uhwhat s it s title I can remember the titles for the next two in the series much easily, for some reason But this one kept escaping my brain.
Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook I can easily say this is my favorite book by Elizabeth Bear I liked the two main characters very much, the writing was smooth as silk, and probably most importantly, I loved the depth of the mythology.
I have a soft spot in my heart for stories within stories, and I have nothing but good things to say about Eternal Night and the Carrion King The mythology works both as a gorgeous backdrop to the action as well as an excellent world building tool.
Several images, like fields of butterflies along the steeps, the swimming horses, the plane of skulls, or even the armies of ghosts, all of it deeply serves the story and it was all a delight.
It had so much, from the tiger peoples, part of the Chinese culture, all the way to germanic legends, but most importantly, this is a tale of the Kahns Magic is everywhere So much happens.
More than anything, this tale acts and feels legendary The characters never get so far away from us that we ever lose the sense of who and what they are, and I think the tale gets only better when everything finally interweaves I m glad I finally got around to reading this I think I like Bear s fantasy a lot than her SF.
Temur, Grandson Of The Great Khan, Is Walking Away From A Battlefield Where He Was Left For Dead All Around Lie The Fallen Armies Of His Cousin And His Brother, Who Made War To Rule The Khaganate Temur Is Now The Legitimate Heir By Blood To His Grandfather S Throne, But He Is Not The Strongest Going Into Exile Is The Only Way To Survive His Ruthless CousinOnce Princess Samarkar Is Climbing The Thousand Steps Of The Citadel Of The Wizards Of Tsarepheth She Was Heir To The Rasan Empire Until Her Father Got A Son On A New Wife Then She Was Sent To Be The Wife Of A Prince In Song, But That Marriage Ended In Battle And Blood Now She Has Renounced Her Worldly Power To Seek The Magical Power Of The Wizards These Two Will Come Together To Stand Against The Hidden Cult That Has So Carefully Brought All The Empires Of The Celadon Highway To Strife And Civil War Through Guile And Deceit And Sorcerous Power 4.
5 StarsRange of Ghosts is a great read that blends a fantasy with a fairytale This is my first Elizabeth Bear read, even though she has been on my reading list for a very long time After reading this one, I will surely be looking up her other works.
This book is magical The writing is sublime The prose is lyrical The vocabulary is extraordinary Bear s writing style adds to the wonderful world that she pens on paper This is a novel that is incredible because of the amazing writing itself The characters she creates are unique and three dimensional and I liked them all Although this book has a straight forward story line with very few twists or turns, I did not want it to end He looked up to see a girl about his own age, seventeen or eighteen winters behind her, seated astride a rangy rose gray filly with the long ears and sparse mane of steppe blood The young horse curvetted, snorting showing off and Bansh flicked her own ears as if to show herself unimpressed by the strenuous affectations of youth The girl s nervousness, Temur judged, was communicating itself to her mount Even as he thought this, something stirred the mist Something flitting, sparkling even in the gloaming, like chips of mica on the wing Thousands of somethings, smaller than the span of Temur s palm, their pale or dark wings largely robbed of color in the dusk Butterflies Thousands and thousands of butterflies Bansh stood stolidly as they swirled about her like windblown leaves Buldshak snorted and shook out her tail, tossing her head when they landed between her eyes and crawled up her ears to take flight again Their wings brushed Temur s skin like falling petals The delicate prickers of their feet tickled his face when they lighted briefly, then took off again The wind of their passing was comprised of a thousand shifting currents He took a breath The words that were coming out of him had the ring of portent, the air of a gathering storm But he had not rehearsed them, and he did not know from what reservoir within him they sprang I am Re Temur I will help you fight your Rahazeen warlord, Hrahima And I will take back from him in turn what he first took from me And then I will come back and see Qori Buqa put out of the place that was rightfully my brother s Something poured out from him as he spoke He saw Samarkar s light react to it It sped from him like the shadow of a ripple on the sandy bottom of a river s ebb He saw the movement of Samarkar s collar as she swallowed he saw Hrahima s whiskers come forward and her tired ears perk up He saw Payma s left hand fall to her side and squeeze her robes against her thigh I loved this magical adventure that would surely be loved by fans of Neil Gaiman.
