4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2012
The first James Barclay book I have read and I wasn't disappointed although I found it a bit tough going in the first couple of chapters - but I am glad I persevered. Hirad the lead character for me was down to earth, tough and driven and gave me a few chuckles now and then but can Denser be trusted? Read it to find out.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2007
......after many years of reading sci-fi & fantasy, I abruptly tired of the "purple rain falling on the orange grass" or "I can't be the heir to the Sword of Garglebad, I'm just a stable-boy" and stopped looking at these genres for many years (Iain M Banks excepted).
I decided to give escapism another go recently, and after a completely false start with the execrable "Orcs" book (if ever a good idea went to waste...), I, purely by accident (first trip to a library for years), stumbled across these - sad to say, decided by not much more than "interesting cover!?".
I write this review now having read all 6 and although as many reviewers have said, they get better (characterisation, plot, pacing, etc) book by book, the fact of the matter is, I wouldn't have even read book 2 if this was poor.
What I loved about this book (series) :
- you're dropped straight in (figure out man! no screeds of exposition)
- the goodies ain't invincible (does Barclay get kicked out of the club for this - innocents & major characters die!!!)
- ooh-ya, ah-ya battles expertly described, putting you into the maelstrom (think start of saving private ryan, er, with swords)
- excellent humour (reminiscent of IM Banks IMHO)
- the people are real (they wind each other up, get upset, tired, have hopes etc)
- elves are in it, but forget the namby-pamby poetry and chiffon - these guys are psycho ninja killing machines! (later book to be fair)
Really - buy, beg, borrow, steal these - they are rip-roaring reads - but there is an intellectual & emotional maturity that is very satisfying indeed.
.......and no purple rain.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2013
I have to say I bought this because it spoke about ravens. Sadly no ravens in this book but it is about a band of men available for hire, called the Raven, and their adventures together. Thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced and exciting novel. I found it well-written and a cleverly executed plot. It is also emotional and very moving.
There are Dragons and magic and humour and emotion. No it is not depressing either - a real thumbs up for those of us that like to escape into a better inspirational fantasy world.
I personally have a preference for female main characters in fantasy books because they are so rare (and rarely done well), such as those found in the Mists of Avalon. A drawback for me is that the women in this book are immediately linked with children or evil. Or described as "small-breasted and built for speed". I didn't find an equivalent male description, such as "tight-buttocked and built for strength" - but clearly that might change the tone of the book.
Though not quite the Red Sonja I was looking for :D I really enjoyed this book, a great addition to fantasy - hence the five stars, and I am just about to purchase the kindle version of the next book: 'Noonshade'.
Thank you James Barclay :)
It's been a while since I read this book, and I wasn't overly enamoured with it initially (so many characters at the start confused me a little) - but I now look back fondly on the book and have gone back to read others in the series.
Some have said that this book doesn't have particularly strong character development. I would half agree with this for the book, but the Xesteskian Mage (Denser) was very well developed allbeit in a minimalist way. Once you have moved through a few of these books though - you feel a very strong affinity with the main characters and want them to succeed. Some of the characters have little idiosyncrasies (Unknown taps his sword on the floor before engaging in battle) and these help define the characters and forge a good mental image of them.
The basics might seem formulaic, a troupe of 'muscle-for-hire' warriors find themselves on a quest to save the world. But Barclay's constant barrage of action keeps this fast paced book interesting. And the character of Denser was absolutely fascinating, I would have kept reading to try and understand more about him. What a fantastic character!
There are many people introduced through the story - and I have some sort of 'name dyslexia' and struggle to remember who is who, but trucking on with the story reaped its own rewards and I got well stuck in.
There is a realism to the novel (well, as real as you get in a fantasy novel!) as the fights are gory, the 'good guys' aren't angels, the heroes of the story aren't immune from injury themselves.
