Monday, March 30, 2009

Good news all around

I've finished Shout for the Dead, by James Barclay. I can now begin The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie. Mrs. PW's ultrasound has come back very good (you go 'lil PW). I have lost my cell phone and am utterly unavailable. What more could an avid reader ask for? So, how was the second half of the Ascendants duology? It was good. Very good.

We return to the Estorean Conquord, ten years after the events in book one. In the intervening ten years, both sides (the Conquord and the Kingdom of Tsard), have been convalescing. The Estorean Conquord returns to the breakaway province of Atreska to re-establish Conquord dominion. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Tsard has acquired a most unique weapon: their own Ascendant.

Their new found ally is none other than Gorian Westfallen. Gorian is, of course, a pariah after his rape of Mirron in book one. In the time Gorian has spent apart from his brethren, he has learned a new Ascendancy Work: raising the dead. Oh yes, zombies. Gorian manages to tap into, and manipulate, a type of negative energy he is able to sense between a dead corpse, and the earth itself. Having created a nightmarish force, Gorian begins to lead them across Tsard, Atreska, Gestern and into the Conquord proper.

Although Gorian's force is something of a dream team, at least from a budgetary and logistical sense, there is clearly friction between the Tsardon ruling family and Gorian. Gorian manages to convince Tsard, by manipulating their desire for vengeance over the events of ten years ago, to invade the Conquord. In order to use and simultaneously manipulate so many dead, over such great distances, Gorian first kidnaps his own son, Kessian, from Mirron. Then Gorian kidnaps the Gor-Karkulas, the clergy or caretakers of the most holy shrine of the Kark people. Gorian facilitates his grand 'Work' by the employment of Kessian and the Gor-Karkulas as surrogates, reservoirs and wells which he can tap at need.

A whole host of characters from book one return to contend with Gorian, as well as some interesting new ones. My particular favorite is Kashilli. Those unfamiliar with the story can attempt to picture him by combining your garden variety pirate with Cnaiur urs Skiotha from R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series. There is, of course, a monumental struggle with the 'good guys' winning in the end. However, nothing ends well. For anyone. In the case of the infamous Ascendant, Gorian, and the Chancellor, Felice Koroyan, it's not a loss that the reader is likely to feel in any keen sense. However, the loss suffered by the characters the reader has come to know, cheer and love is tough.

As for the type of read and Barclay's style, my earlier entries concerning Cry of the Newborn remain valid for this work as well. I find I truly enjoy Barclay in the sense that it's a truly mature story. I suppose I mean that the action, gore, intrigue, mystery ad infinitum, ad nauseum are kept at arms reach and what you encounter here is the difficulty of real life.

The world's dirtiest little secret is that life is difficult on everyone. It is a truth commensurately, and yet circumferentially, examined by Barclay. Barclay's subtle ability to illustrate/illuminate, sans overt, or even covert, exhibition/exposition, is something from this duology that will always stick with me.


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