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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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The latest offering from James and one that brings the War of the Elves and Mankind directly to the reader's attention in his own indomitable style. It's beautifully written with touches of emotional context richly woven within. Death, honour, betrayal and double dealing abound within this title and its clearly a demonstration of James' talent that he manages it with skill to spare. But when you tie it all up with his own style of descriptive combat that has enthralled readers since his Raven days and you have something that readers will latch upon and love. A great offering from this author and one that I can't wait to see how it develops further in future offerings especially a certain battle mad elf who the readers will most certain vote for as one of their favourite Barclay characters to date.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 June 2011
When the last Raven was complete i thought it was the end of an era, where would, where could James go next?
Don't get me wrong he is no one trick pony, his Du-ology Cry of the New Born and shout for the dead are brilliant. But while more accomplished technically as pieces of writing, they lacked the heart and soul of the Raven.

Once walked with Gods is a return to that passion, this is obviously where James love of writing comes to the fore, this isn't a Job for him its a passion, and it comes across in every word, paragraph, page and chapter.

If you love fantasy buy the book, if you love Fiction then try the book. This isn't little twee elves in the woods, this isn't mysticism and confusingly named fantasy, this is Blood battle, politics, betrayal and conflict on an epic scale. and not to be missed at all.

Having read this back in May im already desperate for the next book and its all the longer to wait for having read it so early...so i hope your getting on with it James
(Parm)
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on 6 October 2012
A superb read that lets up only long enough for you to take your next breath before plunging you headlong back into dizzying action. Having said that, some of the fight sequences do at times become so kaleidoscopic as to disorient. Nevertheless, this is grown up fantasy at its best. The characters are fully realized and faced with difficult choices that will challenge your loyalties. And don't be fooled by the title. These elves have nothing airy about them; unless, that is, they're leaping into that air to land behind you and lay you waste with a swift kick the head or a blade to the back. Highly recommended.
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Not an easy one to get into this, but once you settle into it, it moves like lightening.

The author does not help the reader by failing to position this with his readers who may, or may not have read his excellent Raven series. So I'll try, and I am sure if I get anything wrong someone will jump in and correct me.

Takkar is a hero of the Elves and the fearless leader of the TaiGethan (think ninja warrior Elves) and as he and his warriors are defending a portal from their world to the world of Balaia his courage fails and he breaks, leaving thousands of Elves to their fate.

In Balaia Takkar goes into shameful exile and the Elves build up their society, sharing a world with humans that they keep well away from in the forest. Shunt forward in time and the caste system (known as threads) is breaking down and treacherous Elves bring humans in to help defend their Thread as the superior one. Violent civil was breaks out and the Elven race is now at the brink of extinction, maybe the long exiled Takkar can help, but the immortal Elf is dealing with his shame in exile....

That's kind of where the book starts and I was confused at first putting the situation and the timelines into context. At this point in their history the Elves have no magic so when they encounter human mages with powerful spells, the fighting skills of the TaiGethan may not be enough.

The majority of this book is about the battle for the Elf city of Calaius, taken over by humans and defended by sword and magic as the Elves struggle to fight back amongst their own mistrust and treachery.

I almost went three stars with this, the Elven race fell apart too quickly, the contextual confusion, but Barclay has considerable skill in his dialogue and his action and you soon forget early concerns as you are swept into the pulsating story you would expect from James Barclay. I certainly ended it hungry for more and seeking the next instalment.

There is no need to have read anything else by James Barclay to read this, and in a strange way you might enjoy it more if you haven't as the timelines will not confuse you.
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on 27 December 2012
Described as elves with attitude, this gives an alternative spin to the traditional "saintly" elves. This is all good, the plot moves along, characters that have something to say. My only nitpick would be the endless battle scenes ......... I do realise there's a war on but I started flipping through them to the next bit of plot.
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on 18 August 2015
I really tried with this book as I had been so looking forward to it but I simply could not get into it at all. I found it totally confusing. As many readers seem to have enjoyed the series this is probably a personal viewpoint. I will still give his other Raven series a try as they are all on my shelf at home.
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on 23 July 2015
My only criticism with this book is that it could not have been a stand alone series unconnected to the world of the Raven so that many many more stories could have been placed here without the problems of existing timelines. Obviously this can be read without prior knowledge of the other books (though in some places it does help), just sad that it will probably be limited in its scope
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on 17 December 2011
`Elves: Once Walked With Gods' is the first book in a new trilogy by British fantasy author James Barclay. It is his tenth novel and returns to the world he created in the seven `Raven' books. However, he has wound back time by three thousand years, focusing the book on a key event in the earlier history of the Elves.

