hasn't revealed this world fully, and would hate to put my foot so far  down my throat.

 

I found this book entertaining and will continue onto the rest of the series. Four stars because I wanted a little more description.

On Writing

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft - Stephen King

Stephen King approaches the subject of writing in a conversational tone. Most books on writing aim to teach you their interpretation of acceptable practices. Stephen King's book is similar to the advice given from a respected person you sought out. As a result, the lessons were easily digested and shelved for future consideration.

 

This is a must have for any author wishing to untangle the mystery of writing.