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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy As It Should Be,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)I usually approach any series of novels with enthusiasm and anxiety. I know that if the opening instalment is good then the chances are I will be a dutiful servant to every sequel that follows. I wasn't sure what to expect with McNally's The Sable City, the first in The Norothian Cycle series. Showered with glowing reviews I was naturally intrigued but as with every book I read I like to form my own opinion.
The novel initially follows the journey of an ageing and stubborn dwarf, Captain Block, and a guilder, Matilda Lanai a.k.a. Tilda who are looking for John Deskata, heir to the House of Deskata, which they belong to back on the Miilark Islands. It is their duty to bring the heir back and save their House from ruin. However, a lot more is afoot in McNally's world, not least the city known as Vod' Adia, the Sable City of the title, that opens its gates once every 100 years for opportunists to loot and pillage the rich treasures within. While the hunt for John Deskata continues, a horde of characters from various lands all descend on the Sable City and let's just say they're not all friends with each other!
The first thing you'll notice about McNally's novel is the impressive level of detail in the world of Noroth and most importantly the characters. In the opening pages we soon get a fabulous image of the ageing Captain Block while the dutiful Tilda may initially seem weak compared to her Captain but she soon proves to be strong, independent and courageous, a brilliant heroine to guide us through McNally's richly realised world. This being the first book in the series there is the need for a lot of background history at times to immerse us in the context of this period. I know from experience that it is hard to find a balance when it comes to world building in a fantasy novel but McNally has no problems here, his writing is completely assured and confident throughout but never arrogant.
Tilda's journey to the Sable City in search of the elusive John Deskata sees her encounter some wonderful characters. The entrancing and beautiful Nesha-Tari is something of a mystery and is accompanied by Amatesu and a samurai with the cool name of Uriako Shikashe. We also have a Duchess, Claudja, a wizard, Phin, and a soldier, Zeb. Oh, did I mention the dragons in here too but not just for the sake it. Each character has a purpose in the novel, no one is wasted. The characters all begin the novel separately save Nesha-Tari and her two companions but gradually everyone comes together in the heart of the Sable City where some pretty nasty creatures are waiting to take out the unsuspecting. You didn't really think you'd be able to walk in, help yourself to treasure and walk out again that easily, did you?
The Sable City is a long novel and may be intimidating for some readers. There are lot of characters and the book does switch perspectives often, even allowing us to drop in on the scheming of the darker forces at work in the novel. The world building is very detailed but it is essential to the overall story. While some of these elements may be off-putting to some people, I found that McNally handled it all like an experienced veteran in this genre. His characters have plenty of life to them, the story is action-packed and the dialogue refreshingly down to earth with some good humour and even flirtation thrown in as Tilda finds herself in what may be the start of a romance but I'm not giving away how it turns out.
The Sable City is an excellent opening to what I am confident will be a great series. Death of a Kingdom and The Wind from Miilark are already on my to-be-read list but in the meantime I am happy to join my fellow critics in a collective round of applause to Mr McNally. As a fantasy writer I like to read the work of others in my field and learn from the better writers. I've certainly learned a thing or two from The Sable City.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something a little bit different,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)I don't know what I expected, but I know I got more than I anticipated. It might be old age, but I get bored easily these days and no longer waste time doggedly finishing books that haven't really grabbed me. Well I finished this book and couldn't wait to get my hands on the next one (luckily I had a Kindle for my birthday so didn't have to wait!)
I loved this book. The characters were instantly engaging, even the 'baddies' and there were plenty of amusing pieces of dialogue. The story wound around and there was very little you could guess beforehand (well okay one story line was pretty obvious almost from the start, but that particular one was just as it should be.)
It says a lot that I am writing this review. I hardly ever do so, but enjoyed this book and so wanted to share.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)I downloaded this on the strength of it's reviews and so now feel I had best confirm what others have said. This is a well written story, full of good characters who all have a reason to be part of the story - nothing feels too dues ex machina. The setting is well realised and the background pitched well to not intrude on the story. I especially liked that the story carried on for a significant time after the author could have finished it.
