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3.6 out of 5 stars94
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 December 2011
I'm a fan of Richard Morgans scifi novels, so I thought I'd give his first fantasy effort a try. I can say I'm favorably impressed! It doesn't sit quite as well whilst you are reading it as his scifi works, but that may be just because I'm so used to the futuristic settings he writes about. I still think that scifi is his forte, but he acquits himself well with this genre too.

If I have any niggles it may be that the characters seem a little too larger than life, but then, it is fantasy, after all, so realism is not a requirement. However the book reads very well and I'm looking forwards to the sequel.

I'm going to nitpick at Amazon's page for this book, however. How can you tell if a book has a story you might be interested in, if the product description is entirely made up of quotes from reviewers? A new reader, coming across this for the first time will see that the book has lots of praise, but have no idea what its about? That just seems wrong to me. I suspect the blame for that lies entirely with the publisher, rather than Amazon. Perhaps they thought that the book would be a hard sell to his scifi readers?

Anyway, that aside, the book is entertaining and worthwhile. It's not your vanilla fantasy epic, that's for sure!
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on 8 October 2014
I have been a fan of fantasy novels for many years and as such they all blur into one over the years, its very difficult to find something new that doesn't feel like parts of other books already read.
Richard Morgan has had a good go though. Been a fan of his other novels so was intrigued to see what he would do in a fantasy setting.
Its dark, if you are looking for a jolly quest forget this book its not for you. I found it a real page turner, the lead character Ringel is a delight. Smug arrogant but with the ability to back it up, and did I mention homosexual, this is central to his character as it defines the way he views to world.
The other main characters Egar and Archeth play a minor roll in this first novel (yes its another trilogy) but even so I found them engaging and wanted to know more about them and how they fit in.
Cant wait for the rest.
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on 4 September 2009
The author could start calling himself Richard F. Morgan; his characters swear constantly but monotonously.

But otherwise - glorious. He can do swords and dragons too, swashing and buckling over a clearly described planet. I could wish the main characters had met up earlier or spent longer together. In fact the other two heroes could have contributed a lot more after the long build up.

There is a great deal of sex, none of it gratuitous. The main hero, and the main bad guy, and the heroine, and a few other interesting characters are gay, adds a new dimension to what might have been a familiar "outcasts save the world from aliens" plot.

I read it in one go, couldn't put it down. A fresh new look at a favourite genre. Don't lend it to your mother.
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on 2 September 2009
I'm a huge fan of Richard Morgan's SF material, so when I saw he'd tried his hand at the fantasy genre I had to give it a go. Overall, I'm very glad I did. The back-story to the novel is good, with the author living up to his usual high standards in creating a credible and consistent environment for his characters. There is also the usual generous helping of action and sex (mostly of the homosexual variety in this case). My only criticism is that the novel feels like it was rushed at the end, and the last 50 pages or so should really have been more like 200. Still, plenty of scope for a prequel and sequel, and if they appear I'll be buying them.
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Richard Morgan erupted onto the SF scene six years ago with his blistering debut novel Altered Carbon, a hard-edged thriller set in the 26th Century. Morgan has made his name with intelligent, intriguing ideas about science, technology and sociology, based around unflinchingly violent protagonists and often withering analyses of the human condition. The Steel Remains is his first foray into fantasy, the first book of a trilogy with the unofficial name A Land Fit For Heroes (which I assume is ironic, because this land is very definitely not fit for heroes, although it desperately needs them).

This world is a harsh, dirty and grim place. Some years ago a race of sentient lizards - the Scaled Folk - crossed the western ocean from a dying homeland and attempted to conquer the lands of humanity. The forces of humanity - somewhat reluctantly - banded together under the leadership of the Yhelteth Empire and their Kiriath allies and destroyed the invasion at great cost. After four thousand years amongst humanity, the Kiriath finally abandoned this world, fleeing in their vast fireships back through the subterrenean portals leading to other worlds. Humanity has been left to lick its wounds and rebuild.

Ringil Eskiath is the famed hero of Gallows Gap, who led the heroic defence that finally broke the back of the Scaled Folk's invasion. However, his temper and his sexuality have led to him being outcast from his homeland and he now makes his living as a glorified tourist attraction, showing gawping spectators around the legendary battlefield. However, when his cousin is sold into slavery, he is called home by his mother and asked to rescue her. Ringil's journey leads him back into the shadow of his old life and to the realisation of a devastating new threat that is arising now the one thing it feared, the Kiriath, is gone.

