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on 18 July 2017
A must read for anyone who enjoyed the Castle books. In this tale we meet Jant in his pre-Castle days, and follow the bastard half-breed Rhydanne street urchin through the events that led to his becoming the immortal flying messenger Comet. Beautiful writing, mesmerizing story. Five stars!
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on 26 July 2017
I am sorry I wish I could give this novel a higher rating because Swainston has an extremely powerful imagination and the ability to write very precise descriptive prose. Unfortunately I could not appreciate the effect of her prose because her paragraphs contain so much information that my mind got quickly tired of the exercise of trying to grasp the meaning of the phrases that she has used.It is a pity that she has not worked with an editor who would have got her tp appreciate that in her genre the reading public wants something which can be a chapter of a book at bedtime. Many of todays successful writers have skilfully reduced the adjectives and written short chapters. Hopefully Swainston could bring out her next novel bearing that in mind.
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VINE VOICEon 30 March 2010
Above the Snowline takes a step back to look at Jant's early life in the Circle. The story is centred on rivalry between the King of Rachiswater and his brother Raven, who is exiled to the frozen wastes of Carnich after a failed coup. With the help of his followers Raven erects a fortification that greatly displeases the indigenous Rhydanne who fear for their hunting grounds and way of life.
Jant becomes involved in this debacle when one of the Rhydanne (Dellin) travels to the Castle to petition the Emperor for aid.
That aid comes in the form of our flying diplomat, Jant.

So, that's the premise in a nutshell, but is the story any good? Personally, I thought it the weakest of Steph's efforts so far as I didn't feel it revealed why Jant is the way he is. Assuming of course that our past defines our present and we're all an amalgam of experiences old and new, I just didn't get the point in telling a story that doesn't define why Jant became the immortal he did. I wanted to read an early experience of his and say to myself: ah yes, that could suggest why he's like that or does this. Maybe I just had trouble connecting the dots; or maybe my expectations for the book were way off kilter, or maybe even I'm being way too subjective - whichever it is I couldn't ignore the growing disappointment as I read through the book.

Right - here comes the "however"...

Having said that, the writing is as accomplished as ever; being at times poetically savage and unapologetically brutal, it has the power to keep the pages turning. The story also jumps around with the points of view; instead of being completely inside Jant's head we get to experience situations through others' perspective. On the one hand this is a good thing; I thoroughly enjoyed reading the sections that weren't Jant. Indeed, probably too much as it seems to have had the unfortunate affect of turning me off him.
There's good reason for this, as even when the story shifts to his POV he fails to redeem himself. Far from being the polymath diplomat-cum-emissary he believes himself to be, his actions - both from his POV and particularly when viewed from another's - drastically contravene his boasts. For example: he is attracted to Dellin so therefore is biased in how he deals with poor old Raven. Even when the Rhydanne murder and cannibalise Ravens men Jant doesn't seem that bothered, and flits from pillar to post making a complete mess of everything; having to run to Lightning to request he sort it all out.

Perhaps this was an intentional move by Steph to show how inexperienced Jant was in his first century as opposed to how slick he is now. Perhaps but it doesn't make me like him any better.
I guess it's a personal thing as I was far more interested in Raven and his hardships than I was any other strand of the story. But what can I say; I was turned off Jant and felt sorry for Raven - so what can you do? That by no means makes this a bad story, just one I didn't enjoy as much as I thought I would. I've pointed out the writing remains head and shoulders above most novels out there today (at least the ones I try) and this is never more evident than in the speeches Dellin orates to her people. Eloquently written/argued and really leave an impression with echoes perhaps of our own folly, warning as they do the dangers of becoming dependent upon people who favour profit above all else.

So my impression that Above the Snowline is a tad below par remains firm, but has also whetted my appetite for where Steph will take us next in the Fourlands. With such a rich and vibrant; gritty and challenging world, full of plenty of complex immortals and mortals alike I think there's so much more to come and would still recommend her as one of the finest reads out there today.
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on 18 August 2010
I have read the author's other books about Jant and the Castle, and enjoyed them. To be honest these are the first books in the fantasy genre I have read for many years and I've been impressed by the fresh writing style and original subject matter.

I didn't enjoy this one as much though. I can understand what the author is up to - this is an opportunity to explore Jant's earlier life and some events that have influenced his character. And the changes of viewpoint let us see Jant as others see him, which is interesting.

But the changing viewpoints interrupt the flow of the story, I think we hear from too many different people and their voices are not really distinct enough. Overall it's not the exciting page-turner that the other books are.
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Since Steph first came to my attention with her Troy series I've kept a close eye on all her releases as I really do like her pace, her descriptive prose and above all her characterisation. Within this offering is a tale, which is totally self-contained. It is always good when an author does this as it allows new readers a chance to try them without having to get behind a huge catalogue. Steph's writing really is some of the best out there and whilst I still think her Troy books are superior, this is a cracking fantasy novel with characters that are not only flawed but also heroic as they struggle against their fates.
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on 27 March 2010
Really good. If you follow the original closely you'll really notice how well the ties into the books already. Year of our war also contains all of the new books titles (surprise!)
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VINE VOICEon 31 March 2010
Despite featuring one of the most obvious instances of irony I can think of (Jant dismisses Lightning's declaration of tragic love as dramatic nonsense, before immediately falling in love), Above the Snowline is a rather lovely novel.

A prequel to In the Year of Our War, this story features Jant, the winged immortal, tasked with travelling to Darkling, one of the Fourlands, to mediate a dispute between the Awians (essentially winged, but flightless people) and the Rhydanne (cat-like people). Jant just happens to be a mongrel of both races and has a distinct hatred of the Rhydanne because of how they cast him out because of his Awian attributes. Yet all it takes is one pretty face and determined spirit for Jant to fall in love, and that comes in the form of the widowed Shira Dellin who petitions the Emperor for aid when the Awians in Darkling steal the hunting grounds of the Rhydanne.

It's a charged situation, complicated by the fact that the governor of the area, Raven, has other plans in mind and sees the Rhydanne as less than human.

And the tragedy unfolds.

There's less humour in this story and more politics than usual but it is a page-turner and well worth reading.
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on 18 March 2010
I have just finished this, and am happy to say that this prequel to the other castle books is absolutely breathtaking. Her prose is as perfect as ever, and far ahead of anything being written at the moment. This book deserves to be read, as do her previous ones.

The book focuses on Jant's early life in the castle, and his coming to terms with his Rhydanne roots. But it today, and read it.
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on 5 December 2010
I have read the Castle Trilogy (which isn't out on Kindle yet) and this prequel is out - but is £3 more expensive on Kindle than in book form.

The publisher needs to sort their pricing out..
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on 3 October 2015
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