Before I get to the book reviews, I have some fantastic news to share. Dragons Walk Among Us is on the shortlist for the Dante Rossetti Book Award. This is the coolest
thing ever. Less than one year ago, I could only dream of having a novel I authored up for an award of any kind. Now, on to the reviews.
Lately, I've been reading some really great books. Today, I have two speculative fiction works, one from an author I've been reading for years and another I only discovered in the waning days of last December.
The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie
In the conclusion of the Age of Madness trilogy, the reader learns what The Great Change will mean for the Union and the barbarian north.
For me, the Age of Madness trilogy got off to a stuttering start. I honestly didn't enjoy A Little Hatred and picked up the second volume, The Trouble With Peace, with some trepidation. As it turns out, The Trouble With Peace is the best Abercrombie book I've read since the spectacular Red Country. Well, let me tell you, Abercrombie ends his latest trilogy with a bang that left me anxious for more grim tales of upheaval and strife.
Simply put, The Wisdom of Crowds is one of Joe's best novels to date. He manages to pull off what should be impossible. He makes despicable characters such as King Orso and Lady Savine into sympathetic, even likable ones while turning the oafish, yet previously amiable, Brock into a black-hearted bastard. By the end of the novel, I found myself even reevaluating my high opinion of Rikke after her travails.
What can the aspiring author learn (Spoilers)
If you want to write grimdark, Joe Abercrombie may well be the best author to study. His characters, even the ones who at first blush are likable, are typically bastards. Often even his most vile creations find some redemption, never complete redemption but some. The arcs of his characters are worth paying attention to. For example, I never would have imagined I would find myself liking Orso as his execution approached, but I did, and I felt mildly sorry when he died. You have to understand, Orso is a real piece of work and culpable for the sufferings of his kingdom. The fact I wasn't cheering when he died is testimony to the power of Abercrombie's writing.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
A supernatural force is out for revenge after elk hunters tread and kill where they don't belong.
This one is straight from my must-read list. If you're only going to read one Stephen Graham Jones novel, read My Heart is a Chainsaw. If you enjoy slow-burn horror, read My Heart is a Chainsaw and The Only Good Indians.
What can the aspiring author learn
Jones is an absolute master of slowly building up to some disconcerting scenes. If you want to write novels as psychologically disturbing as they are gory, start studying Stephen Graham Jones' works immediately.