Saturday 4 April 2009


A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs the footsteps of Ringil Eskiath–Gil, for short–a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose world-weary cynicism is surpassed only by the quickness of his temper and the speed of his sword. That sword, forged by a vanished eldritch race known as the Kiriath, has brought him unlooked-for notoriety, as has his habit of poking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but that doesn’t stop his mother from enlisting his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery. Grumbling all the way, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one luckless young woman. Grim sorceries that have not been seen for centuries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of an all-but-legendary race known as the Aldrain, cruel yet beautiful demons feared even by the Kiriath.

Now Gil and two old comrades–Egar, a fierce warrior from the savage Majak tribes, and Archeth, a half-Kiriath fighter still mourning her departed brethren–are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.

I have to admit, I found this book a little hard to get into at first. It wasn't that the story didn't grab me, because it did. I enjoyed the first struggle that Ringil faces in the cemetery, but I felt overwhelmed by the introduction of the character/s. Still, when you're setting up a complex, dark new world such as this one, I suppose it's expected that you'd need to provide background commentary to explain how each character got to where they are now.

The Steel Remains is a gritty fantasy, very different to any of the fantasy novels I'm used to reading. There is nothing conventional about this story - the characters are harsh heroes, the setting is dark and unfamiliar, and even the language isn't what you'd expect in a standard fantasy tale. Also, Ringil is a little hard to like sometimes because he's not what one usually expects of a man who has been labelled a hero. Even then, you can't help but admire an author who creates such complex and seemingly unsympathetic characters but keeps you strapped in for the ride.

If you're a devout epic fantasy fan, you'll definitely enjoy the dark wit, action, violence, and concepts featured in this book. But if you enjoy your fantasy in small, safe bites then this book might not be for you.

The Steel Remains is now available, ISBN 0575079509, Gollancz Paperback

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