26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Very strong debut inspires hunger for book 2.,
This review is from: Winterbirth: Book One of the Godless World Series (Hardcover)
I just picked up Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley. It's a brand new epic Fantasy debut in the UK which Orbit is very keen to market as one of the most promising new works in this field, and they are comparing it Martin, Erikson and Gemmell.
I have to say I really flew through this book. I was eager for it come out to see if this could be yet another worthwhile new debut ( after "Lies of Locke Lamora" and "The Blade itself") and IMO this is as good as any debut I've read this year. It's a good read, realistic, has a low magic setting, has some intriguing characters ( and some less so), definitly good worldbuilding and it can be very gritty.
I would actually say that from my reading experience, I would compare this mostly to David Gemmell's Rigante series, and to JV Jones's fine "Sword of Shadows" trilogy. It's clearly set in a northern country, with different clans duking it out with each other, but there are slightly supernatural elements as well ( similar to Song of Ice and Fire). The comparison with Martin is not bad, but Ruckley doesn't have Martin's skill at characterization. He uses different POV's but not so many as Martin or for instance Erikson. Gemmell and Jones are better indicators of how good this is, while Erikson fans who are not into Malazan purely because of the high magic might also really like this.
I do think it will lack the broad appeal of a series like The Gentleman bastards because this really is straight up epic Fantasy. The characters are not witty nor is the narrative sprinkled with quips. This is a serious drama that is unfolding. One of the most interesting things Ruckley has done is two have a "villain" with a character arc. This man, Aeglyss, is born of the union between man and Kyrinin and has a potential for power that hasn't been seen in hundreds of years. However in this first book he is mostly an insecure character with a pathological need to ingratiate himself and be accepted, having been outcast wherever he went ever since he was a small child. He has great potential ( those more wise but less gifted sense him as a "Black-hearted beast") but lacks the key to unlock his abilities. His is one of the two main character arcs of that trilogy, the other being the son of a brutally slain Clanlord.
You've also got factions like the Inkallim ( Hunters and warriors deeply devoted to their Black Road religion), human clan rulers who wish to use the war to advance their own position of power in as many ways as possible, when in fact they should be standing shoulder to shoulder ( very much ASOIAF that), and the Kyrinin, an Elflike race, except the Kyrinin have no magic and are not considered to be superior to men ( nor are they inferior). They are simply very different, and the insight Ruckley shows into their culture was a strength of this story.
I rate the book 8 out of 10. I thought his writing was a lot more coherent than for instance Steven Erikson, but his characterization is not on a Hobb/Martin/Kay level at this point. I mentioned parallels to Gemmell but would point out that Ruckley's world has more depth.