Tag Archives: The-Sable-City

Death of a Kingdom – a review

Good morning all! It’s Tuesday morning here in lovely wet Warrandyte. I’m sitting here listening to my new Two Steps from Hell CD called Invincible and all is well with my world so it’s time to do some serious stuff!

Some time ago I wrote a review of M. Edward McNally’s first book of the Norothian series entitled ‘The Sable City’. In that review I made a point of saying how much I liked his world building, amongst other things. Since then I have also nominated McNally as one of the five indie authors who have inspired me with the quality of their work.

When I began reading ‘Death of a Kingdom’, the second book of the Noroth series, I fully expected to enjoy it but I did wonder if McNally would be able to live up to the standards he had set in the first book. I’m very pleased to be able to say that he did. And then some!

Second books are a little like the second-born children in a family – by the time they come along the newness has worn off and their parents are expecting those smiles of wind and gurgles of delight so these second-comers are faced with a much harder life path to follow. Not only do they have to live up to the expectations raised by their older siblings they also have to find some way of distinguishing themselves as individuals in their own right.

In ‘Death of a Kingdom’, McNally has pulled off quite a feat. Not only is the second book as good as the first, it is actually better.

As I began reading ‘Death of a Kingdom’  I started to feel a growing sense of excitement. This book was different. The more I read the more I realised that this time I was going to be taken much, much deeper, not just into the world of Noroth and the lives of the characters but into the lives of nations as well.

The storyline is much more complex, going off in two separate directions. One follows Tilda and most of the original adventurers as they struggle with the aftermath of their trip to the Sable City while at the same time trying to help Claudja in her ongoing battle to save her people. The second follows the life of Nesha-tari, the half human, half Lamia servant of the great blue dragon Akroya. Both streams become deeply embroiled in the politics of Noroth.  Things are no longer simple. The lives of nations are  now at stake. And more. When the devil Balan appears outside of Vod’Adia and begins stirring the pot you just know that the story is headed towards truly epic levels.

Everything in ‘Death of a Kingdom’ is bigger, deeper, richer, stronger. It is meatier. If I were to compare the two books I would say that the first book, while delicious is just an entrée. Book 2 is a main course. This is where the story truly takes off. McNally introduces us to some new and very interesting characters who reveal layers of politics and intrigue never before seen.

Politics and intrigue almost always lead to battles between armies, huge, confusing, bloody battles and ‘Death of a Kingdom’ is no exception. Some of the battles in the book are fought for the best of reasons, others are fought for reasons the combatants do not understand. But in the heat of battle there is no time for questions of why. Those questions come later, for those who survive.

Everything I have said about the storyline of ‘Death of a Kingdom’ applies to the writing as well. It is richer, stronger and even more vibrant than before, painting scenes large and small with a confidence that was only hinted at in book 1.

This is true epic fantasy and I can hardly wait to jump into book 3, ‘The Wind from Miilark’. Whatever McNally has in store for me I now know that it is going to be big. Yet at the same time I have every expectation that the story will still retain the delicate balance between epic and human that has made ‘Death of a Kingdom’ so very, very pleasurable.

Roll on book 3!


Illuminating blogger award

I’m not sure what it is about these awards that turns me into a fumble-fingered ignoramus but I inevitably mess up in some way and today has been no exception. I tried to follow the instructions to the letter and thought I’d succeeded until, shock horror, I realised I’d put my acceptance comment in the wrong award.

So before I do anything else I must apologies to Food Stories Blog for being an idiot. As Bluebottle* would say – “I feel a proper fool.”

Now that I’ve confessed I can move on to step 2 of the instructions. I’d like to thank Lord Daud for nominating me for this award.

David is one of those incredibly generous people who spend a great deal of their time helping others achieve their dreams. His most recent gift of friendship was to email me with a long list of short story competitions. He did this because he knew that I would skin a cat* forever before finding the courage to look for them myself. That gentle, not so subtle nudge pushed me into entering 2080 into not one but two competitions. I don’t expect my first short story to win anything but just entering it was a huge achievement for me and will give me the courage to enter other competitions in the future.

Now, according to step 3 of the instructions I have to reveal one thing about myself. I doubt that anyone will be surprised when I say that I’m a little challenged in the courage department. I’m a miniature tiger when it comes to defending others but I’m a chihuahua when it comes to promoting myself. This is not a good trait in someone thinking about becoming an indie author. All I can say is that I’m working on it. Baby steps so far but I am trying. So thank you David. 🙂

This is my third award and I would really like to say thank you to everyone I’ve met online but I’m limited to nominating just five bloggers. This makes things bloody hard I can tell you. In the end I decided to go with the theme of indies, so now I would like to celebrate bloggers who have shown me that being an indie author can be synonymous with innovation, beautiful prose and a level of quality that puts many traditionally published authors to shame. They’ve inspired me and I’ve loved reading their books. Thank you one and all.

