Friday, October 08, 2010

The Crown of the Blood

Reading back through a lot of my book reviews, I noticed a couple of catch phrases that I tend to use for books that I like. 'Hits the ground running' and 'up and at em' are usually phrases you'll see when something is my kind of book. Both would apply to Gav Thorpe's The Crown of the Blood.
It definitely hits the ground running, as within the first few pages, (after a very nifty opening with some creepy priests and some Elder God types.) the hero, General Ullsaard, faces off against tribal warriors mounted on a dinosaur and makes short work of both. He's barely back to his camp when an old friend arrives to tell Ullsaard that his presence is required back at court and the main plot gets underway. Ullsaard is an interesting protagonist, a driven man limited by the fact that he is not "of the Blood" (A direct descendant of Askhos, the founder of the empire) but still determined to rise as high as he can.
This is epic fantasy with the emphasis on the epic. The cast is large and Thorpe shows that he's got the characterization chops as well as a way with a bloody conflict. A lot of writers can write senate floor or battle field but not both. I mention the senate because I get a somewhat Roman feel from this book, the military structure, the way the government is set up and the types of political power struggles going on. I'm good with that. Lately I've noticed that I prefer my fantasy worlds to be similar to periods in Earth history. Makes things seem more real. It's nice to see someone utilizing a time period that isn't the usual Tolkein derived Medieval mash-up. Not that Thorpe has just transported ancient Rome to a fantasy setting. There's plenty of imaginative world building on all fronts. I will note that while I tend to like smaller stories about fewer characters, (I've never been able to get into Robert Jordan of George R.R. Martin for instance.) Thorpe keeps things moving so I didn't get bogged down much.
I wasn't familiar with Gav Thorpe's work but a friend of mine in the UK said that Thorpe had done a good bit of writing for Warhammer's Black Library. I already liked several authors from Black Library, including William King and C.L. Werner. I ended up liking Thorpe's writing style. Straightforward and uncluttered. I may have to backtrack and read some of the BL stuff while I'm waiting on further installments in this series.
Anyway, I had a good time with The Crown of the Blood. It's a well written fantasy with some nice twists, especially near the end. Oh yeah, and it's 'up and at em' too.

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