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Monday , 11 May 2015 , 05 : 37 AM
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan I've read a bit of criticism out there about this being a pretty simple troped recreation of so many previous fantasy novels. To that, I say, yes, it's a well-known set of ingredients: a group of young men forced together, a linear plot line through more difficult and more fantastical challenges, protagonist becomes an almost invincible swordsman as his friends are picked off one by one. He then challenges the authority over him as he learns all is not courage and honour, then comes out the hero, all the while getting the girl and protecting her. However, I'll also say that the recipe uses these ingredients so well that I really don't care.  Before I continue, I'm gong to say one more thing at the risk of blitzing my credibility two paragraphs in: this is the book that I, and so many others who have failed to write this trope well, wish, to all the literary gods, we had written as our first book.  Blood Song is the story of Vaelin Al Sorna, a boy given to the militant Sixth Order to be turned into a weapon to defend the faith. Vaelin gains himself a group of brothers sharing their hatred of Master Sollis and the majority of the other hard - or slightly loony - task masters. They face brutal test after brutal test until the test of the Sword, where Vaelin first really discovers what it is to have his ideals betrayed.  His heroics and idealism lead him to military command and a pact with King Janus. Here's where it starts to get really interesting. Although not playing a huge role in page-time, Janus is the spider who weaves the web of intrigue that creates political depth in the plot. He is the one...
Saturday , 31 January 2015 , 03 : 31 AM
Let There be Darkness Tim Marquitz While there’s been an upswing in popularity of darker stories of late, Warhammer 40k having coined the term grimdark back in the early 2000s, the concept has been around for a long time. It’s no surprise the style has become more widespread. For me, the surprise is actually that it’s taken this long to propagate. The concept of an overwhelmingly bleak darkness has been in my imagination since I first read Michael Moorcock’s Elric back when I was a child. I remember struggling my way through the concepts of time and the multiverse and the multiple incarnations of Elric and, of course, about the disturbing relationship he had with Stormbringer. You want to talk about bleak and hopeless, these books were the epitome of what grimdark aspires to be. That influence impacted everything I did creatively and still does. My early Dungeons and Dragons games were twisted and dangerous, lots of otherworldly creatures and disturbing NPCs inhabiting my made up world. My poetry and early attempts at writing reached for the heights I’d been introduced to by Moorcock, so much so as to be derivative at times. Though those days are long past, my own voice having since found its roots, there is still a piece of Elric in everything I write. My characters are tortured souls caught between worlds, desperate to overcome their weaknesses and do what’s right despite the influences that would lead them astray. And while my stories might not all fit the current definition of grimdark, the idea that the darkness is stronger than the light most certainly plays out time and time again. The gritty realism of life impacts us all whether we like it or not. As such, it’s only fitting that it infiltrates not only what I...
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Thursday , 22 January 2015 , 06 : 09 PM
The Grim Company By Luke Scull Review by Adrian Collins (Includes Spoilers!) I destroyed this book like one of Jerek's axes splitting a head open. It's been a little while since I've done that. Luke Scull has rocketed into my list of favourite authors. The Grim Company tells the story of the building war between god-slaying magelords and the roles a would-be hero, an aged barbarian exile, a crippled mage, a rebel, and the leader of the antagonist's elite guard would play in it - all the way up to the thoroughly enjoyable final battle. There are a great many things I liked about The Grim Company. There's a flexible magic and demon system. It's amenable, really inventive, doesn't require pages of explanation to understand it, doesn't saturate (there's a cheeky pun there, for those who have read the book) the story and leaves much to the imagination. The characters are enjoyable and easy to read about, with plenty of misfortune to make a reader chuckle and keep burning through the pages (I do also love an aged barbarian exile character; it's one of my favourite character themes). Most importantly, for me, those characters are morally ambiguous. I think that the best example of this ambiguity is also one of the most minor ones. The insight into Magelord Salazar we receive in the final chapters provides a wonderful moment of grey to the main antagonist and a linking to the perspectives and memories of many of the other protagonists. The different factions led by the mages who left the gods rotting in the dirt and seas are enjoyable, showing a wide range of Scull's world - from steppe-like nomads-cross-barbarians who have were-beasts and shamans, to the haven-like White Lady's city where all seems wonderful and rose-smelling (I say "seems" as I really get the impression we'll...
