I can’t stop noticing narration lately, partly because I keep reading books in which the narrators demand attention: unreliable narrators, narratives cobbled together into a document, second-person narration that leaps off the page to address me directly. I’m delighted to see this kind of experimentation, since it invigorates genres of longer lineage, like the venerable epic fantasy, and helps mint new coin out of the old metal of fairy tales.
Jenn Lyons’s door-stopping debut, THE RUIN OF KINGS (Tor, .99), is the first volume in a series called Chorus of Dragons. A story weaving empires, kings and queens, gods and goddesses into its telling, it’s as epic as fantasy gets, a 560-page behemoth that takes me back to my teenage reading, when I measured my fantasyland sojourns in mass-market inches.
“The Ruin of Kings” is the story of a young man called Kihrin, as told by three narrators: Kihrin himself, imprisoned and speaking into a magical stone that records his words; his jailer, Talon, a shape-shifting creature who can read minds, speaking into the same magical stone; and a scholar named Thurvishar D’Lorus, who has transcribed and footnoted the stone’s recordings. Kihrin recounts his recent history, beginning with a slave auction where he was put up for sale, while Talon, unnervingly, describes Kihrin’s childhood as a thief and apprentice musician. Undergirding their back and forth is the scholar, hinting at future developments and his own identity in footnotes.
I’m an absolute sucker for innovative structures, and really appreciated this setup — in addition to maintaining that “but how did they get here” tension, the story-swapping makes for short, snappy chapters that put me in mind of the adage about the best way to eat an elephant. The narrative infelicities that don’t stand up to scrutiny — for instance, the idea that any person would tell his life story the way Kihrin does — are shored up by the scholar’s presence, and his epigraph stating that he’s condensed and edited some things to make it a more enjoyable read for the mysterious royal personage to whom he has delivered it.
There are, however, too many mysteries. There’s the mystery of Kihrin’s parentage, the mystery of Talon’s origins, the mystery of how the end of Talon’s story will meet up with the beginning of Kihrin’s — and the mystery of almost every character who comes onstage. At several points I found myself on the receiving end of a mystery resolving itself before I’d really had a chance to wonder about it at all. And that’s without getting into the other story lines about ancient immortal races and body swaps and the ever-present threat of demons in the world.
“The Ruin of Kings” muddles stakes and scale, often substituting the latter for the former. I was much more invested in Kihrin’s human problems than I was in the sweeping, celestial aspects of the world-building, and embedding those problems within decades’ worth of divine lineage obscures their impact. Parsing the genealogy of immortals quickly grows frustrating and tedious; I often felt as if I were reading the middle book of a trilogy without having read the first.
That said, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the ambition of it all, the sheer, effervescent joy Lyons takes in the scope of her project. Sometimes you just want a larger-than-life adventure story about thieves, wizards, assassins and kings to dwell in for a good long while, and this certainly scratched that itch. I’ll be curious to see how she structures the next volume.
On the opposite end of the epic spectrum is THE RAVEN TOWER (Orbit, ), the first foray into novel-length fantasy from the award-winning Ann Leckie. It’s absolutely wonderful. Narrated by a god addressing a young trans man named Eolo, it reminded me of nothing so much as “Hamlet” — if “Hamlet” were told from the point of view of Elsinore Castle addressing itself to a Horatio who mostly couldn’t hear it.
Eolo and his liege, Mawat, live in a land where gods are indisputably real and open to being bargained with, strengthened by offerings and sacrifice. Mawat is heir to the Raven’s Lease, a priest-king pledged to the Raven god whose power guards and supports the people of Iraden. Eolo and Mawat, on the front lines of a war with the Tel people, have been summoned home in anticipation of Mawat’s father’s death. When they arrive, they find Mawat’s father vanished, Mawat’s uncle Hibal on the throne and other problems brewing. But this is as much the god’s story as it is Eolo’s: The god (embodied in a stone and referred to as the Hill) punctuates its narration of Eolo’s experiences with its own memories, recalling its prehistoric origins and Neolithic experiences.
The god’s voice is mesmerizing, tender and careful, full of admiration for Eolo. The slow reveals of their similarities and the god’s basis for interest (entirely located in the contents of Eolo’s character, not in his trans-ness) are delicious and satisfying. I was struck by how deftly Leckie anchors the vastness of divinity to the intimacy of language and grammar, how the gods need to be taught to speak before they can be bargained with. “The Raven Tower” also features a war between gods, but it’s managed so tightly with reference to the narrating god’s perspective that it feels closer to the register of folk tale than epic, and is all the more riveting for that.