Illuminating Blogger Nominees :

Candy Korman for her innovative fusion of literary monsters and crisp, modern prose.

Lord David Prosser for his gentle humour and wonderful way with words.

Rachel Abbott for her compelling thriller that took the genre to a whole new level.

Stephen Faulds for his beautiful portrayal of love and falling from grace.

M. Edward McNally for creating the kind of fantasy world I would love to live in.

 

*Bluebottle : a favourite character from the 1950’s radio show The Goons.

*Skinning a cat : procrastinating.


The Sable City – a review

I can’t remember how I found my way to Indies Unlimited but once there I was hooked. One of the features I liked the most was [and is] ‘Ed’s Casual Friday’, a weekly post written by M.Edward McNally. Witty and always beautifully written McNally’s articles made me wonder what kind of a writer he was when he was ‘at home’, slaving over a hot keyboard. After a little diligent searching I discovered that he writes fantasy. Yay! After sci-fi, fantasy is my next favourite genre so buying one of his books was a natural progression.

So which book did I buy and what did I think of it? The book was The Sable City, book 1 of The Norothian Cycle and I was so impressed with it that I will soon be buying book 2!

As a genre, Fantasy is a strange beast; when it’s done well it’s wonderful [think Robin Hobb, Tad Williams etc], however getting it right is not easy. Not only must the author create vivid characters who leap off the page and demand to be loved, or hated, those characters must also live in a world that has depth and a sense of solid reality to it. McNally has achieved both with The Sable City. The characters are well written and each has a past and little quirks that make them immediately recognizable. One of my favourites is a devil named Balan. Despite being one of the ‘villains’ of the piece his wit and sartorial elegance make his every appearance a joy to read. Tilda, the main character in the book is strong, honourable and tenacious yet at the same time believably female, a rarity amongst male authors. She grows as a person in response to the events of the book, as do the two male characters – Dugan and Zebulon – but the growth never seems forced, rather it is a seamless, natural process that you would expect from ‘real’ people. The less major characters also experience growth. None of them remain static and that is one of the things that makes the book such a pleasure to read.

A good story however, requires more than just good characters. A good story also requires a believable world for those characters to inhabit. That world has to have geography. It has to have climate. It has to have varied and interesting cultures. And it has to have history. In the real world everyone has a sense of the past, even those who have no interest in formal History. The past is where we came from. It not only tells us where we have been as a people or a race, it informs our present. In many ways history is what motivates a whole people so a story without history is like a painting with only the main features coloured in. McNally knows this and his world is rich in references to the past, making the reader feel that the present is just an extension of what came before. As it should be.

But what is The Sable City about? What is the story that pulls us along?

In essence The Sable City is the story of a quest. The quest begins in the island state of Miilark where the trader family of Deskata suddenly finds itself without a direct blood heir. The only Deskata left who could save the family was exiled years before so Captain Block is sent on a mission to try and find the exile and bring him home. Block chooses only a Guilder apprentice by the name of Matilda Lanai to help him as secrecy is paramount. And so the quest to find John Deskata begins. They do not have much to go on. They know that Deskata has brilliant green eyes, a family trait, but not much else. Along the way they meet a deserter from the Legionnaires called Dugan who seems to know where Deskata may have gone but he has his own agenda and the plot soon thickens with deceptions large and small that add an interesting element of  ‘who dunnit’ to the story. As the plot unfolds we are introduced to a colourful array of characters that includes a samurai from the Far West,  a bored Circle Mage, a Duchess incognito and a mysterious woman called Nesha Tarii who has a seductive effect on all the men she comes in contact with… but she is not what she seems. And then of course there are the dragons.

I could say more but that would be giving too much away so I will content myself with saying that all these strange characters are brought together by fate and their own personal quests in a mysterious city of black stone called Vod’ Adia but the ending is not something you will be able to predict. That is one of the things I liked most about the book. I like being surprised and I think you will too.

The only small criticism I have of The Sable City is that at times the dialogue feels too… modern. Or to be more exact, too familiar, as if the banter was happening between two people in present day New York or some other large city. It did not happen often but when it did I would lose that sense of being elsewhere, just for a moment or two. I know many people will consider this criticism to be nit-picking but for me it was a little disconcerting. Other than that The Sable City did not jar with typos or poor grammar or awkward phrasing. It was well written and well edited and the story flowed just the way a good story should.

I think I can honestly say that this is the first fantasy book I have read in a while that I enjoyed and it is definitely the first indie fantasy that I have finished with a warm sense of satisfaction. The Sable City is a good story and I am looking forward to returning to the world to learn more.  I recommend it to anyone who wants more from fantasy than just magic and battles.  There is magic and there are battles but there is also much, much more. You will not be disappointed.


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