Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Red Knight by Miles Cameron and Embedded by Dan Abnett

Mark takes a look at a hot new Epic/High Fantasy from an established non-genre author trying something new under a slightly changed name and I pull a review from the (not so old) archives. Let’s take a look, shall we?

A book that’s been generating a fair amount of buzz on both sides of the Atlantic is the subject of Mark’s review. While The Red Knight; the first installment of Miles Cameron’s The Traitor’s Son Cycle publishes in the US in early 2013, Mark reviewed the UK edition (logically since he lives there) which published this past October (2012):

In essence we have a siege tale that starts simply but becomes increasingly more epic, both in scale and complexity. The book begins with The Red Knight setting out with his company of men and women to help people in need. A convent has been attacked and the people inside killed by something monstrous.

In terms of characters there is an impressive range, from the King and his knights to the lower class mercenaries, and from those in court to those living in the Wild. Fantasy readers usually enjoy such a complicated setup, as such a technique does give that impression of a broad canvas. However, some may find the stylistic conceit used here of moving from one character’s perspective to another, often after a mere paragraph, can be a challenge. I must admit that initially with each change it did take me a while sometimes to remember who each character was, what they were doing, and where a character had got to and why. It was a little annoying to find that sometimes once I had then remembered all of this, I was whisked off to another character to start the process again, although given time the characters become recognizable.

I pull a review from the archives today since I don’t yet have a review for the book I’m currently reading (The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis). Last year I read Dan Abnett’s original SF debut and the short review I wrote disappeared from its original place on teh intarwebs so rather than let it be relegated to The Nothing, I beefed up a bit for SFFWorld. Here's the standard linkage, cover, and review preview for Embedded:

In this milieu, the United Status (US) has settled worlds far beyond Earth, and it is on one of these planets in which the action in Embedded takes place. The planet designated Settlement 86, where conflict has existed between the US and the Central Bloc (Russian powers) for 300 years is where protagonist Les Falk has his consciousness literally embedded in the body of Nestor Bloom, a soldier on the front lines of the conflict. When Bloom’s body is shot, then Falk personality becomes the dominant mind in the body. This gives the first person narration familiar to many military SF novels a new twist and one that works very well over the course of the rather than just a change to the norm for change’s sake.

Abnett’s greatest skills in this novel are two fold –his ability to keep the tension high through minimal details. Not that the novel isn’t layered and detailed, but Abnett manages to hold enough information from the reader to keep the curiosity level very high, which translates into rapid page turns. The other skill that is readily apparent was his pacing, although the mystery/tension did help to build great pace.

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