26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
You have to love a man who names his heroic horse "Dumpling".
You have to love a princess who trades her broodmare status for the hope of power.
You have to love a quest group that consists of three women and a dude who respects them all.
If you go to describe this story, it is easy to get tangled in the A plot and the B plot and trying to figure out what's about to go on, but when you're reading it, it's very seamless. As you realize that all these plotlines are converging, the story seems to pick up speed and momentum, tumbling to a not-quite-conclusion.
As usual, Bear's writing shows the toolmarks of master craftsmanship, and once in a while has showstopping images:
"As the sky dimmed, the glow they twinkled in was cast by candles, fixed in glass jars to the shells of ambling tortoises, so as the sun set, the whole of the garden was filled with a moving light. Birds sang themselves to sleep in the tree branches, and the twilight made a canopy overhead."
And one that would be a spoiler, but eek, hungry ghosts!
One of the things I enjoyed most was the exploration of fertility and the consequences of chosen infertility. There were so many details that bespoke long thought about how this could be made to work in a pre-industrial era. There are apples studded with nails to build up iron, and an emphasis on the consumption of soy to provide phytoestrogens. The real chance of death by infection. But the beautiful payoff for all of this is here:
"She folded her legs one atop the other and brought her hands before her groin, where the center of creation had once lived and lived no longer. There was the essence of wizardry. It was an act of creation; it was a pure delight in defiance of hunger, and thirst, and sorrow, and the inevitability of death and devouring. As she had sacrificed the power of creation with her body, so she gained the power of creation with her mind."
As a woman and a mother, I thought this was immensely moving, to take all the iconography of childbearing and turn it into magic available only to those who choose not to bear.
The story is obviously headed toward the second book, but I feel ok about that. In the meantime, I keep having moments where I forget I've finished the book and I look forward to reading more about Samarkar and Temur and Bansh. Will they defeat the rakh-rider? Is Temur about to have some 'splainin to do? Where will they travel next? I'm looking forward to finding out.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Up until now, I'd never read Elizabeth Bear. If I'm being honest, I couldn't have produced the titles of anything she'd written. That isn't to say I didn't know who she was -- she's a visible figure in the genre community and an active Tweeter -- just that I hadn't been exposed to her actual work. When her new novel showed up on my doorstep, I made it a priority. Joining a wave of 2011/2012 fantasy firmly couched in Middle Eastern and Asian influence, Range of Ghosts is an epic scale love story that tries to appeal fans of both romance and high fantasy and succeeds by any metric.
Egads! Did I say romance? Normally, the mere mention of 'romance' sets off alarm bells in my head, calling to mind smoldering glances and heaving bosoms (not that I don't like heaving... never mind). For those who share my reticence, don't worry. Range is a love story, but not a romance. With that in mind, my first reaction to what I was reading came around the fifty page mark where Bear writes the best sex scene I've read in fantasy. To whet your appetite:
She was softness, lush dimpled softness of arms and flanks wrapped around strength, like a bent bow. She was the fall of cool hair across his throat and his burning face, like water to a man sick with sun. She was the smell of sweat and pungent oils. She was the warmth of the night, and seventeen moons rose over her shoulders while she rode him with the purpose and intensity with which she raced her mare.
Of course, now all the readers of George Martin, Joe Abercrombie, and Brent Weeks are saying, not for me! And they might be right. Range isn't hyper violent, or unduly action packed. The pace is smooth, and even. There is violence and action, but it's carefully inserted (not a euphemism), representing a culmination of tension and then over again in a flash.
Instead, Bear's novel is carried on the back of a thoughtfully constructed and flawlessly articulated world. That isn't to say she's dumping information left and right, rather she instills an inherent sense of wonder that pervades, and in many ways overwhelms, the characters and plot. It's not that her plot or characters are weak, the world is just that good. With a different sky for every kingdom, a system of magic that has costs and limitations, and a cultural depth that codes realism, Range is a thoughtful exploration of culture and the right to rule.
On the Khaganate steppe a hundred moons dot the sky, one for each of the male scions of the Great Khan's line. In the Uthman Caliphate those moons are no where to be seen:
Mukhtar ai-Idoj, al-Sepehr of the Rock, crouched atop the lowest and broadest of them, his back to the familiar east-setting sun of the Uthman Caliphate. Farther east, he knew, the strange pale sun of the Qersnyk tribes was long fallen, their queer hermaphroditic godling undergoing some mystic transformation to rise again as the face of the night.
Range is told from several different points of view, but operates primarily from the perspective of Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, and Once-Princess turned Wizard, Samarkar. Surviving a bloody war between his cousin and brother, who fought to rule the Khaganate, Temur looks to the sky every night and finds another cousin, uncle, or brother dead, their moon extinguished forever. Formerly the heir to the Rasan Empire, Samarkar has been replaced by her half-brother. Widowed and vulnerable, she renounces her position at court to seek a new power with the Wizards of Tsarepheth. In the midst of their changing world a cult begins to manipulate empires, bringing strife and civil war under every sky the world over.
