The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids

I don’t think this one falls under the purview of ‘dark fantasy,’ because it doesn’t end with “and then everything was awful forever, the end,” but it’s… close. Adjacent to that subgenre, I suppose.
Amra Thetys is a thief, and a pretty good one, at that – she lives in a variety of homes around the crime-ridden city of Lucernis, all of them paid for. Her friends, of course, are also thieves. So there’s nothing much out of the ordinary when one of them shows up at her door, asking her to help him hide something while he goes to sort out the payment for his services.
Unfortunately, he never comes back for it. Instead, he’s murdered pretty brutally, and Amra gets sucked up into the mess because whoever did it is after the strange golden statue she was given to hold on to. And, of course, several other people are also interested in it, because something worth killing for is something worth stealing.
Where it gets interesting, to me at least, is in the magic. Because as Amra goes on in her accidental quest to find out who killed her friend, she starts to get more and more involved in the weirdness going on – a monster with an overwhelming aura of hatred, a mage who’s far too good to be a thief but is nonetheless, a downtrodden inspector who turns out himself to be a mage.
Throw in some ancient gods, a hint of undead, a Protector-spirit that has to be locked in for fear of what it’ll do if it gets out, and a hell mouth, and you’ve got an interesting story to be told. The necromancy was a nice touch.
So, the story itself was really interesting – a sort of magical murder mystery, with an adventure mixed in by the way. No problems with that.
Where I get slightly iffy is the setting. I mentioned above that it seems a bit like a ‘dark fantasy’ kind of thing, and all of that is in the setting. The world was, insofar as I can tell from the various hints that were dropped, of the “formerly occupied by the gods” sort. There was a massive war of the gods, though, something like two thousand years ago, and it cracked open a continent or two, creating a sort of diaspora for the humans that occupied the world. And the various other races that got brief mention – there’s some kind of orc-thing wandering around that makes a hobby of murdering every human they come into contact with, I think? Not very charitable of them.1
That said, it wasn’t depressingly so – the end has some hints that, yes, the leftovers of that Age of the Gods or whatever are coming to an end, and the magic is going to go with them2 – but while it hints at that ending, it points towards the Age of Man. There’s some early precursors of the industrial era showing up – arquebusses being the main one, although the invention of mass transportation is another – so I think it’s more saying “the age of myth and legend is ending, it’s time for the age of man.”
Which is cool, I suppose. I liked it, I’ll keep an eye out for the hinted-at sequels, I suppose. Go have a read.3

  1. This footnote doesn’t have anything to do with anything, it’s just that I realized I’d gone this entire review without using one and that’s not like me. 
  2. Which I am quite sad about, to be fair, magic is a lot of fun. 
  3. And read through the little post-script bit that’s an in-character explanation of the world, because it’s hilarious

Under a Colder Sun

I’m normally a huge fan of fantasy novels set in the far future, the whole “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” thing, but this one was so depressing. It’s a corrupt world, a dark one – like the Fallout series, but worse, because in those at least there’s some people trying to make it better.
Here, there’s just petty little kingdoms fighting one another, and the creeping darkness outside the world trying to get in and ruin things.
I had such high hopes for this one, as well – the main characters are a grumpy immortal and a lesbian cop.1 And instead it’s just a stupid “save the princess” plot where everything goes wrong.
But then, once you’ve gotten to the point this world has, I think that was about all that could happen – the ball is rolling down the hill so fast it’d take something rather drastic to change that. And while there’s some ‘deus ex machina’ type intervention from the gods, the gods of this world are also awful – rather than offerings of food or whatever, they want “a fresh kill” or “your blood, drawn by another.” Seriously, at a certain point you should probably recognize that your deity sucks.
I dunno, man, this was just a bummer of a book. If you want to read it, though, feel free.2

  1. Which makes me want to write the weirdest buddy-cop movie ever, now that I’ve typed it. 
  2. Okay the fact that on Amazon this is subtitled “A Grim Dark Fantasy Adventure” is a pretty good sign that it’s gonna be depressing as hell

“What Remains of Heroes”

I wish I could’ve liked this book more. The world building was fascinating – it’s that sort of “big things happened a long time ago” feeling that I really enjoy, and there’s a lot of ‘lost ancient knowledge’ sort of stuff added in for flavor.
Basically, this is the Chosen Kingdom of the Gods, the site of the Final Battle of the Gods. Clearly, it’s been prosperous, and is widely regarded as the Place to Be. And yet, that Final Battle was something like 2,000 years ago; a lot can change over that amount of time. Mostly what changed was that people are terrible, and greed is a thing. The King banished the servants of the good God, something like a thousand years past, and it’s basically been a downhill slide since then.
My problem with this book, then, is how much of that downhill slide it is: there isn’t a full plotline to it. It’s an entire book of ‘rising action,’ with no actual arrival point or anything. About 3/4 of the way through, I looked at how much of the book was left, and how many different plotlines were going on, and realized that it was either going to have a really unsatisfying ending, or it was going to fob it all off on the next book. Which would then fob it off on the next one, and the next one from there.1
I dunno, folks. I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately,2 and this book feels less like a complete story than a single episode. But it wasn’t done right: with a TV show, you generally get a story arc complete within the episode, and then portions of the larger one that carries the show through the season or several seasons. The book just didn’t have that- there’s no sense of completion. The closest to closure you get is “oh, turns out the people who you thought were going to be the Final Boss are also working for someone else!” It’s just… irritating, overall.
So, I can’t really say I recommend this one. Which is weird – most of my book reviews tend to be very positive things, and I don’t like being this negative. But sometimes it’s the only way to be accurate. Blah.

  1. Based on the title of the series, “A Requiem for Heroes,” there’s probably going to wind up being something like nine books? That’s based on the number of movements of Duruflé’s requiem, which might not be entirely accurate. But still. 
  2. A research program is mentally exhausting in a way that even an above-maximum credit load isn’t. Netflix has suddenly become a much more valuable proposition to me than it was during the school year.