Monday , 06 October 2014 , 12 : 36 AM
Shatterwing Donna Maree Hanson Review by Cheresse Burke Warning - Spoilers Below   From the outside, Shatterwing seems to be an appealing dark fantasy story. Atypical fantasy world? Check. Intriguing plot? Check. Strong heroine? Sign me up. Unfortunately, appearances often differ from reality and despite a unique setting, Shatterwing’s characterization and narration left me cold. What began as a potentially interesting journey got lost in the quest to fulfill plot point after plot point, followed dutifully by characters in whom I had no real investment.   Wasteland under a Broken Moon Shatterwing is, for me, more about a place than the people in it. A once peaceful land, Margra, has been torn apart - physically, morally and politically - by the catastrophic explosion of the planet’s moon. Part of the moon has become a small cluster of asteroids, dubbed Shatterwing, and occasionally meteors fall to the planet’s surface. In addition to the meteors, Margra’s inhabitants must beware of dragons, who in this world are brutal beasts, interested in humans primarily as a food source. They have the run of the wastelands that stretch between the few cities or towns that we see in the book. The setting intrigued me, and my favorite parts of Shatterwing focused on the new world and how it worked. The author comes at it from both the present and the past, spending a small part of the book on the last member of a lost race who has survived by accident, only to discover that the shining civilizations of the Margra he knew have been replaced by ghost cities and backwards towns. I considered it a nice way to show the reader how the world used to be and to set the juxtaposition between the two periods. The world is also sufficiently dark for those...
Thursday , 28 August 2014 , 05 : 59 AM
ROGUES Edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois Once again George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois have done a fantastic job in gathering stories from some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction. The characters are consistently grey. The stories vary through grim and gritty to fantastical and funny. And the central theme in each one, whether male or female, is a rogue. Abercrombie, Rothfuss, Lynch, Abraham, and Martin all contribute some fantastic works amongst a host of superlative authors. The stand outs for me were: Joe Abercrombie's piece 'Tough Times All Over' (First Law) which follows a package through the streets of Sipani as it's stolen time and time again by the city's interesting and colourful denizens; Gillian Flynn's 'What Do You Do?', a spine-tingling story about a con artist and a family she shouldn't have conned; Patrick Rothfuss's 'The Lightning Tree' (Kingkiller Chronicle) where we get to see a day in the life of Bast as he ventures from the Waystone Inn to learn lessons, trade secrets for riddles, and help the children (while also helping himself to the maidens) of the surrounding area; and, George RR Martin's 'The Rogue Prince, Or, a King's Brother' (A Song of Ice and Fire) where he tells us the story of Daemon Targaryen and his impact in the lead up to the Dance of Dragons. George RR Martin's short releases where the story is told with the voice of a maester recounting a historical research piece are really engaging. At first i thought they may read a bit poorly, as if Martin might just be trying to make a bit of extra coin out of his own historical notes. However, Martin very quickly gets you into the right headspace and has your imagination whirling as he adds layer upon layer of mouth-watering story...
Thursday , 28 August 2014 , 05 : 43 AM
Welcome to the Grimdark Magazine blog! Adrian here, founder of Grimdark Magazine. Here you can expect to see book reviews, opinion pieces, and interviews from myself and the GdM team. To kick this off, I thought I'd answer a question I've been asked a few times at this point (a mere two months since I listed us on Duotrope, Ralan, and Submission Grinder). Why did I pick Grimdark? Publishing short fiction rarely pays dividends (there is a long list of closed listings for semi-to-pro paying markets), so why risk it on such a love it or hate it niche market? Two reasons. The niche market needed a pro-paying short fiction magazine. Fair enough. Passion. I love the Grimdark genre. It strikes a chord in me as a person. I'll explain. A really enjoyable topic on Goodreads started about one of my favourite series (Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire). It focussed on why we love reading about bad people such as Jorg Ancrath. It really got me thinking. Why do we love reading about bad people? Let's start by saying that connecting with a character is about finding something in there that you can relate to. For readers of Grimdark it's not rape, or murder, or necessarily any other action often portrayed in the works we love. It's the acceptance that everybody you know, including yourself, is a certain shade of grey between being a golden hero and a cold hearted villain. Nobody sits at either end of the scale. In my opinion, the idea of the golden hero in modern day society is a flawed one. So often a person is placed in the media as the hero of this incident, or the saviour of that person, or the king of some sporting game. It's all too common for that same person to be...