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Year of Our War Poster Unknown Binding – 14 Apr 2005


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  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Gollancz Paperbacks (14 April 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0575404108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575404106
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Review

An enjoyable piece of 'weird' fiction (Andrew Osmond DREAMWATCH)

A joy to read, it is bursting at the seams with ideas. The Year of Our War is the first book that makes you believe New Weird actually is a movement, rather than a bunch of books China Miéville likes. A Miéville quote appears prominently on the cover where he describes the book as "thoughtful, exuberant, incredibly inventive, funny but never whimsical or mannered." This is true and it doubles as a kind of manifesto pledge for New Weird (SF Site)

A stunning fantasy, and the most incredible thing about it is that it is a first novel... The setting is impeccably realised, with a deftness of touch and a genius for description which would be impressive in an author of considerably greater experience - of the current crop of British fantasy writers, only China Miéville can touch this level of brilliance. In fifty years time, people are still going to be reading this book and talking about it the way we talk about Gormengast (George Walkley INK MAGAZINE)

The density of Swainston's creation is breathtaking. But Swainston's also a knockout writer for scenes of triumphant action. Having created a world that's almost too complex to comprehend, she's able to unravel scenes of spectacular conflict. From the jaw-dropping opening chapter to the tense and bloody finish, Swainston puts the reader in the picture with a clarity that challenges cinema. (Rick Kleffel TRASHOTRON)

Her descriptive passages are rich and vivid and her characterisation is actually even better; frankly it's superb... Even her dialogue is free-flowing, original, yet natural-sounding; how often do you get that from a debut novelist? As for the protagonist himself: in Jant Shira, Swainston has come upwith one of the most irrepressibly loveable rogues in fantasy fiction, bar none. So, The Year of War has everything, yes? It¿s about as close to a perfect debut as you can get.' (THE ALIEN ONLINE)

Every so often in publishing a buzz develops about a book. The current buzz is most definitely the property of Steph Swainston and her stunning debut novel, The Year of our War. If it has antecedents then they are Angela Carter, Roger Zelazny, M. John Harrison and China Miéville. But while drawing on such illustrious forebears, it is by no means derivative. It is very much its own thing. It has a rare combination of the grim, the bizarre and the hilarious. And somehow it all works. (EMERALD CITY) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The most exciting, original and important new fantasy novel to be published since China Mieville's PERDIDO STREET STATION. A breathtakingly skilful debut. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Larry Ketchersid on 23 Dec 2006
Format: Paperback
After a while, one grows tired of elves and orcs and barbarians and the typical fantasy stories. Steph Swainston has invented a new and unique world with none of the normal suspects in it, with great imagination that still leaves a lot to the readers to ponder.

She creates a world with mortals and immortals, where the immortals must earn their place by being the best at what they can do: the best swordsman, the best sailor, the best archer. Immortality is betowed upon them by the Emperor San...where he got the ability to do this is one of the mysteries of the series.

Jant Comet is one of the immortals, called the Messenger because of his unique ability to fly. Because he is the Emperor's Messenger, we get to see the politics of the realm, and even see Jant change a few things.

The Emperor's realm is at war with the Insects, who look like bugs many times the size of humans and who build paper nests out of counqueorer lands. Where the Insects have come from is yet another of the mysteries in the book and series.

Jant is an addict to a substance called Cat. Ms. Swainston's portrayl of Jant's addiction, in this book and the next, is dead on...she must have known or studied addicts quite closely.

Jant's addiction gives him entrance into a parallel world, a world he and we the readers are not sure is real until we explore it further. Then it becomes tied in with the Emperor's world and the Insects.

Ms. Swainston mixes political intrigue (immortals battling each other for position; non-immortals vs. the Emperor; mortals vying to become immortals), war (vividly imagines human vs. insect fighting scenes, shades of Stormship Troopers!), addiction and Jant's journey of self-discovery into an excellent fantasy novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
Steph Swainston has created an incredibly imaginative & original fantasy novel. Her characters range from the macabre to the beautiful. There are (thankfully!) no elves, goblins or magic swords, just exciting action, believable dialogue and a main character that is by far the most interesting hero we have seen for a long time. I look forward to reading more of her work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Walker on 6 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
Swainston has a direct style of storytelling that doesn't let you relax and draws you in to a world not so far from ours. This world, though, is peopled by fantastic beasts and great characters, and you cannot help but relate to the Immortals - Tornado, Jant, Lightning and the rest - as they veer between the internal politics of the Court and the wild and terrible battles raging outside. Jant, flying man, hero, lover and junkie is destined to become one the memorable few fantasy creations - like King's Roland of Gilead, more than human but all too fallible when he needs a fix or spies something sexy but off-limits. More to come - I hope so.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fenelon on 28 Jun 2005
Format: Paperback
At first glance, there's little to separate this debut novel from a score of other fantasies - an island is being threatened by strange insects, and only a mysterious emperor and his circle of immortals provide any hope of salvation. You've read the same kind of thing dozens of times before, and I admit that it deterred me from buying this book - but it had very strong word-of-mouth recommendation...
In fact, if anything, this is reminiscent of the steampunk noir of China Mieville. It's much more a novel of character, intrigue and politics than most fantasy. The basic setup places four kingdoms on a moderately-sized island, all four nominally governed by an immortal emperor (and no, we don't know how he got there) who coordinates the fight against the mysterious insects, and his Circle of immortal heroes. The war is starting to go badly - the Insects are on the advance and are gradually turning more and more areas into hive-like Paperlands.
And immortality is a gift - and one that can be taken away. The Immortals are the best people in the Empire at any particular trade or craft or skill that can help repel the Insects - so there's a master archer, sailor, warrior, etc. Nobody's place is secure - anyone can be formally challenged at any time.... you're only immortal until someone better comes along!
We see this novel through the viewpoint of Jant Shira, a halfbreed who is the only person left with the ability to fly. Jant is an outcast, a street kid elevated to immortality in his early 20s who spent his early years involved in drug smuggling, and whose habit still grips hard now he's immortal. Jant is the Emperor's messenger; trusted, known to all, and trying to keep the war against the Insects going in the face of conflict between various mortal lords and kings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Crook on 16 Oct 2007
Format: Paperback
Normally I stay well away from fantasy as most is formulaic. This book (and the others in this series) stand head a shoulders above most fantasy writing.

At the start I found Swainstons style took a little getting used to, as it seemed to wander all over the place. It becomes apparent that everything is there for a purpose and I got drawn into a small but perfectly formed world. Indeed, I started the book over a year ago, and stopped about 30 pages in because I couldn't get into it. Recently decided to have another crack at it and stuck at it this time.

Swainston keeps multiple plots moving while revealing the absolute minimum of information at any moment. Every morsel has to be squeezed out of the book and savoured. It's bit like a difficult journey, where just as you're beginning to wonder if it's worthwhile, you turn a corner and there's something new and different that makes that days travels worthwhile and you just know that tomorrow has more unexpected delights in store

The work of a writer on top of her game.
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