I got up early so that I could finish reading this book while the house was quiet and I could be alone with it, and I m glad I did After reading the last page, I sat with my coffee and just sat and explored how deeply satisfying I found this story, and thinking about why There is a lot for me to love in this book the worldbuilding is excellent, and the storyline is smoothly paced What I love most about it, though, is that this is a well written story in which I can picture myself as an ordinary person This is the kind of book that I ached for as a kid, and while things have changed some in sci fi fantasy writing and in me, that ache has lessened, but I hadn t realized how much of it was still there until it was eased a bit by Range of Ghosts For some thoughtful reading on Orientalism in fantasy It is known Game of Thrones, the Orient, and Conventional Wisdom Stokes, Overthinking It blogConsider the the rival powers in Westeros The Starks are fatalistic, duty bound, honorable but kind of unsophisticated The Lannisters are appetite driven plutocrats The Baratheons were markedly varied, but the surviving one is driven and joyless, having perhaps inherited the Stark hat now that there s not a Stark head left to wear it The Martells are given to plotting and sexual license We know less about the Tyrells, but they seem to value chivalry and court culture consider Loras prowess, consider the splendor of Margaery s entourage and weddings, consider how much talented the Tyrell fool Butterbumps is than any of the other fools we ve met.
Now, consider the rival powers among the Dothraki Was it Khal Jommo s khalasar that valued chivalry Were Khal Ogo s people the least trustworthy Did Khal Drogo s have a unique worldview shaped from their long tradition of cultural exchange with the Free Cities Or are all the khalasars exactly freaking the same, because that s how it works when you re an oriental other in speculative fiction The Big Idea Elizabeth Bear part of The Big Idea series on John Scalzi s Whatever blogThere have always been exceptions, and this is changing, but too many fantasy worlds traditionally have not only failed to step outside of Tolkien s worldbuilding, but don t question the Eurocentric view of world history so many English speakers I can t say the majority, because I believe at last check India has English speakers than most of the rest of the world are given in grammar school We speak of Alexander the Great, after all and the terrifying Mongol Hordes But the roles of Alexander and of Genghis Khan in history are not actually so very different On a less serious note I described this novel to a friend as what Dany would read to Drogo as a bedtime story Khal Drogo would like to hear about Bansh, please.
Dear Elizabeth Bear and Tor,I m suffering from an epic bout of nerd rage, at the moment, and I feel as though the responsible parties should know what a torment I am going through You see, Range of Ghosts was an absolutely stunning read in ever aspect It s easily my favorite book of 2012 so far and now it s over.
It s OVER and I have NOTHING to turn to because it s the FIRST BOOK in a TRILOGY and the next books haven t been released yet Oh, the tragedy That s the cause of my nerd rage I need from this series to quench my thirst to find out what happens next and there s nothing for me to turn to So, this small letter is my plea for the release of book two as soon as possible I m going crazy over here You can t write a book THAT GOOD and not expect readers to want now.
Oh, and before I forget, thank you for the cover art It is absolutely beautiful Sincerely,Your nerd raging fan book reviewer,SarahRead my full review here It should be a crime for a fantasy to be this good Somehow, Elizabeth Bear has created a world so richly detailed, so gripping, that I couldn t put this book down for three hours, not until I finally got to that last page And even after that, I was still thinking about this book an hour later and not just to write this review.
I m not usually a fan of elaborate settings and descriptions, but Bear really makes it work here Maybe it s because reading the same kinds of descriptions in that twentieth medieval inspired fantasy novel gets kinda tiring, but Bear s Central Asian inspired world is a breath of fresh air There s magic and mystery, gore and carnage, all in the right places to make this book feel epic.
And this book really is epic It s about a boy, Temur, trying to survive as the empire his grandfather built crumbles around him There are a lot of impressive scenes that really build up his story the aftermath of a huge battle, gory, vivid, raw, the sheer desperation of refugees fleeing the fighting And Temur is awesome throughout, tough in the face of desperation but still human when confronted with the horrifying aftermath.
I really liked the supporting characters too Edene, Temur s fianc I guess, is cool and resourceful, while Samarkar, the wizard who ends up helping him, has an awesome backstory of her own that really puts an interesting twist on her interactions with Temur The villain, who I won t spoil, has some really good scenes too showing just how ruthless and calculating he is.
The best part, though, is definitely the mythology I would brush up on my Asian geography and history just to really see how rich it is, but I don t think it s required In every kingdom the characters visit, there s a unique sky and deities that really add flavor to the story But best of all, they all have different versions of the same legends and it all plays into the plot, which is an excellent twist I can t wait to see which ones are true or maybe they all are and how they re incorporated into the sequel.