“The Raven Tower” is also that rarest of creatures, a stand-alone fantasy novel that’s relatively short; while I could have gone on reading the Hill’s voice, or experiencing more of Eolo’s perspective, for ages, it ended exactly where it needed to. In some ways the book has the affect of an elegant short story overlying the complications and concerns of a novel: These are not characters who change and develop, for all that it’s partly the tale of the god’s development over geologic time. It’s proof that a story can be entirely told instead of shown and still be utterly brilliant.
[ Read our reviews of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword and Provenance. ]
SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT (Mythic Delirium, paper, .95), Theodora Goss’s third collection, mixes new poetry and stories with some older, previously published material. These pieces, all centered on fairy tales, refract and reshape familiar stories as much as they retell them; fairy tales, after all, get told and retold because there are elements in them — young people and old people, trials and quests, a visceral desire for justice — that are universal, while their configurations are almost endlessly changeable. Fairy tales are clothing, and to retell them is fashion.
The fashion of these particular stories and poems is an abundance of lace, roses and porcelain contrasting with fur, snow and blood. The lace is sometimes vicious, the blood sometimes dainty, but everything is always graceful and pretty — even an ogress fantasizing about eating people is actually dreaming of marzipan and butter. There is a tidiness to the earlier pieces in the collection that leaves little impression; they feel like a series of delicately posed portraits, a taxonomy of roses that dwell in their names for effect. But with “Blanchefleur,” a particularly beautiful play on “The White Cat,” the collection comes to life: The portraits breathe, the roses shake fragrance into the wind.
The collection is at its strongest when troubling the boundaries between memory and memoir, exploring the terrain between childhood and adulthood. Recurring along with bears, snow and roses are a love of Boston and Budapest, and the sadness of moving between those places, and between the phases of life they represent. “I have always prided myself on my ability to let things go,” a graduate student named Vera writes in “A Country Called Winter.” “I’ve had plenty of practice. When I was a little girl, I let go of an entire country.”