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of humour and action,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)"The Sable City" is a winner. It is full of humour, tension and action. You know, it is strange how placing a few words on a piece of paper (e-book in this case) can bring such joy to a person like myself.
At the beginning of "The Sable City" there was an episode that convinced me that this was a novel for me:
"Matilda Lanai was among them, though at the time Block knew her vaguely by face but not name. Of about typical height for a young Miilarkian woman, she was however paired against a fellow Block recognized and even knew by name as Kauna, a full-blooded Islander with a creamed-coffee complexion and a mass of black hair to his waist. While of only moderate size for a water buffalo, Kauna was an excessively large human. Block had known enough Island men of the type to suspect that later in life the big fellow ran the risk of turning astonishingly fat, but at nineteen years of age he was a chiselled mountain of a man. Stolid in nature, but capable of accidental bursts of breathtaking power.
That hot day last Fourth Month, Matilda Lanai had found herself on the business end of just such a burst.
Block's attention had been elsewhere, but everyone in the room heard Kauna cry "Tilda!" in sudden alarm. The dwarf turned and saw the big man frozen with one knee on the mat and his arms fully extended, watching wide-eyed as the bare feet of his sparring partner kicked the air. This did nothing to prevent her sailing out head-first through an open cargo door, and dropping out of sight. Four stories up.
Block was on the other side of the room, and well past his sprinting days. As he crossed to the cargo door the dwarf had time to think at least she went out on the water-side, but then he also had time to wonder just how far the timber cart path extended out around that base of the building the hand pier-like over the water. Pretty far, he reckoned.
As everyone converged the one apprentice who had been next to the open doorway gaped, then cheered. She alone had seen Tilda clear the wooden edge of the pier forty feet below by the narrowest of margins. One more inch, as the girl laughingly told the crow later, and Tilda would have lost nose, nipples, and kneecaps.
Her classmates cheered, but the young woman with the sodden mop of black hair plastered to her face and shoulders did not look up. Nor did she flop gasping onto her back, as Block expected. Instead, she paused on all fours for only a moment. Then she was up, and running, along the warehouse and around the corner toward the nearest door giving backing inside. She left a trail of wet footprints slapped across the hard wood her nose had missed by a hairsbreadth.
The apprentices blinked after her, then looked around at each other. Their eyes finally settled on Kauna, who had stood up straight but not yet taken a step closer to the doorway out of which he had pitched his classmate.
"She's all right?" the big Islander finally stammered at everyone, but one man with Varanchian-blond hair answered.
"You are going to find out in about two minutes."
Matilda Lanai was of the mixed-stock know in the Islands as "Ship People." Lighter in complexion than a Full Blood but with features typical of an Islander, with a rounded chin, broad mouth, and flashing eyes of a brown so deep the occasionally looked black. The looked that way now as she skidded to a halt, swiped her clinging hair out of her face and over her shoulder, and locked her narrowed eyes on Kauna's wide-open ones. Tilda's chest heaved and she stood with her feet apart, silent except for her breath and the drops of water pattering the floorboards. She held her hands loose at her sides, arms toned by boundless youth and a hard year of Guild training.
Kauna looked at the silt, then back at Tilda, then around at his classmates. They now stood father away from Kauna than was Tilda, for the young Guilders-in-training had been drifting away steadily since she appeared, with nary a squeak from the floor.
The big Islander nodded once, twice, then straightened to his full lofty height. He gave Tilda a short bow. Kauna turned, took two long strides into a dead run, and launched himself out through the open door with a great whoop, arcing majestically out over the pier and falling feet first into the water below."
And that was how Captain Block found his travelling companion. Captain Block himself is a dwarf of the traditional fantasy type. His loyalty lies with house Deskata, one of the merchant families of Miilark. When the last living leader of the merchant family asks him to bring back their sole blood-line heir (who just happens to have been exiled), he and Tilda go off to the continent to find the proverbial "needle in the haystack" and end up having to follow the mercenary Dugan around to find the lost Islander.
