Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
A potentially interesting tale that never really burst into life
on 12 February 2012
I'd been looking forward to reading this book for ages, having seen it recommended on a number of sites. It sounded like the sort of thing I'd love - I'm a big fan of modern fantasy and as a sometime scholar of Renaissance Italy, the pseudo-Venetian setting sounded fascinating. Sadly, I was quite disappointed and found I really had to make an effort to get through the book, which is really unusual for me.
The infuriating thing wasn't that it was terrible, but rather that it felt as though there was a good story trying to burst out through some fairly long, drawn out plotting. I forced myself to read on, certain that the plot was going to burst into life at any moment. Every so often, potentially interesting elements were introduced: "oh, there are ancient magical structures left by a previous race - maybe there's going to be a great revelation about them," or "ah,the hero has a mysterious ex-girlfriend who he can't get over - I guess she'll be showing up soon to wreck havoc." In both these cases and several more however, the matter was just let drop. The Elderglass towers seem to be mere window dressing, the ex-girlfriend never appears and the reader is never told anything about her.
At times, I felt myself finally getting interested in the story, only to be rudely interrupted by one of the "Interludes" - chapters explaining something about the history of Camorr or about the main characters' training. Some of these were interesting, others not so much, but in almost all cases, they seemed to horribly break the flow of the main plot. I actually really like non-linear narratives when they are done well and I'm usually a fan of back story about the mythos of fantasy worlds, but for whatever reason, I didn't feel they worked here. It just felt a bit self-indulgent, as though the author wanted to show that he'd created a fully developed world. Some could have been lost completely, others weaved more naturally into the story, perhaps by having them all at the beginning or having one character tell another the story.
To be fair, there is some good stuff. The setting is an unusual one and works rather well. Some of the characters are appealing (especially the villains I thought) and certain elements of the plot quite interesting. I read the last third in one sitting - this seemed to have the action and revelations that were missing earlier on and made me think that maybe I'll give the sequel a chance after all. Nonetheless, I'm struggling to see just what it is that led to all the five star reviews.
Interestingly, this series always seems to be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Abercrombie's books, which I've also found difficult to get into despite seemingly near universal rave reviews. So if you liked those, you'll probably love this, if not, maybe give it a miss.