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September 8th, 2008 - Phil's Rambling Rants

September 8th, 2008

September 8th, 2008
12:29 pm

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Book review: Blood and Iron
Today's book review is Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear.

It says on the cover that this is "a novel of the Promethean Age", but as far as I can tell from the blurbs for the others, this is a standalone novel set in the same world as other books, not one volume of a multi-part novel.

This is a modern urban fantasy, but it's not just another modern urban fantasy.  It borrows heavily from Arthurian lore, many other folklore sources, and a number of familiar ballads, but it breaks all the stuff it borrows from into pieces, reassembles the pieces in unexpected ways, and stands the whole construct on its head.  The individual characters and subplots are all fresh, and the overall theme of the novel, the conflict between the world of science and the world of magic, is viewed from an unusual angle that makes it amazingly hard to decide who the good guys really are.  There's a lot to love here.  However, there's also a plot with more twists and tangles than a free fall silly string fight, and frankly it's so complicated that it overwhelmed my poor little brain.  Scene by scene it's coherent and compelling, but so much happens, so often unexpectedly, that trying to remember it is like trying to remember a dream.

There's a point in the middle of the book, right in the middle of a scene, where we suddenly shift from third person to first person for the main viewpoint character for the rest of the book.  The rest of the book is tight enough that I'm sure this is deliberate.  I think I can even understand what it's supposed to mean.  But I found it very disconcerting.

I'm sure some people will think this is a truly great book, and there is justification for that.  But it's just too much for me.  8 out of 10.

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