A new personal favorite.
Reviewed at Adventures in SciFi Publishing Podcast and Giveaway of Eternal Sky TrilogyI have heard for years that Elizabeth Bear is a rare talent, and I wish I hadn t waited this long to read her Her ability to mesmerize me with her prose reminds me of Mercedes Yardley, but with her own flair I highlighted many passages from Range of Ghosts, but I ll start with the first paragraph Ragged vultures spiraled up a cherry sky Their sooty wings so thick against the sunset could have been the column of ash from a volcano, the pall of smoke from a tremendous fire Except the fire was a day s hard ride east away over the flats of the steppe, a broad smudge fading into blue twilight as the sun descended in the west.
In a recent podcast with Elizabeth, she said that that first line just came to her and then she had to build the world and story from there Range of Ghosts was a rare treat in fascination as I read line after line of worldbuilding and scenery that made me think, this is the kind of Fantasy world I want to discover In the past few years, Michael J Sullivan has been my only real Fantasy author I ve been able to read I struggle with the complexity of nations, factions, casts of characters and how they all must be memorized in order to follow the plot Both Elizabeth and Michael excel at keeping me engaged and reminding me who is who so that I can follow along leisurely.
One way that Elizabeth kept me from feeling overwhelmed was that she grounded me immediately in her main character, Temur She paints a realistic setting for him in the wake of a losing battle, but only so far as it supplements his feelings as a warrior without a clan You sympathize with him in his sorrow that his battle was against cousins, where there can be no victory Perhaps he was a ghost, she wrote, and you feel him in his cold sorrow, identifying what it must feel like to have your world flipped upside down, a wound to his neck that should have killed him, and being alive without any clear purpose In our podcast, Elizabeth talked about how his journey is atypical of most Fantasy heroes He isn t necessarily in need of overcoming a character flaw as much as he needs to adapt to a new life Range of Ghosts is the story of him finding allies within people of different cultures and powers and discovering the people behind a war that has just begun.
Yet, even her antagonists have a degree of sympathy It was a sad truth, Shahruz reflected, that the nature of war was such that not everyone could survive it.
I ve seen a reviewer comment, How can you not fall in love with a hero who names his horse, Dumpling The way he treats this horse and their camaraderie built through their common will to survive is a great picture of why we grow to root for Temur He moves on from this new friendship to meet a girl, Edene, from a small tribe who is willing to befriend him even though he has no name to give her Elizabeth s scenes are subtle, but effective in building sympathy for these characters Without ruining what happens, I read with eager anticipation to see how their lives would turn out Elizabeth does a fine job dangling this carrot far enough away to promise an epic and realistically romantic adventure before we re satisfied.
I ve yet to mention another of our heroines, the female wizard, Samarkar, whom Elizabeth describes best in this intro When she woke if she woke she would no longer be the Once Princess Samarkar She would be the wizard Samarkar, and her training would begin in truth She had chosen to trade barrenness and the risk of death for the chance of strength Real strength, her own Not the mirror caught power her father, his widow, her half brothers, or her dead husband might have happened to shine her way It seemed a small sacrifice.
All of the women in Range of Ghosts exhibit a unique display of power, which also endears us to them, their sacrifices and their journey.
In this story of strong female characters, we also have a wonderfully unique and hard to swallow magic system where women suffer for males to gain strength There is a scene on page twenty that must be shown to evoke the true power it represents, both in Elizabeth s worldbuilding skills and in the stakes through which this world and power will be won Twin girls no older than his youngest daughter lay on the table before him, bound face to face, their throats slit with one blow It was their blood that flowed down the gutter in the table to fall across his hands and over the sawn halves of a quartz geode he cupped together, reddening them even than the sun reddened his sand colored robes He stayed there, hands outstretched, trembling slightly with the effort of a strenuous pose, until the blood dripped to a halt He straightened with the stiffness of a man who feels his years in his knees and spine, and with sure hands broke the geode apart Strings of half clotted blood stretched between its parts Al Sepehr was not alone ellipses mine Shahruz drew a naked hand from his sleeve and accepted the gory thing with no evidence of squeamishness It was not yet dry How long will it last A little while, he said Perhaps ten uses Perhaps fifteen It all depends on the strength of the vessels The girls, their bodies too warmed by the stone and the sun to be cooling yet When you use it, remember what was sacrificed In this world, and branch of magic system, women sleep so that men like Shahruz may absorb their restfulness women like the twins described above are killed so that stones may be used for communication, with the duration of usefulness tied to the strength of the vessels The ramifications of this type of magic system on culture is just one example of how this world bleeds with creativity.