Most of the story is told from Tilda's point of view and much of it deals with personal and physical journeys. Getting to know Tilda has been fun. She shows us that she is capable of changing her attitudes while holding on to her values. Perhaps being trained as an assassin (among other things) has given her an extra appreciation for the sacredness of life that I know I do not have. Her love for Captain Block shines through. Perhaps he is some kind of father figure to her while away from home. Block also lets his love for Tilda shine through his gruffness. Being centuries old has made it necessary to keep a certain distance to the people he encounters, but Tilda seems to be able to reach through to him and give him back a part of his life that he had not known that he was missing.
I liked Duggan and the lessons he brought into Tilda and Block's lives. His ability to annoy and charm the two of them is admirable. He might not be the rapscallion he tries to convince them of but there is certainly a ruthlessness there that his mercenary life has left with him.
But "The Sable City" is not only about the trio. Other people turn up, as is only proper during a quest that ends up in a fabled city supposedly full of treasure.
Axman Zebulon Baj Nif ends up being saved by a Samurai, Uriako Shikashe, and a Far Western healer, Amatesu, from certain death after they had attacked his unit to find him. They bring him with them so he might be a translator for their mistress - Nesha-Tari. This quartet end up adding another member in Phineas of the wizard circle. They are all going to the Sable City along with a couple of other characters who end up being gorgeous Brother Kendall Heggenauer and Father Luis Coralle of the Brothers of Jobe along with the daughter of a duke. Finally, there are dragons, mercenaries and a likeable demon by the name of Lord Dalin.
"The Sable City" is the kind of fantasy that has its roots back to the days of "The Odyssey". As such it is a recipe for writing that has stood the test of time. It is strange that I keep on reading new novels in this genre considering how many of them I have read. But I never seem to tire of them - as long as the author writes well.
5.0 out of 5 stars unexpected gem,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)Great fantasy book with a plot full of twists, some very well written characters and some nice bits of humour. A definite page turner.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is my kind of book,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)What a story! Full of different characters with lots of side plots and stories. If you like the kind of stories with hero's and dragons who have tangible personalities then this is the book for you!
4.0 out of 5 stars Richly detailed and with a strong plot,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)I've read the other reviews and they are all pretty accurate. The story starts with two islanders who set out to find a man (the name and the purpose aren't revealed for a while) and through their journey they meet with other people with other purposes and finally go into a mysterious city that is only able to be entered for one month every 99 years.
Why I don't give this story 5 stars is that towards the end of the story I started to skip pages (and not missing anything). The strong attention to detail that makes it very readable at the start towards the end just gets in the way.
I'm still thinking about buying the sequel. I just think that after entering the city the number of words could have been halved without much loss to the story.
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic swashbuckling delight,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)I knew I was going to like this book as soon as I read the first page and the funny image I gained in my head of Block.
The author has taken great pains to create the world inside his book, which is rich in description as he paints his canvas very fully, so you can visualise the landscape and literally taste the coffee. The characters are individually drawn, have their own issues, sense and ethics, and they develop as the book unfolds. The plot is interesting and there are enough threads to keep you guessing. There is a broad range of personalities and creatures here - from humans to monsters and mages to dragons and demons.
The first quarter of the book is slower, building up the setting and background, and getting to know the various characters. It gives the novel an epic feel. Readers who like novels that plunge into the action immediately could find themselves a little impatient with the slow beginning and background building, but they should stick with it - when the action gets going it really gets going. They are in for a treat. The momentum builds up at the end of the first quarter and by the halfway point it's rocketing - it really gets going, pulling the characters and plot threads together. The fight scenes are pretty awesome, and there is also a lot of humour and some comic characters. By the end you really want to dive into the second book.
In picking a favourite character, I'm a bit stuck because I had many, which is unusual. It was good to read a book too with such strong female characters as Tilda and Nesha-Tari.