This is a great novel, and a fantastic portal to the further "Chronicles of the Raven" books. This series of books forms an epic fantasy collection.
on 26 April 2007
i read one of the feedbacks that said there is no character development in this book. its one of a long series and i think to get the best out of them you should read them all. by the second/third books you are dragged along by the ride the characters are taken on. i have great respect for barclay because the hero's aren't safe! they die! they aren't invincible unlike so many fantasy heros. they are also set apart in that the Raven aren't moved to action by some fate of birth/mystical alignment/parent-figure mentor, the raven act first for money and then for each other which gives them unsurpassed passion in battle. their struggles make them endearing characters, their humour make them real people and so their heart-ache is real too. books in the raven series are the first fantasy novels to make me laugh out loud and shed a tear.
dawntheif isnt the best in the series but it is a great foundation for a brilliant story that im reading again. barlcay's fight scenes are fab and i love the way he tells things from all the angles, you feel the last sights, thoughts and feelings of people on all sides.
on 27 September 2000
Sorry to all of those of you who thought this book was a sprint... it wasn't for me it was a real slog! Not because the book was bad... far from it indeed, because every few pages I had to put down the book and think about new ideas he had given me to use in my own role playing games (my players will hate you for evermore Mr. Barclay.... what a shame *LOL*).
I would have to say that I really did enjoy this book, it is fairly fast paced (despite the thinking breaks) with well writen characters and a nice simple good verus' evil plot that doesn't get in the way of the characters to much.
My big problems (please not the big with a lower case B) with this book are some of the more mundane things... how can a land that can be ridden half way across in a few days support armies in the tens of thousands, and other mistakes of this nature. Pedantic I know but its all I have to gripe about, and it does niggle me when I read books (must be the DM in me.)
Anyway ignore my gripes and go get this book its definatly worth the read.
on 24 August 2012
In a genre so encumbered with half arsed and derivative writing, when you find an author that stands out it's a special joy. James Barclay is one such joy.
The characters he creates are rich. They have responses individual to them, and characterful dialogue and actions. And are not set in stone, they develop throughout.
Magic is interesting. It's not quite as deep as the mechanics employed by the Name of the Wind magic-users, but the way it works in Balaia, you can understand how it works from the way it's described.
The plots are strong. An absence of contrived situations to keep it rolling forwards, rather the occasional problem that develops the plot direction.
You never feel safe and cosy. Characters die. That occurs early on and doesn't let up. That's rare in this genre and well done here. There's rarely a story where you feel the "hero" has a chance of failing but these, The Raven are invariably walking a fine line.
An excellent first book in a splendid series.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 3 December 2000
Being in the workforce now, I am extremely picky about what I want to read and it was after much consideration that I thought to give "Dawnthief", written by a new author, a go.
Being a don't beat around the bush kind of person, this book is a stunning read.
- Gritty action where you fear for the characters. They DO die without mercy. - The spirit of The Raven shines and sheds new light on the term "Team". - No pages upon pages of description and emotional angst which you have to slog through. This is a "strictly essence only" story which don't waste your time. - Brings back the fantasy feel which has been quite jaded and lost (in innovation) in recent times and trend.
I, for one, am looking forward to see what would happen next.