I only have one aspect of Range of Ghosts that I did not enjoy as much as the rest of its parts, and that is the section between the halfway point and about ninety percent, where the traveling from one place to the next did not interest me on a scene by scene basis as did the first half of the book It felt like pieces on a chessboard shuffling around in anticipation of a greater battle to come, which is understandable, but I have to admit that I wanted to enjoy that section than I did It could be that I missed some aspects of tension, but that was my experience I mentioned above that her scenes are subtle, so maybe I didn t read carefully enough as I eagerly read toward the climax The last ten percent had a magical, dragon fighting battle that really excited me for battles to come I left this book wanting , but also hoping that the traveling type scenes will be engaging as the story unfolds.
This this was how empires ended With the flitting of wild dogs in the dark and a caravan of moons going dark one by one I am afraid I cannot say many good things about the Range of Ghosts It is a generic fantasy as bland as an unsalted porridge.
It is not surprising that with the saturation of the sword and sorcery fantasy set in Western quasi mediaeval setting, the authors migrated Eastward to look for new pastures The Eternal Sky series is also drawing upon the rich cultural and civilisational heritage of the East with clear Mongol, Chinese and Arabic influences and so those readers who enjoyed the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Eon, Inda or Wheel of the Infinite don t tell me you allowed this gem to pass you by might also find it interesting That is, if you don t care about anything else except for world building When a book starts with a dying man travelling through a battlefield and instead of being devastated, sorry for him, petrified, all the above, all you feel is polite disinterest, you know that something is wrong It might be the writing style, it might be the main protagonist or the way the story develops In my case, the Range of Ghosts failed in all three areas the only decent characteristics of this book is the world building Because the harsh fact is that in this magnificent world, where sky and sun changes with the conquest, where magic is not innate but wizardry is attainable through surgery if you sacrifice fertility, magic may or may not bloom in you and where members of certain family have their moons scattered upon the firmament like coins, in the world inhabited by fantastic humanoid and non humanoid races including living stones pooing gems nothing interesting happens There are two main POVs, male and female Meet Temur, your generic princeling forced to fight for his heritage, and Samarkar, who rejected her royal family to become a wizard Of these two Samarkar is a mature and better developed as a character and I found her chapters interesting mainly because Temur s narrative particularly at the beginning suffers from an absolute lack of exposition OK, I know, I know, showing no telling But when all the author shows is an incomprehensible picture, this really doesn t make it easier for the reader to develop an emotional attachment Writing should be about conflict, but stakes in the Range of Ghosts never seem to be high enough and the lows she puts her protagonists through never seem to be low enough For Temur or, in my head, Femur the first plot twist is based on an emotional bond that is not credible I do not deny that an attachment can form on a basis of a purely sexual fling but in this case, it is absurd to agree that this thing could outweigh Temur s personal drama Samarkar s chapters run smoothly but again, the internal conflict is non existent and her personal sacrifice looks like a compromise Also, the way the story is told is too slow even for me and I am usually very fond of slow burners take Guns of the Dawn or The Curse of Chalion Here nothing happens for the better part of the book boring travelogue and there is no beauty to this nothingness, no purpose either When something does happen, it happens so fast or in such a manner that it is very hard to discern where it fits in the larger tale For now, it is my conclusion that Ms Bear is not a skilled story teller I need something than magical horses really , prophecies, and necromancy to be seduced The forming love triangle towards the end of the book was the last straw On top of everything, I had problems with the writing style view spoilerHrahima just dropped down to all fours and scuttled like a frog crossed with a tiger.
Am I the only person having problems with visualising such hybrids hide spoiler
So often, fantasy novels come down to world building This is a new and foreign place to the reader, and the details of the way this particular world works are a big part in how much you enjoy inhabiting the aforementioned world That being said, this world was explained not only succinctly, but beautifully Ms Bear s prose is lovely, her characters deep and thoughtful, and the rules in this world are mysterious and interesting, yet easy to understand.
Plus, this has the historical fantasy aspect to it as well And since the analogs are the Russian empire, the Middle East, and the steppes of the Khan all of which interest me greatly , I felt transported while reading this wonderful book.
The next two in the series shall be devoured forthwith