Thursday, 31 December 2015

A Cruel Wind (an omnibus edition of the original Dread Empire trilogy)

(Originally posted on Saturday, 7 August 2010)

My rating: 7/10 (high re-reading value - second novel)
Please read my post from April 2009 to find out about my rating.
Please read my post from May 2009 to learn about Glen Cook’s style of writing.

My rating for the whole trilogy is “only” 7/10 (good), but the second novel is a pearl rated 9/10 (very good). I will review and rate all three novels separately.

A Shadow of All Night Falling
My rating: 5/10 (low re-reading value)

What’s bad:
1. Slow pace.
2. Too little fighting.
3. Hardly any military action.
4. Lack of focus. It is clear that Glen Cook started to write this book without any clue how the story should unfold. Glen Cook himself admitted in an interview he rarely plans the whole novel in advance. In his other books it is not so apparent, but in this novel he failed to come up with some consistent plot.
5. The motivations of the main characters in the second half of the book are strange or plain unbelievable, comparing to the way the story started. The journey of one of the characters seems to be a suicide, considering who he will have to face.
6. The way of speaking by one of the characters is very, very, very annoying. I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying. Reading such babble was not enjoyable at all. It was more like a hard work.

What’s good:
1. Glen Cook’s style of writing (except for the slow pace and very little military action).
2. Some unique and interesting ideas about the main characters and the world they live in.
3. The very last part of the book – the action taking place in the castle tower – is very enjoyable and gripping.
4. The Dread Empire itself is only a dark and mysterious power far in the east, waiting for the right time to strike. Glen Cook created a great feeling about that empire and I wanted to find out much, much more about it. Great teasing and building an appetite for later books.

This novel is an important introduction to the Dread Empire series, but
on its own it’s only average.

October's Baby
My rating: 9/10 (high re-reading value)

What’s bad:
1. It was far too easy for Ragnarson to recruit a whole new army of mercenaries so fast.
2. The starting political situation in Kavelin was quite unbelievable, considering how easy Ragnarson achieved such a strong position.
3. The Dread Empire turned out to be somewhat weaker than I was expecting from the first book. I was surprised there were two countries
in the far east which were able to wage wars against the Dread Empire,
more or less successfully.

What’s good:
1. Glen Cook’s style of writing.
2. A lot of military action.
3. Very good and complex military elements, sometimes even better than in The Black Company.
4. Nice touch on the inner fight for power both in Kavelin and in the Dread Empire.
5. Very interesting and complex battle at the end of the book.
6. The preparations before this battle are especially enjoyable. Glen Cook created unique feeling about it.

After disappointing first Dread Empire novel I enjoyed the second one very, very much. The flaws I mentioned above are nothing compared to the good sides, especially to the great military stuff and the feeling about the final battle. This is a very good novel.

All Darkness Met
My rating: 7/10 (low re-reading value)

What’s bad:
1. The Dread Empire is suddenly corrupted by a scheme of enormous proportions, which is kept secret without any leaks and double-crosses (totally unbelievable). This scheme was probably supposed to explain the introduction of some new important characters and plot lines, but it didn’t work for me.
2. The character behind this scheme (and some other manipulations) is waaay too powerful and his motives are very strange and quite unbelievable.
3. The introduction of genetically(?) modified creatures created by one of the new characters. Some of those creatures are totally immune to magic and are virtually invincible. It makes the Dread Empire much more powerful, but it ruins its previous image of “dread”.
4. One of the new characters fighting on the side of the Dread Empire is unstoppable, but the explanation for his power is not good. What’s worse it seems that Glen Cook didn’t know what to do with this character at the end of the book and chose the worst possibility there was.
5. The geography of the east side of the mountains (the Dread Empire side) is nothing I have imagined after the first novel. I had similar problem reading the second novel.
6. The war on the western side of the mountains is described waaay too quickly and too generally (except for the battle at Baxendala which is quite interesting).
7. The most important moment of the war is solved by a quasi DEUS EX MACHINA. Even though there is some logic to it, it was totally unbelievable. I don’t want to spoil anything so I can’t explain it.
8. As a person Ragnarson is an asshole and Mocker is pathetic. They suddenly became different people from what they were in the previous two novels.
9. The end of the war is quite fitting, but the ending in broader aspect is very strange and somewhat disappointing.

What’s good:
1. Glen Cook’s style of writing (except the lack of realistic approach to some of the general plot aspects, as described above).
2. Full scale war against the Dread Empire.
3. A lot of action.
4. The book is gripping despite its obvious flaws.
5. Hilarious moment of the first public appearance of Radasher – one of the funniest scenes I have ever read in a book (any book, not only fantasy). It’s a nice little something added to a book that is definitely not a comedy.

The charm about the Dread Empire is gone – it is easily manipulated and it starts to use genetically(?) modified creatures. Glen Cook’s style of writing and a lot of action make this novel quite gripping, but there are too many unbelievable plot aspects to rate it any higher. It seems Glen Cook was trying very hard to write an exceptional book, but he went way over the top in my opinion. Comparing to the previous novel this is much worse, but on its own it’s still good.

The whole Dread Empire trilogy is a little like a rollercoaster – first novel is strange and slow-paced (for Glen Cook), the second novel is simply brilliant and the third novel is good (solid), but falls flat comparing to the previous one. As a whole I would rate A Cruel Wind as a good book (a good trilogy).

PS. I’ve also read “A Fortress in Shadow” – an omnibus edition of two prequels to the above described Dread Empire trilogy. First of all I wouldn’t call those prequels as Dread Empire novels, simply because the Dread Empire itself is not even mentioned in those prequels. Second of all I think Glen Cook wanted to show a creation of a quasi religion, but because he is a known atheist it felt like he was just mocking all the existing religions. I’ve read those prequels almost at the same time as Petty Pewter Gods (eighth novel of the Garrett P.I. series) and I was really pissed off (see my review of that Garrett book to know what I mean). Moreover the Dread Empire prequels on their own are simply bad novels. Most of the plot aspects (both general and specific) are unbelievable. The problems I had with the third novel of the original trilogy are nothing compared to those prequels. I wish I had never read them and I suggest to avoid them.

PS2. “A Fortress in Shadow” cost me significantly more than “A Cruel Wind” even though the overall number of pages is only HALF of the original trilogy. Believe me, this book was totally not worth the money.

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