The Ten Thousand


It was with a certain sense of trepidation that I sat down to read Paul Kearney's latest. In case you didn't know, I'm partially responsible for the publication of this novel. Indeed, Solaris editor Mark Newton got in touch with Kearney after reading my blog post pertaining to the author being dropped by both Transworld and Bantam Dell at the same time last year. I got a nod in the acknowledgements for that, but no word that a portion of the royalties would come my way. Which is a bit unfair, considering that Kearney's agent is getting 15% of those same royalties and he or she hasn't done anything. Ah, the unfairness that is life. . .;-)

Understandably, I wanted this book to be good. Far be it from me to wish to push crap on SFF readers, after all. Well, I'm pleased to report that this dark and gritty fantasy stand-alone in the tradition of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is likely Paul Kearney's best work to date.

The Assurian Empire has ruled over the world of Kuf for centuries. Yet there is dissension at its core, and the new king's brother hires ten thousand elite mercenaries of a violent race knowns as the Macht to overthrow the reigning monarch. This superb fighting force sets sails for a foreign empire, and begins to march toward the capital city. And when their patron dies on the battlefield, the Ten Thousand suddenly find themselves abandoned on enemy soil. Surrounded by imperial armies on all sides, they must fight their way back to the sea and their homeland beyond.

Paul Kearney is known for his brevity, and The Ten Thousand is a stand-alone offering. Which means the worldbuilding is minimal and doesn't get in the way of the storytelling. There are no info dumps in this book, and the author provides just enough information to take the story further. Still, even in the absence of long elaborations, it's evident that there is much more depth to The Ten Thousand than meets the eye. Although he writes with tight focus, the narrative and the glossary show that Kearney created a detailed universe.

The Ten Thousand is a character-driven tale which showcases a number of POV characters on both sides of the conflict. Of the principal protagonists, I found Jason, Vorus, Rictus and Tiryn to be particularly well-executed. No cookie-cutter characters in this one, just a bleak story filled with genuine men and women.

One would think that the plot, given the book's nature, would be rather straightforward. To my surprise, it wasn't the case. Yes, there is enough violence to satisfy any action aficionados. And yes, there is a body count that even GRRM would approve of. Yet some of the characters show a depth and moral complexity which elevate The Ten Thousand above most of its peers. Jason and Rictus, especially, made this novel an excellent reading experience.

Good pace, grim setting, superior characterization, bloody battles -- The Ten Thousand is Paul Kearney writing at the top of his game.

The Ten Thousand is a brutal and uncompromising tale of warfare and survival written by one of the most underrated talents in the fantasy genre. Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

22 commentaires:

Adam Whitehead said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Pat! Paul's rereleasing his classic Monarchies of God series next year. In retrospect it's possible that Monarchies is the better work, but The Ten Thousand is certainly more tightly focused due to its brevity.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible for you to mention Kearney without saying how much he owes you? It's great that you have influence, but the slow inflation of the size of you're head over the past few years has become very tiresome.

Kelly said...

Thanks for posting the review. I'm glad you enjoyed the read.

Aaron said...

@ anon: I think Pat is just proud of the fact that he helped the book to be published and that it turned out to be a really good one at that. Are you saying you wouldn't feel a little pride and perhaps mention it a couple times? Surely not. I don't always agree with Pat, but here I feel I understand him, so I thought I'd speak up.

marina-bonomi said...

A little bit inspired by Xenophon's Anabasis, maybe?
I'm curious, I'm definitely going to give it a try.
In fantasy novels so long as real history is a spring-board for imagination it's good for me.

Larry said...

Marina, it is indeed inspired by Xenophon (surprised that Pat didn't mention it, unless he's never read/heard of Xenophon before?), almost too much so in certain places, but the ending is different in many key aspects.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: Care to explain what you mean by that? I feel that Pat, even though he has become one of the most popular genre bloggers around, has always maintained a casual and down-to-earth style and approach. He doesn't go on rants like many other bloggers, nor does he stand up on his soapbox to start pissing contests with others.

Can't talk for anyone else, but it's his lowkey personality that keeps me coming back here.

Helen

Anonymous said...

Been looking forward to this book.

As for Mark Charan Newton-he likes deleting blog comments for no other reason than they disagree with his leftwing facist views.

Mark C Newton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marina-bonomi said...

Thank you, Larry! Good to know the book doesn't just rewrite the Anabasis.:-)

Anonymous said...

I have to say I agree with the first anon - Pat has increasingly become fuller and fuller of himself over the years. Yes, the down-to-earth approach is there, but nowadays it's always combined with "omg I'm so great"... Unfortunately. This used to be my favorite blog and now I skip through it out of habit once a week, if at all...

Phil said...

Like Helen I totally disagree with you anonymous. Can you give me an example of that "I'm so great" thing you seem to hate???

To me this remains the best fantasy and science fiction blog!

Anonymous said...

Pat's blog has the least "literary elitist" feeling. I consider it "people's" type of blog. that's why I like it even though his ranking system is not always consistent.
However, comments on Ten Thousand are a bit "beyond good taste" IMHO.

