East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

More imperial plots

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One week ago I posted about Devin Matson’s In Shadows We Fall, a fantasy novella that acts as a prequel to the author’s other works. And I said it’s very good.
How good, you ask?
Good enough for me to go and buy Madson’s We Ride the Storm.

Well, actually I had been keeping an eye on this book because of the cover, filled with horses and sabres, that reminded me of certain old works by Harold Lamb. The novella (that, incidentally, you can read for free if you subscribe to Madson’s seasonal mailing list on her blog) was for me a way to try the waters, so to speak, before diving in.
But now I’m quite happy to jump in.

Now I do not read a lot of epic fantasy anymore, and I have a short fuse for trilogies of 500+-pages books that come with a map at the front.
I never read a lot of that subgenre, as I prefer sword & sorcery and occasionally heroic fantasy to high fantasy and dynastic fantasy – but it’s more of a penchant than a strict rule, and rules are made to be broken anyway.
I still prefer small-scale adventures, moderate stakes and character that are not too high and mighty, but here’s what In Shadows We Fall showed me – characters that, while sitting on a throne (or dancing around it) are not above some very basic shenanigans, and that are not swallowed up whole by the power of their role. Indeed, character that fight not to be swallowed whole by their roles and the power thereof.

And I liked the setting of In Shadows We Fall, and I liked the idea of going back to that world, to learn more about the politics, the magic, the intrigues underlying the plot.

Madson’s language is rich without being overwrought, and the first-person narrative makes for good rhythm and vivid descriptions.
And there’s war, murder, espionage, and a distinct Eastern flavor.
The world described is as elegant as harsh, and it’s good to see an author that can handle violence and brutality without resorting to brain dead schlock (that is coming back into fashion, from what I’ve seen hereabouts).

So, looks like I’ll be having some fun with this new book for a while.
It’s cold outside, the countryside is silent and dreary, and I’m quite happy to curl up under a stack of blankets with a good ebook.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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