“I am Constantine Palaiologos, emperor, son of Caesars. I am a baker, a ropewright, a fisherman, a monk, a merchant. I am a soldier. I am Roman. I am Greek. I am two thousand years old. I was born in freedom only yesterday. This is my city, Turk. Take it if you can.”
It’s 1453, and the Byzantine Empire is an empire only in name. Its last bastion is Constantinople and the brilliant, arrogant young sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II, has his sights set on it, set on completing his father Murad’s work in eliminating his Greco-Christian foes once and for all. Murad was everything his son was not – statesman, soldier, commander – and Mehmet’s accession to the throne saw him immediately shadowed by his father’s legacy. Mehmet, however, was exceedingly arrogant and fancied himself akin to Caesar and Alexander, and he set his eyes upon the walls of Constantinople to prove himself worthy of the title Fatih, conqueror – the walls his ancestors had dashed themselves upon siege after siege for a millennium to no success.
It’s no secret to anyone that follows me that I really enjoyed David Hair’s first adult fantasy novel, Mage’s Blood. In fact, I’m pretty sure I read the entire 700-page doorstopper in about 2 days. Hair began what is now one of my favorite (and one of the more underrated) current fantasy series by completely immersing us in a world so similar yet so new that I can’t help but be impressed with The Scarlet Tides. The world of Urte is strikingly similar to our Earth in the Middle Ages – specifically the crusading era.
The western continent of Yuros meets the eastern Antiopia at the Leviathan Bridge, erected by the supremely powerful Ordo Costruo mage Antonin Meiros. The Bridge rises every dozen years during the Moontide, and continuing in the traditions of its last two Moontides, the Rondians of the west amass their legions and embark on a great crusade to the east in the hopes that, like the previous two crusades, they’ll return to Yuros rich (if they return at all) – only this time, the Antiopians are gathering an army to oppose the Rondians in a shihad. East and west clash as our heroes are naturally caught in the middle of it all.
Roughly 25 years after Rictus and his Dogsheads returned from the epic march of The Ten Thousand, the man is still a mercenary, but this time when his contract ends he’s contemplating retirement. He’s no longer a young man. As he settles back into farm life, tales begin to reach his secluded farmhouse of a young upstart named Corvus who desires to unite the Macht under one king. Corvus is clearly a model of Alexander the Great in nearly every way but for his lack of royalty in Corvus, down to the Companion Cavalry. He’s a brilliant tactician, he’s charismatic, and he’s mightily ambitious. He’s heard the legend of Rictus, the Dogsheads, and the march of the Ten Thousand since he was a child, and he wants the man himself to aid him in his conquest of the Macht.
The spear by the door.
So says one of the part headings of Kearney’s Corvus. I think that it’s a very poignant phrase in its simplicity. Rictus wants to leave the life of soldiering, but he can’t – it’s such a part of him that he isn’t sure what he would do without it. The spear by the door is a constant reminder of what he is: a killer of men. And it’s something he knows, as is shown in his constant return to the life of a military man. He’s strikingly similar to Christian Cameron’s Arimnestos in his Killer of Men series. The two characters are very similar in that their lives and families have been brutalized by their choice of profession, but they simply can’t leave it or escape it. It’s a very relevant phrase to today’s life as well, as there are many soldiers who continue to re-enlist in the military because it’s all they know.
My sincerest apologies about the lack of content over the past many weeks. I don’t know what it is – I’ve picked up books and put them down, unsure if the book wasn’t working for me, wasn’t what I needed to read at the time, or simply wasn’t a book I was interested in. The smallest little niggles in books were annoying me, and I had little patience with books, both ones that are parts of series I immensely enjoy (Heirs of the Blade, Midnight Tides) and ones that I had high hopes for (The Falcon Throne, City of Stairs). I was around 3/4 through The Falcon Throne when I (temporarily) shelved it due to the aforementioned minor issues such as large/often time jumps, lulls in plot progress, etc. City of Stairs may simply be the fact that urban fantasy has never really worked for me. I’ve been more willing to put aside books that I’m a significant chunk into, probably due in part to both my lack of patience recently and the fact that I simply have so many books.
On the plus side, I’m currently reading Paul Kearney’s Corvus and thoroughly enjoying it, and I plan to write a sort of review/theme discussion because, as some of you may have seen me mention on Goodreads, it shares some very relevant and poignant themes with Christian Cameron’s Killer of Men series in regards to the lives of soldiers.
In the end, I just want it known that neither the blog nor I are dead, and I hope to revive it very soon.
I’ll leave it to my favorite quote in a series full of quotable people (Erikson’s Malazan):
“I am not yet done.”
Art by Merlkir of the Malazan Art Guild (DeviantArt)
In celebration of today’s US release of Traitor’s Blade, I’m reposting my original review with the new cover.
To be honest, you don’t need to look further than the name of the publisher (Jo Fletcher) to know that de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade is an excellent book. Falcio val Mond is First Cantor of the Greatcoats, the now-dead king’s elite justiciars. Since the Dukes usurped the Kingdom of Tristia from King Paelis, the disbanded Greatcoats, mockingly called Trattari, are scant few in numbers and scattered throughout the kingdom. Falcio, alongside his companions and fellow Greatcoats Kest and Brasti, were given one last mission from Paelis before he met his untimely demise. With Falcio’s wit, Kest’s incredible swordsmanship, and Brasti’s unbelievable marksmanship, the three travel in order to complete this final mission.
From the start, it’s pretty easy to see that each of the three are essentially paragons of their aforementioned talents. The book was compared with Dumas’s Three Musketeers, so it’s fairly necessary to begin the book not expecting a serious, grim tale. de Castell did a wonderful job combining humor and seriousness in order to create a fun, fast-paced tale with very few flaws, and Falcio, Kest, and Brasti make the perfect trio.