on 3 July 2014
I read through the reviews here and decided to purchase this book, with plans to order the rest of the series if I liked it. However, after reading the book halfway I put it down and probably won't open it again. The characters are one-dimensional and has little background and less development. The story revolves around a quest that makes me think I wrote better adventures as Dungeon Master in AD&D in my teens. An elite group of seven mercenaries have lost three comrades in ten years, halfway through the book most of them are dead. After A Song of Ice and Fire, I am no stranger to authors killing main characters, but this is over the top and quite unrealistic. I am sorry, but this book will find its place in the back row of one of my bottom shelves, if I decide to keep it.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2005
I like to read books that I think will change my life. At the end of the day, they're just books, so I generally return to normal quite quickly, except maybe with an increased desire to use 'whom' in the right context and semi-colons in the right place. But in that fashion I churn through Murakami and Orwell and Mervyn Peake, and hey, I love them- pretentious as my motives may be- and it's led me to all sorts of books that I wouldn't have picked up had I not been so, and I in turn loved them too- Ian M Banks, Raymond Carver, Bill Waterson. I think of myself as reasonably widely read. What leaves me at a loose end is fantasy. I mean, out-and-out pure fantasy- there's loads of it, but what's the point? Fantasy never overtly tries for relevancy (except with the obvious satires of Pratchett) settling instead for reccounting historic fables of a past we never had in some parralell universe, or whatever. I guess I was embarassed to approach a genre so determined to have no impact on the world, and more importantly, on me. I didn't feel like the effort was there. Fantasy is so formulaic- Demon Lord/ Dragon/two Demon Lords threaten humanity or some self-conciously multi-cultural society ('you can't have humans to captain ships, you must have a completely separate race of boat people!' Good one. [Disclaimer- this may never have happened in a fantasy novel, but it seems like it would]) and a group of people, possibly with some sort of Messiah-type killjoy in tow being all confused about his 'calling', have to save everything by doing stuff. And so I avoid the fantasy sections, save for a couple of sagas I've been lent by friends (and, true, enjoyed quite a bit, like the first few Wheel of Time books and Lord Of The Rings (LOTR, for the record: quite poo (WOT: sprawlingly arrogant, but quite cool in Shadar Logoth and stuff (brackets all the time: fantastic, and a sure sign of an intelligent reviewer, 'specially as he knows its called 'ellipses')))), but another potential pit-fall of the genre is that authors seem to want to justify the fact that they've spent a year coughing up hackneyed sword play by being *detailed* about it. And so we have economies and made up languages and local bi-elections. Y'know, I was really quite disparaged.
Anyways, to the point: another weakness of mine, aside from translated Japanese novels that want to change my entire outlook on the world are books with cool two-tone colours, i.e., black and something primary. Possibly with an author sharing my own forname. That's where the Chronicles of the Raven come in. They're formulaic, yeah, I'm not even going to try to deny that, but in the same way that Columbo is formulaic, no, bad example... in the same way that The Hives are formulaic, these books are also fantastically cool. Ignore the fact that they insist on using spells called 'FlameOrb' and 'IceWind,' this is rock'n'roll fantasy. So we get kick-ass mercenaries (with a leader called 'The Unknown Warrior,' which threw me a little at the start, but it becomes less and less of a problem) that are each genuinely different characters with quirks and mannerisms that are interesting to see develop. They have fall-outs and moments of camaraderie and everything within their group is so small scale and human that it's almost by accident that along the way they fill the role of 'saviour'-that Rand or Frodo ham up in those other books- without any of the mopeyness but instead sarcastic quips and one liners. I don't know what point I'm trying to make here. I should hate the Raven books (they're hard core fantasy, oi), but when the next fantasy main-stay lurches along I'm eager instead for the really cool way that James Barclay is going to kill it (tapping entire oceans onto the heads of the approaching enemy, anyone? Armies of dead-pan soldiers operating by remote control from where their souls are kept in stasis by little blue buggers, anyone?). Sorry. I think that's fantastic. . I'm not saying these are brainless, the studies of character within are flawless, and there's no flabby excess, just the satisfying feeling that you're reading something that fulfills exactly what the author set out to do, and I think anyone can enjoy that. These books radiate Barclay's love of spinning a yarn- not to the point of the forty novel sequences that R. Jordan likes to weave, or spew- but for the sake of diverting you, the reader, into a world free of consequence, but none the worse for that, just a bit more funAm I 'getting' fantasy? Maybe. The Raven books are desperate not to change my life. Instead, they're a snappily written companion for a little bit of the way. I'm disarmed by their easy-going manner and they've snuck under the radar. I've rambled for a while, and dammit, looking back, I'm an opinionated oik but to clarify: books that change your life= good. Books that seek not to, but are damn well written, well characterised and tightly plotted= also good. I can't exactly justify reading them in the face of the fact that there's more literature in the world than anyone could read in thirty life times, but I still think I'll read them again one day. The Raven books are an excellent author enjoying himself. And it rubs off. I'm converted. And the coloured spines looks so pretty on my book shelf.