Archeth is a Kiriath half-breed, left behind when her people left. Now she serves the Emperor as his advisor on Kiriath technology, but her presence is anathema to the increasingly fanatical religious leaders and she survives on the Emperor's sufference. The devastation of a coastal town leads Archeth's research to the horrific conclusion that an ancient force, powerful beyond measure, may be poised to return to this world.

Out on the windswept steppes, the barbarian warrior Egar finds life back among the clans unbelievably dull after he fought for the Empire as a mercenary, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Ringil at Gallows Gap, where Egar earned the name Dragonbane. When Egar's position in the clan comes under threat, he is rescued by a most unlikely patron and whisked into a battle he barely comprehends, alongside some old allies...

The Steel Remains is a pretty dark, full-on and - to use a cliche, gritty. Those easily offended best stay away, especially if you found GRRM too explicit for your tastes as Morgan goes way, way past anything that GRRM has ever done in a book. The violence is visceral, bloody and painstakingly described. The sex is full-on and explicit. To be honest, the levels of sex and violence are somewhat higher than the plot demands. Whilst Black Man was similarly explicit, at least there it could be said that it was only done when necessary for the plot. The Steel Remains is, at heart, a gratuitous story which I suspect a lot of people will be put-off by.

Those who can stomach those elements will find all of those things that have made Morgan one of the most striking authors of his generation: deft characterisation, increasingly accomplished worldbuilding and a fiendish plot which seems to dance out of reach just as you think you've got a handle on it, replaced by something even more cunning than you previously thought possible. Here Morgan takes on of the biggest cliches in fantasy history and turns it on its head in a manner which is probably not quite as original as he thinks (unless he's read Scott Bakker recently) but nevertheless is deftly executed, leading to a powerful final scene that leaves the reader demanding more.

The Steel Remains (****) is dark, brooding, bloody, visceral and absolutely takes no prisoners. But the story it is telling is compelling, the characters are well-defined and the world throws up some refreshingly new ideas and concepts (some heavily influenced by Morgan's SF background). Some may find it all a bit too much, some may find this world too full of pain and darkness to actually be worth saving, but amidst the gloom Morgan carefully plants a few seeds of hope and optimism which the reader can cling to. The second book, with the working title The Cold Commands, will follow in late 2009.
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on 30 September 2011
Ever wondered how Aragorn and Arwen's children came to be?
Wonder what songs were really sung by drunken sword-slinging soldiers in the midst of a bloody war?
Think that they surely didn't go "Oh, sugar" when they were stuck through by a sword?
Tired of prancing elven princesses and their pretty princes?

Yes, this book has blood, sex and swearing. Finally.

After many years of reading traditional fantasy novels I picked up this one on a whim. I read the back and it sounded engaging, it sounded dark and infinitely more interesting than anything else I'd picked up and looked over in two hours browsing the fantasy section in the book shop.

This book feels REAL. No sugar-coating, no fairytale princes. It's not a pretty world and it shows.

Ringil is by far the most realistic protagonist I have read about in a long time. He's not perfect and that's wonderful. He's not the nicest guy in the world and that's refreshing. He doesn't take himself too seriously and that makes it perfect.

If gay themes aren't your thing, this might not be the book for you, true. But it should not warrant a dismissal of this start of what is sure to be a gripping series of fantasy books that take you through the gritty and dark that these worlds would be, were they real.

Even though the three separate storylines came as a surprise to me, I found each of them and each of the characters their centre on engaging enough to not want to put this book down until I'd finished it. The diversity in character, I find, is not "trying too hard" as some other reviewers have called it. It's what happens. These characters could exist. Just because something seems cliched does not mean it's impossible. And these characters are perfectly possible with all their characteristics.

Lastly, I find the world Richard Morgan has created in this book to be fascinating. It isn't your traditional fantasy world; in fact, I often find myself recognising parts of cultural history of real world places that make me spend time contemplating them and where they might be placed.

So, if you're significantly tired of your run-of-the-mill princesses and handsome men, don't mind the swearing and maybe even find some joy in the existance of sex and same-sex themes, this book is definitely for you. Even if you're not too keen on those but think yourself capable to overlook them for a gripping story, you should be able to enjoy this book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 May 2013
I loved Morgan's sic-fi book Altered Carbon, liked his other ones to varying degrees, and picked this up to see what his take on the sword and scorcery genre. What I found was a dark story that hews to some of the conventions of the genre while taking a very modern approach to other elements. In classic fantasy tradition, it opens in a tiny backwater village where we meet the protagonist, some kind of ex-soldier, in down-and-out circumstances. In alternating chapters we meet two other characters, one of whom is the chief of a nomadic band, the other is some kind of imperial advisor. It becomes clear that the three were comrades and heroes in a war about a decade previously against some kind of lizardmen invaders.