Outlined as such, it's not a complex plot and the characters are somewhat archetypal, but the motives that move both are anything but. It's those motivations, driven in large part by the veracity of Bear's world building, that makes Range such a compelling read. Compelling, but not necessarily the kind that kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. The pace, and style, make it something to get lost in, to hang on to each detail and relish the creative process that birthed it. That's exactly what I did.
Over the last year I've observed a real trend toward non-western fantasy worlds. From Blackdog (Johansen) and The Emperor Knife (Williams), which share some DNA with Range of Ghosts, to the more Middle Eastern Throne of the Crescent Moon (Ahmed) and the Cyrillic Winds of Khalakovo (Bealieu), there seems to be a concerted effort by authors and editors to expose readers to something new. Some of that is coming from the desire to be different, some is coming from authors of different cultural backgrounds entering the field, and some of it is coming from a desire to mine a new market of readers. Regardless of its intent, fantasy is in the midst of a boom of non-western ideas and cultures. I find it refreshing and even moreso intellectually stimulating. It's an exciting time to be reading and Elizabeth Bear's newest novel is a great example of the times.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I just finished reading this wonderful fantasy by Elizabeth Bear and at first I decided not to review it. I was not sure how to describe it, or how to explain exactly why I loved it. However, I wanted to pass the word along with the other reviewers, because I feel as if this is a book that should not be missed.
This book is so different than the normal fantasy books I am attracted too. However, this was a recommended book on a review web site, and it just caught my eye. I am so glad I gave it a chance. There is magic, sorcery, action, romance and an array of cultures and world building that was outstanding. I was not sure if I would like it when I first started it, but once I got into the flow of the writing and the names of the characters, it was such a joy to read. I never knew what was around the corner and I got so attached to the characters. Even the villains are so interesting, I just could not stop reading it.
There was a cliff hanger ending, so if you are looking for something that is stand alone, this may not be for you, but I cannot wait until the next book to see not only what happens to the characters, but what the author is going to come up with. It is beautifully written, just a wonderful read.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a great swords & sorcery story. Tamur is a wounded soldier on the run in an archaic Mongolian setting, who values family and is seeking purpose/revenge. The love interest is a strong woman with royal ties and magical abilities.
Although this book didn't quite make my all-time favorites, I highly recommend this book and totally look forward to see what happens next in its sequel "The Shattered Pillars."
The book is well written, but I found myself skimming through several chapters-- namely those about anyone except Tamur. The mix of sorcery with Mongolian culture was initially disconcerting, but I appreciate the originality of setting since the book otherwise treads familiar ground (i.e., JV Jones' "Sword of Shadows").
I think Bear could have further explored certain avenues in order for me to really care about the characters and setting. And of course further developed the novel climax, and lead up to it. I may have been able to keep track of the side characters or history if I really cared, but as it was I couldn't keep track of the unusual names. I also didn't really see the story develop through the characters' POV.
Conclusively, while the book wasn't original in terms of plot and could have been better fleshed out, it was overall a genuinely entertaining and engrossing read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Another reader ended their review by concluding "it was overall a genuinely entertaining and engrossing read." And I agree. Though I'm not sure why.
Let me explain: The world-building, as other reviewers have noted, was creative and unique, but there wasn't as much narrative as I expected to describe that world -- the mental image I had wasn't as detailed as I hoped it could be. The character development as sufficient, but not as deep as I found myself wanting. There was very little action; the plot moved along deliberately, and, as another reviewer noted, I didn't check my kindle % mark and sorta... missed what apparently was the climax of the book.
The most disruptive part of the read for me was the author's use of modern colloquialisms in the midst of another world. As one example, one of the key plot elements in the creation myth of main god-figure in the book is so clearly from this world, I am at a lost to understand why our own world would be inserted so unnecessarily into the world of the novel. Unless subsequent books explain this (actually a link to our world somewhere in this universe's history?), all out-of-universe moments like this really took me out of the novel --- and the idea is to escape from our everyday world, not be thrust back into it.
And yet, despite all of this, I was genuinely entertained and while not a 'must read in one night' book, I did find myself eager to continue the story. I have already down-loaded the next installment. An enjoyable read, but using the Netflix rating system (where 5 is LOVED IT, 4 is REALLY LIKED IT, 3 is LIKED IT, 2 is DIDN'T LIKE IT, and 1 is HATED IT), I will have to give a 3.
And to the other reviewer who noted it, I actually flipped back, and back, and back, thinking I MUST have missed some of the signs of the Temur/Samarkar's romance. Unfortunate. I liked these characters and as Sharon Shinn has shown so well, romance doesn't have to be sex, it can be a glance, a look, an emotion. I wish I had seen the relationship develop; sometimes, that's the best part.