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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and fascinatingly complex fantasy book for adults, 28 Nov 2012
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This review is from: The Straits of Galahesh: Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya (Paperback)
I know that a lot has already been said about The Straits of Galahesh, but I thought I'd write a short review about this book, because it deserves to be praised.

Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo was one of the best fantasy books of 2011, so I could hardly wait to read its sequel, The Straits of Galahesh. This sequel is bigger and better than its predecessor and manages to hook the reader from the first page.

In my opinion, The Straits of Galahesh is one of those books, which raise the quality level of modern epic fantasy. Night Shade Books must be congratulated for publishing this book (and also other great fantasy books), because they seem to know what kind of fantasy readers want to read.

I won't write anything about the plot in this review, because writing about it would spoil lots of surprises. All I'll mention is that the ending is truly spectacular (ah, what an ending it was!). One of the best things about this book is that the author takes his time to develop the plot and ends the book fantastically.

Just like the amazing Courtney Schafer, Bradley P. Beaulieu reveals his hidden writing talents in the second book. It's fair to say that the author has lots of ambition and he isn't afraid to show how ambitious he is, because this book has more depth, more plot twists and more action than the first book.

Bradley P. Beaulieu deserves praise for creating excellent characters and an interesting fantasy world. The worldbuilding is great and the author manages to breathe life into an exotic and perilous world, which is inhabited by fascinating characters. Writing about the exotic places seems easy to the author, because his descriptions are fascinatingly vivid and believable.

When I read the first book, I was impressed by the author's way of using Russian names. In this book the author add more flavours and nuances to the storyline, because he writes about Turkish/Persian-like names.

Nikandr, Atiana and Nasim are interesting and complex characters. The author brings each of these characters to life in a fascinating way. It was wonderful to read about them and what happened to them, because the character development feels natural and effortless. These characters continue to develop in this book and the author pays attention to their development. (I think it's nice that the author writes fluently about both male and female characters.)

The author uses the same kind of narrative as in the first book. The events are seen through the eyes of the main characters. This narrative style works well and the reader has a chance to see how magic, politics and personal lives collide with full force.

One of the things that I noticed while I read The Straits of Galahesh was that the author has clearly developed as a writer since the first book. He writes with more confidence and handles plot twists better and easily than before.

I think it's good to mention that the summary of The Winds of Khalakovo at the beginning is very useful, because if it's been a long time since reading the first book, you'll immediately remember what has happened. The glossary at the end of the book is also useful, because it's easy to check what the terms mean, if you happen to forget something.

I have to confess that I can hardly wait to read the third and final book of The Lays of Anuskaya, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, which will be published next year. I'm sure that it will be worth the wait.

The Straits of Galahesh is an original, engrossing and well written epic fantasy book for adults. I hope that several readers will read this book and its predecessor, because it's almost impossible to find better modern epic fantasy. (In my opinion Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy will most likely appeal to fans of Steven Erikson and George R.R. Martin, but readers should be aware that Beaulieu doesn't imitate either of these authors.)

Highly recommended to fans of quality fantasy!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!, 19 Aug 2012
Patrick St-Denis "editor of Pat's Fantasy Hot... (Laval, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Straits of Galahesh: Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya (Paperback)
This novel is the sequel to what I considered to be the 2011 speculative fiction debut of the year, The Winds of Khalakovo.Bradley P. Beaulieu made quite an impression on me with his first book, and thus I had rather high expectations for The Straits of Galahesh.

After showing so much potential, I wanted to know if the author could bring this series to another level with the second volume. Well, this sequel delivers on all fronts and is even better than its predecessor! Indeed, Beaulieu managed to iron out most of the kinks that were the shortcomings of The Winds of Khalakovo. In the end, The Straits of Galahesh is an even more ambitious project, one that makes for a wonderful reading experience!

Here's the blurb:

West of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya lies the Empire of Yrstanla, the Motherland. The Empire has lived at peace with Anuskaya for generations, but with political turmoil brewing and the wasting disease still rampant, opportunists from the mainland have begun to set their sights on the Grand Duchy, seeking to expand their empire.