As poised and lovely as most of the collection is, lines like that strike home, blood-tipped spindles swaddled in thread. And for all that the collection’s beginning pieces misfired for me, I deeply appreciated the echoing patterns in the curation of the whole, with wildly varied takes on similar motifs or stories pouring color out of crystal. The book opens and closes with mirrors, ending with a gorgeous Snow White poem that slayed me with this silver needle of a sequence: “But am I as fair as I was / yesterday, or the day before yesterday, / all the yesterdays on which I was younger / than I am today.”B:
“【这】【是】”【克】【里】【苏】【望】【着】【水】【晶】【上】【那】【画】【面】【一】【脸】【稀】【奇】，【惊】【讶】【道】：“【何】【等】【璀】【璨】【的】【奥】【术】【文】【明】！” 【男】【孩】【白】【眼】【一】【翻】，【直】【接】【没】【有】【理】【他】，【而】【是】【缓】【缓】【的】【靠】【近】【水】【晶】，【看】【着】【里】【面】【一】【切】【画】【面】，【喃】【喃】【道】：“【低】【科】【技】【时】【代】？【怎】【么】【会】【这】【样】？” “【低】【科】【技】？”【克】【里】【苏】【一】【愣】，【愣】【愣】【道】：“【不】【是】【奥】【术】【吗】？” 【这】【些】【能】【驱】【使】【钢】【铁】【的】【能】【量】，【还】【有】【艾】
“【水】【月】，【我】【们】【走】！” 【没】【有】【理】【会】【地】【上】【那】【家】【伙】，【七】【霜】【招】【呼】【了】【一】【声】，【立】【时】【窜】【了】【出】【去】。 “【哦】！” 【小】【男】【孩】【应】【了】【一】【声】，【急】【忙】【跟】【上】。 【待】【得】【两】【人】【的】【身】【影】【消】【失】【在】【眼】【前】，【地】【上】【那】【人】【这】【才】【长】【舒】【了】【一】【口】【气】，【而】【后】【连】【滚】【带】【爬】【地】【逃】【向】【远】【方】。 【七】【霜】【两】【人】【一】【路】【疾】【行】，【大】【约】【跑】【出】【去】【近】【一】【里】【之】【后】，【远】【远】【就】【看】【到】【一】【名】【背】【着】【红】【色】【大】【镰】【刀】【的】【男】【子】，
【既】【然】【张】【老】【都】【已】【经】【这】【么】【说】【了】【顾】【氏】【他】【们】【也】【没】【有】【什】【么】【办】【法】，【只】【能】【暂】【时】【先】【按】【照】【他】【说】【的】【再】【等】【两】【天】。 【好】【在】【他】【们】【也】【没】【有】【等】【多】【久】，【还】【不】【到】【一】【天】【的】【时】【间】【人】【就】【已】【经】【醒】【了】，【而】【且】【醒】【了】【以】【后】【精】【神】【看】【着】【还】【特】【别】【的】【好】。 “【暖】【暖】【你】【醒】【了】，【怎】【么】【样】，【有】【没】【有】【哪】【里】【不】【舒】【服】？【渴】【不】【渴】，【要】【不】【要】【喝】【水】？【饿】【不】【饿】，【要】【不】【要】【吃】【点】【东】【西】？” 【这】【两】【天】【顾】【氏】【几】【乎】【算】
“【不】【过】【刚】【刚】【听】【你】【说】【的】【这】【些】【话】，【我】【决】【定】【改】【变】【主】【意】【了】，【只】【要】【你】【废】【除】【自】【己】【一】【身】【本】【事】，【在】【东】【方】【神】【界】【为】【奴】【十】【年】【的】【时】【间】，【我】【就】【答】【应】【不】【碰】【这】【树】，【怎】【么】【样】？” 【宋】【韬】【玉】【拳】【头】【一】【松】，【轻】【笑】【道】：“【好】，【我】【答】【应】【你】，【其】【实】，【有】【件】【事】【你】【不】【知】【道】，【你】【只】【知】【道】【当】【初】【我】【的】【父】【母】【将】【你】【拉】【去】【挡】【在】【兽】【口】，【但】【是】【你】【并】【不】【知】【道】【的】【是】，【当】【时】【我】【父】【亲】【这】【样】【做】【是】【时】【候】【根】【本】【来】小龙女平码平肖论坛【叶】【秋】【鸿】【和】【无】【痕】【虽】【然】【及】【时】【躲】【闪】，【但】【突】【袭】【而】【来】【的】【万】【千】【红】【线】【仿】【佛】【钢】【丝】【铁】【线】，【铺】【天】【盖】【地】【般】【瞬】【间】【便】【已】【经】【射】【到】【两】【人】【眼】【前】。 【叶】【秋】【鸿】【不】【敢】【大】【意】，【轻】【叱】【一】【声】，【召】【出】【师】【父】【陆】【天】【行】【赠】【送】【的】【灵】【器】“【吹】【雪】【剑】“，【划】【出】【无】【数】【凌】【冽】【之】【极】【的】【剑】【光】【往】【红】【丝】【砍】【去】！ 【灵】【器】【是】【比】【法】【器】【更】【要】【厉】【害】【的】【兵】【器】，【只】【有】【筑】【基】【期】【修】【士】【才】【能】【驱】【使】。 【比】【灵】【器】【更】【高】【一】【阶】【的】【是】【法】
【东】【方】【御】【现】【在】【很】【暴】【躁】，【不】【想】【见】【任】【何】【人】。 “【告】【诉】【他】，【不】【见】！” 【守】【卫】【似】【是】【料】【到】【他】【的】【反】【应】，【忙】【道】：“【姬】【公】【子】【托】【属】【下】【转】【告】【家】【主】，【他】【手】【上】【有】【您】【现】【在】【最】【想】【要】【的】【东】【西】。” 【最】【想】【要】【的】【东】【西】？【除】【了】【还】【魂】【丹】【还】【能】【是】【什】【么】？ 【难】【道】【那】【小】【子】【竟】【然】【有】【还】【魂】【丹】？！ 【东】【方】【御】‘【噌】’【地】【起】【身】，【大】【步】【往】【外】【走】。 【庭】【院】【外】，【少】【年】【一】【身】【红】【衣】【迎】【风】
【凌】【天】【站】【在】【场】【中】【面】【带】【微】【笑】【的】【看】【着】【那】【名】【少】【年】，【他】【对】【着】【少】【年】【轻】【轻】【的】【一】【点】，【一】【道】【强】【大】【的】【灵】【力】【从】【手】【指】【冲】【出】。 【灵】【力】【的】【光】【芒】【照】【耀】【了】【整】【座】【大】【殿】，【无】【数】【人】【合】【上】【了】【双】【眼】。 【无】【可】【匹】【敌】【的】【灵】【力】【落】【在】【少】【年】【的】【身】【上】，【一】【口】【鲜】【血】【从】【他】【的】【嘴】【里】【吐】【出】，【落】【在】【地】【上】。 【他】【目】【光】【震】【惊】【的】【看】【着】【凌】【天】，【双】【手】【捂】【着】【自】【己】【的】【胸】【口】，【瞪】【大】【双】【眼】：“【这】【怎】【么】【可】【能】【呢】？【怎】