Books at my door – Late June

Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie – 534 pages
Big hardcover densely written. With 44 lines on the page it’s bigger than the page count would say. I had expected to find an actual map in the book, but the map is only on the cover and then segmented as background for the various chapters. The cover art and style in general is excellent but that thin pointy sword and coins on the page with map in the back make it look too much like a book about pirates, with treasure to dig somewhere.

There are many, many reviews on the internet already, all celebrating excellence, followed by forum posts saying it’s not all that good and so confirming it IS that good (forum dwellers enjoy to have contrasting opinions without motivating them). This is a standalone volume, a rarity in the genre. It is still set in the world of the previous trilogy and with some characters reappearing, but not requiring previous reads. Easily one of the very best of the year, Abercombie himself said on his blog that while the book didn’t come out easy it’s still the best he wrote to this point. This is particularly important because I consider this the first real proof he is a “writer”. Not only he surpassed in quality and productivity his rivals (Rothfuss and Scott Lynch, both stuck in their own success), but this is the first book that came out of his “job”. The First Law trilogy was something that he worked on for a long time, ideas and characters developed for many years. Here he demonstrates that he doesn’t have just one bullet to shoot and that he can command his art ;)

Return of the Crimson Guard Ian C. Esslemont – 1047 pages
In this case the new bigger mass market UK version, smaller than the page count would say since they continue this bad habit with Esslemont of using a huge typeset, 34 lines on the page. Comparable in actual size with Deadhouse Gates as you can see from my updated wordcount.

I have the suspect this isn’t the last edition of the book I buy, since there are rumors that Canada is publishing using the old mass market format and I’d like to have the whole series in the same format, along with the fact that I find the smaller version more fitting as well (since the typeset is already quite large and I like more concentrating in reading than turning pages).

In the meantime the real wait is for Dust of Dreams, rumored to be around 350k (so at least smaller than the last 3 volumes and matching Memories of Ice). Page proofs sent to Pat for a review, we can expect some comments in a week or so. I repeat this is extremely important because this book is the first part of the real conclusion of a 10 volumes long series. The moment of truth for many aspects.

A Magic of Twilight – S. L. Farrell – 574 pages
First volume of a tetralogy (I think) and written by one of Martin protegee. For how disrespectful and unfair it sounds this should be a “second tier” kind of fantasy even if from the few pages I read it may become a pleasant surprise. There’s an excess of fabricated words that you have to look in the glossary at the end of the book, justified by the attempt to do some worldbuilding inspired by Renaissance in Italy. A lot of those terms are derived from italian words slightly modified, so it sounds a bit silly but it’s not too distracting.

Four maps between city maps and surrounding, and a particular structure. As in Martin’s books each chapter has the name of the character having the PoV, but here these sections are short (5-6 pages or even less) and then bundled together in bigger chapters/sections that are meaningfully named (prelude, beginnings, harbingers, movements, encounters, maneuvers, endings, repercussions etc…). Maybe the very short PoVs will fragment the narration too much, but they also make the book more lively.

So you have this redone renaissance with a spark of magic and a plot that seems all focused in politics and scheming. All framed in a artsy simil-Venice. Rather fitting for those who love Martin.

Canti del Caos – Antonio Moresco – 1070 pages
You don’t know about this book because it’s italian and I don’t think it will be exported anytime soon (and it would also be quite hard to translate). 15 years to come out in its completed form, it’s a monumental work whose ambition tops everything else that is Literature. This is one writer we have in Italy completely dedicated to literature, living for literature. Heavily experimental, mixing all known genres together and lacking a “plot” or normal flow. It’s chaos made into words, delirious and ruthless, without imitations. It is considered a world-book, many different stories contained into it, mixing together impossible characters and situations. Loved, hated, surely pretentious.

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