Five years have passed since Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, was tasked with finding Nasim, the child prodigy behind a deadly summoning that led to a grand clash between the armies of man and elder elemental spirits. Today, that boy has grown into a young man driven to understand his past - and the darkness from which Nikandr awakened him. Nikandr's lover, Atiana, has become a Matra, casting her spirit forth to explore, influence, and protect the Grand Duchy. But when the Al-Aqim, long thought lost to the past, return to the islands and threaten to bring about indaraqiram - a change that means certain destruction for both the Landed and the Landless - bitter enemies must become allies and stand against their horrific plans.

From Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the critically acclaimed debut novel The Winds of Khalakovo, comes Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya, The Straits of Galahesh.

The worldbuilding is terrific. Once more, very Russian and/or Eastern European in style and tone, Beaulieu prefers to go for something different than the clichéd European medieval environment that gives this book its distinctive vibe and flavor. The author elaborates a lot more than he did in his debut, and what was just a hint of hidden depth in The Winds of Khalakovo is finally revealed in full. I liked how we learned more about the Motherland and the threats it's facing, but also the way it's tied to the islands of the Grand Duchy. Moreover, the revelations regarding the Al-Aqim, the rifts, the peace-loving Aramahn, the violent sect of the Maharraht, the mysterious Matri, and the entire magic system were fascinating.

People have asked me what authors Bradley P. Beaulieu reminded me of, and it's a hard question to answer. But in many ways, he appears to be a mix of Steven Erikson and L. E. Modesitt, jr. That's a weird hybrid, I know. But it's the only thing I could come up with. À la Erikson, Beaulieu likes to throw his readers into the heart of the tale without offering much in the way of information. In the first volume, this often resulted in an occasional lack of clarity that left readers wondering what the heck was taking place. Drawing on the material from The Winds of Khalakovo, Beaulieu does it less often in this sequel. But as is the case with Steven Erikson, sometimes you just need to buckle up and be taken along for the ride, hoping that an explanation will be provided down the line.

In terms of characterization and magic system, his approach is very similar to that of L. E. Modesitt, jr. Beaulieu's cast of characters may not be the most flamboyant bunch of people. And yet, for the most part they are solid, genuine, and three-dimensional men and women that remain true to themselves. The same thing goes for the magic, which is consistent and must follow strict rules that make sense. So far, there hasn't been any Deus ex machina moments where magic is concerned. Again, I feel that too little is known about everything that has to do with magic in The Lays of Anuskaya. But instead of finding this off-putting, my curiosity is such that I'm just dying to learn more and see what will occur next.

As was the case with its predecessor, the layered characterization in The Straits of Galahesh was my favorite facet of this novel. The five-year gap between both installments allowed Beaulieu to showcase just how brilliant his character development can be. Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim are the viewpoint protagonists in this second volume. The structure of the novel is such that each viewpoint always gets two or three chapters at a time, which creates a neat balance between them. Add to that a supporting cast of genuine and interesting men and women, and once again you have a work that really captures your imagination. Special kudos to Beaulieu for letting readers learn more about Soroush and realize that there is much more to him than just being a fundamentalist terrorist leader. All in all, the characterization is top notch.

In addition, I'm not sure Bradley P. Beaulieu sat down and had a beer with George R. R. Martin at a convention in between books, but it looks as though he became fond of creating living and breathing protagonists that readers care about, only to kill them off when you least expect it. Indeed, The Straits of Galahesh features a body count that both GRRM and Joe Abercrombie would approve of. At one point I was left wondering who the hell would be left to make it to the third volume!

In terms of rhythm, there were a few rough spots here and there, the same as in The Winds of Khalakovo. You can see that the author is laying a lot of groundwork for what will follow, but the pace is rarely an issue. In any case, Beaulieu's eye for details and his evocative narrative creates an imagery that never failed to amaze me. There are surprises and shocking moments aplenty throughout the book, making this one extremely unpredictable novel to read.

Dark, ambitious, complex, populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages, The Straits of Galahesh is just what the doctor ordered if you are looking for a quality read that's different from everything else on the market today. The Winds of Khalakovo turned out to be one of the very best SFF works of 2011. Somehow, Bradley P. Beaulieu has raised the bar even higher for this sequel, making The Straits of Galahesh a "must read" speculative fiction title for 2012.

Two thumbs way, way up! Do yourself a favor and give Beaulieu's series a shot. You'll thank me. . .

Highly recommended.

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The Straits of Galahesh: Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya
The Straits of Galahesh: Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Paperback - 3 April 2012)
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