Also in somewhat classic style, the story starts to slowly set the three old friends on a collision course for each other. However, it's kind of nice to be dropped into a setting where a lot of action and history has already happened -- in a typical fantasy series, these earlier events would have eaten up three books, and this would be book four. The approach is mostly successful, although some of the backstory can get a little obscure and a map would have been very helpful to understand the geographic and political relationships. A few things set the book apart: large doses of graphic violence (not unlike the one Joe Abercrombie book I tried, Best Served Cold), repeated doses of graphic sex (both hetero and homosexual -- the latter of which features as a plot point), and language that is very contemporary and slangy in a way that might offend or bother some readers.

The sorcery in the book doesn't really kick in until the latter stages and since the story alludes several times to a race of people who came in some kind of technological vehicles and left, the magic could be interpreted as future tech instead of a traditional magic. However, there is also a god or demigod who appears at one point who does some serious magic, so that's there too. On the whole, I guess what it reminded me of is a super amped-up take on some of Fritz Leiber's The First Book of Lankhmar series. There's a similar recognition of the corruption and dark side of civilization, with similar consequences, and a bit of the same dark humor, but it's got a long way to go before it reaches that quality.

Note: The cover art I've seen for the various editions is all incredibly generic and doesn't capture the flavor of the book at all.
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VINE VOICEon 22 April 2010
Characters do swear a lot - the f-word is pretty ubiquitous and the c-word crops up quite a bit too. However the swearing is unimaginative and repetitive and, I think, adds little to the plot. A lot of fantasy authors have given colour and substance to their fantasy world through more imaginative and inventive expletives.

The sex is also pretty ubiquitous. Sex scenes are graphic, but not overly long and do add to the plot - Ringil's sexuality gives him a whole new range of options when interacting with an adversary. Personally I found it a welcome change from the standard casually 'ravished maiden' trope, so beloved of many fantasy authors.

Combat scenes are lengthy, but not, I felt, particularly well-described.

A gay protagonist is still fairly unusual, and Ringil's defiant individuality makes him a likeable hero, although with standard father-issues.

So, a 'modern take' on the fantasy novel, which will not be to the taste of all readers.

But that is not the real problem with the novel. The problem is that, underneath all the 'controversial' style, we have a fairly simple 'quest to retrieve abducted maiden' story.I wish that, rather than expend his effort on this controversial style, which at times seems rather self-consciously so, the author had put more effort into the actual plot, which is rather mundane.
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on 20 September 2009
I really do like Morgan....

But this one feels like he's trying too hard.

The sex is full on and explicit but... is it really needed?
The language used is adult to say the least but it becomes intrusive and doesn't feel natural or fluid
and part of any effective dialogue.

The whole fantasy genre has recived a major and much needed kick from the likes of Abercrombie and in general the
quality of writing has improved across the be frank I was sick to death of lazy piss poor writing
and 'Book 8 of 17 of the Legend of Sad Scribes makring time' type of books.

Morgan produced good challenging books in sci fi and produced a good three book series that built on and
developed upon each volume. But this book doesnt reach those heights, it doesn't add to or challenge the genre
in the same way.

It feels forced and the writing feels... strained....looking for 'effect' rather than telling a
good story. Feels like an author 'reaching' to confront a genre rather than develop it....
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on 15 November 2009
I enjoyed most of Morgan's previous books: the gritty violence and flawed heroes are a welcome change from the anodyne dross that characterises much of modern SF. When I heard that he had decided to turn his hand to the fantasy genre I dared to hope that we might have someone capable of stepping into the shoes so sadly vacated by David Gemmel. Unfortunately that is not to be.

Even by his own standards the level of graphic sex and violence is startling but it's not too off-putting on its own (though the religious right will no doubt explode with horror that it's gay sex). The real killer is the appalling, cardboard cut-out characters throughout the book and the lack of any real imagination.

Morgan acknowledges the inspiration of a number of other authors, the influence of Michael Moorcock shouts from the page, but has brought nothing of his own that is new or compelling. Every hackneyed alternative reality/multiverse cliche is brought out for an airing with a little bit of deus ex machina thrown in when the situation starts to get out of hand. Even the sword and sorcery theme is flawed as we have various species with obviously advanced technology yet no one has invented a projectile weapon more effective than a cross-bow.

The plot for the novel is extensively described in other reviews so I won't rehash or pull it to pieces here. Suffice to say that you'd be a lot better off buying Moorcock's Elric novels or Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber.
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