A swashbuckling delight, I would thoroughly recommend this book as a cracking read. Brilliant. If the second book is half as good as the first then this promises to be a thrilling and fascinating series. I've downloaded the second one already!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful work that will pull you in,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)Events loom large on the horizon, but the people depicted in M Edward McNally's The Sable City, have no idea of the momentous events that are set to sweep them along, as you might expect in the first book of a series. No spoilers, either within the book, or indeed this review, but suffice to say the story is as deep and as broad as you might expect of an epic fantasy.
McNally has set high standards in this, the first book of the Norothian Cycle. The story-telling is neatly paced, with a good balance bewteen action and narration and the back story needed to give the world of Noroth both depth and breadth. Equally, there's no mono-dimensional sketching to his characters, but fully-rounded human beings, whether they are bit players or the stars of the show. The clarity of writing is spot on, both precise and concise, without ever losing any sense of substance and style. The editing and formating is nearly perfect -- a high standard indeed for other indie authors to emulate.
The Sable City features a long list of characters, far too many to deal with here, but the reader never loses track of them in the lenghty narrative (it's 180, 000 words long). It helps that McNally has portrayed them so well in his writing; the quirks of personality, the interplay between them -- whether in anger or affection -- ensures that 'names and faces' don't become a blur.
The heart of the story is Matilda (Tilda) Lanai, a young guilder sent on a mission with the dwarf Captain Block to find the exiled head of House Deskata. The island of Miilark, a polynesian-derived culture, I am guessing modelled on Hawaii, is the home of both Tilda and the Deskata. Some 200 years before, shipwrecked mariners profoundly changed the island's culture and outlook; by the time of The Sable City, Miilark has become a great trading and sea-faring nation, and its trading houses (such as House Deskata) have gained a fearsome reputation in commerce and trade, controlling as they do, the main trade routes to all four continents on McNally's world.
Lanai's and Block's search for Deskata will take them deep into the troubled continent of Noroth, blighted by war between Ayzantium and Daul, but their journey will ultimately take them into the cursed city of Vod'Adia -- the Sable City of the title. Cut off from the world by an ancient curse, the city only opens for a month every century, and then it draws adventurers and wealth seekers to try their luck within its haunted streets, but as Lanai and her party will discover, the Sable City hosts darker secrets and deadlier dangers than anyone might have guessed.
This is a world on the verge of great change, and not just in the portents of the epic story to come, but in terms of its own history. For many, the words 'epic fantasy' no doubt conjure up medieval visions of knights and castles, of chain-mail clad soldiers with swords and bows, spiced up with goblins and dragons, sorcery and the supernatural, and these certainly exist in McNally's story. What is refreshing, however, is the presence of gunpowder and the fiery difference it has made to this world. Aside from the tall ships and global trade that Lanai's people have made almost their own, the primitive firearms, the cannons, and the changes they bring to fortification and tactics, dramatically indicate a world that is poised between the medieval and the modern.
McNally's The Sable City is an engaging read, filled with breathtaking spectacle, breathless battles, and endearing people, it all combines to create a novel that is up there with the masters of the print-era genre. It'll make you chuckle, it'll make you rage, it will make you duck behind the cushions, and it will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat as you follow the adventures of Lanai and her friends.
All in all, McNally has set authors a tough act to follow. And since there is more to come, that includes himself, so we'll see if he can raise his game and keep the thrills and spills coming in the second part of the series.
Author of Citizen Zero
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous fantasy,
This review is from: The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) (Kindle Edition)From the moment I picked up the book I was caught. Like a fly in a web; a web made up of fantasy and enchantment. The book has several groups of people whose destiny is closely woven together. You find yourself following each in turn, in no way does this detract from the overall plot, rather serves the basis of drawing the reader in to know more. I quite honestly did not want this book to end.
Whether Fantasy is your normal genre or not, try this book. You will not be disappointed. Hurry up with the next one
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The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle) by M. Edward McNally