Roland said...

This comment about "The Ten Thousand Strong" and the money for the agent.

The blatant disregard of people's opinions at times (eleven million people told him "The Host" ISN'T a YA book at all, but he still wrote they won't read it because it's that).

The whole "GRRM says this and that about me" routine which is really getting old...

But mostly it's the feeling that even though he still writes with the same down-to-earth style, Pat has begun thinking himself some really grand influence over the SFF genres and it shows in his writing.

Which, being mostly a feeling, everyone is in their right to ignore completely and carry on. I don't think it has to turn into an argument...

Anonymous said...

I'll agree that Pat is a bit full of himself. He never lets pass an opportunity to point out how "influential" he is. Just look at any post involving "The Name of the Wind", I guarantee you will find at least one comment along the lines of "since I helped create the buzz around this book", or "because I'm responsible for at least some of the popularity of this book". I like the hotlist, but Pat does get a bit egotistical at times.

The Amazing Buttcrack said...

It's really sad how humor and irony are totally lost on some people...:/

I'd like to call those people idiots, but it's not even that. They just don't get it and see evil intent everywhere.

Those people live very sorry lives...

If Pat is full of himself, then you have never met someone who truly is full of it. Sure he hates Terry Goodkind, but other than that he's been quite a class act overall, I would think.

11 million people told pat that The Host wasn't YA??? I haven't checked the post, but it's more like 4 or 5. So he disregards 4 or 5 people's opinion and he's a jackass???

I don't know the guy so I can say for sure, but I've never felt that he now considers himself a grand influence in the genre. For fuck's sake, he always seems shocked that the Hotlist continues to be this popular!

Roland said...

Well, even though I don't rate even as an idiot on your list, I hope you'll kindly read my post anyway.

I Have, in point of fact, met a lot of people full of themselves It's not a unified label that applies to only one type of person. Pat is a "good guy" in my book, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation now since I wouldn't bother coming to the Hotlist at all.

Which doesn't cancel the fact that in recent months or, say, a year or so, he did indeed start pointing out his "contribution", real or perceived by him, a little bit too often. It's not a bad thing, being influential, and neither is it bad to point such a thing out. But the regularity with which we are treated to his "successes" is, for me, and obviously for other people as well, a bit annoying. How big an influence one has over anything should be measured by others and not by the person himself. We know that GRRM likes Pat, we appreciate he has promoted "The Name of the Wind" (I for one wouldn't know about the book if it weren't for him. Same for Vellum, Temeraire and Locke Lamora). We are, I am sure, all thankful for his help with publishing Paul Kearney.

What I mean to say is, WE GET IT. We don't need to read it quite so often. And I don't say this because I'm a "hater", but because I like this blog and don't feel good about the way Pat has started to perceive it - as a stage to promote HIMSELF, even if subtly, with good intent and keeping it down to earth... I don't think the Hotlist should be that. But of course, if I'm mistaken, it is not Pat who's gonna leave the blog :)

Aaron said...

I agree with you to an extent, Roland. I felt the several posts about his vacation was just so much immature braggadocio. OTHO, he has done a lot for the genre, in his way. I can see it both ways, I suppose. BTW Pat, did Gene Wolfe ever get back to you about the interview you mentioned a while back?

Adam Whitehead said...

I can see where Pat is coming from to a certain extent. To go from just being an SF fan who, twenty years ago wouldn't have registered on any publishers' radar, to being someone whom authors at the very top of the game are talking to regularly and whom publishers are courting (for their own benefit, certainly, but still) can be pretty heady stuff. I'm guilty of this as well, and have been myself criticised for mentioning certain things I am privy to that others aren't. It's human to brag sometimes, even if you don't always realise you're doing it.

This time around, Pat has the full rights to brag. Whilst it is true that Pat learned the news about Kearney and Bantam from elsewhere (a discussion on Westeros.org IIRC, which in turn I believe was sparked by a debate on Malazanempire.com), it was Pat who brought it to Solaris' attention and thus was responsible for this book - which is going head-to-head with Morgan and Abercrombie as the best epic fantasy of 2008, no question - getting published. I see no issue with Pat mentioning it in the review of the book. And I think he's mentioned it a grand total of about three times in a year, so it's hardly being rammed down our throats.

Sue said...

I have to say that I'm getting a bit tired of the bitching and whining found in the comment section of this blog. It's been getting worse since last spring and I don't see the point. Especially since I most of it is uncalled for...

If you don't like Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, just go somewhere else.

Roland said...

You don't see the point of it BECAUSE you think it's uncalled for.

And anyway, I covered the "liking the Hotlist or not" part clearly enough in my previous post. I don't feel like repeating myself.

Aaron said...

@ sue. surely you saw this coming, but if you don't like what you see in the comments section, then don't read it. simple. Just as those who do not like the blog anymore are welcome to go elsewhere for their content. Simple. If you look at the comments on almost any blog, there are always many people who vent their frustrations, bitch, whine, bellyache, gripe, etc. It's nothing new.