As the book opens, we see the start of the conflict that will dominate the storyline. This has been building for a decade, ever since Takaar, undisputed leader of the Elves until that point, ran out on them at the height of their greatest battle for millennia. Tens of thousands of elves died because of him. Although many more would have died if he had not run, he is blamed for the slaughter and vilified by many. Takaar's reign provided one thousand years of harmony between the different sub-species, or `threads', of elves, who vary widely in their lifespan and skills. Many, however, think that the harmony between elves is an unnatural construct, a political union that is doomed to failure.

This tension is brought to a head when one faction in the elves' main city of Ysundeneth decide to employ human mercenaries, both soldiers and mages, to invade a sacred temple in the surrounding forest. Humans are hated by the elves, who dismiss them as `blink-lives' due to their much shorter life-spans, yet have no defence against their magic spells. As factional tensions between the threads are ruthlessly exploited by ambitious elven politicians, the elite TaiGethen warrior force led by Katyett, Takaar's former lover, must try to help the mixed-thread police force prevent a descent into civil war and ethnic cleansing across the city. However, when Katyett appeals to the foremost priest in the city to help isolate the opportunists who are working with men to destroy the harmony between threads, she discovers just how deep the conspiracy goes.

Faced with the destruction of all they hold dear, Auum, who is at this time a relatively junior member of the TaiGethen, although he will be familiar to readers of Barclay's `Legends of the Raven' series as a later leader of that group, is sent on a desperate quest to find Takaar. The disgraced elf has been living alone in the forest for the past decade and the hope is that he can overcome his past and bring unity back to the elves. When Auum finds Takaar, however, he is a shattered shadow of his former self, who spends half his time talking to an imaginary companion. Can Auum help him recover his sanity and save the elves from all-out war?

I enjoyed this book hugely. Barclay draws his lead characters well, producing rounded, three-dimensional people that stand out from the page. He does this particularly well with the elves, showing us a race that is struggling with deep internal conflicts. It is also to Barclay's credit that he shows the human mercenaries, and their leader Garan in particular, to be real people too, not just cannon fodder for the fights with the elves.

Those who have read Barclay's previous books will be expecting lots of fight scenes and Barclay does not disappoint. The fight scenes are wonderfully written, demonstrating both the elves grace and their viciousness at the same time. Of particular note is the elven predilection for using their sharpened fingernails and teeth when no other weapons are available, leading to extremely bloody hand-to-hand fighting which Barclay puts you right in the middle of.

Finally, this book is extremely well-plotted. The story is multi-layered, and every time you think you know what's going to happen next, Barclay injects some new plot thread that takes the action in a different direction. I was captivated from beginning to end, and found it very difficult to put the book down.

`Elves: Once Walked With Gods' is an exciting and well-written start to what promises to be a thrilling trilogy of novels. James Barclay has provided us with a fully fleshed out epic tale from the early history of the world of `the Raven', delivering a fresh perspective on that staple race of fantasy stories, the elves. I can't wait to see what he does with them next.
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on 29 May 2016
I just love James Barclays style of writing, it is so easy to read and he drags you in to the book right from the first page. I'd read all the Raven books before and absoloutely loved them and thought that maybe I would just try the Elves series and I haven't been disappointed one little bit. I'm now on the third book of the trilogy and I just can't get enough. He brings his characters to life so well and the plot drags you further into the book. A marvellous read.
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on 27 November 2012
I have to say I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I thought a book about the elves in Barclay's universe would be full of action and badassery, and it was. The fight scenes were good, and there were the philosophical undercurrents that lifted it above his usual fighting fantasy style that Barclay usually writes in. However, I did find it a little dark at times, and found the elves and their society a little too alien sometimes, but otherwise enjoyed the story hugely.
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