Corvus


I couldn't help but smile when I first started reading this book, for I am, albeit indirectly, kind of responsible for its existence. You may recall that then Solaris editor Mark Charan Newton initially got in touch with Paul Kearney when the author was dropped by both Transworld and Bantam Dell at the same time after reading my rant about this on the Hotlist. Months later, after signing with the imprint, the excellent The Ten Thousand (Canada, USA, Europe) saw the light and became Kearney's first work with Solaris.

You see: Online rants can -- rarely, it must be said -- have very positive repercussions. Now, if only I could somehow help Kearney become a bestselling author. . .

The Ten Thousand turned out to be a solid effort, possibly the author's best novel to date. And I'm pleased to report that Corvus continues in the same vein, raising the bar even higher and setting the stage for what should be a terrific finale in the forthcoming Kings of the Morning.

Here's the blurb:

It is twenty-three years since a Macht army fought its way home from the heart of the Asurian Empire. The man who came to lead that army, Rictus, is now a hard-bitten mercenary captain, middle-aged and tired. He wants nothing more than to lay down his spear and become the farmer that his father was. But fate has different ideas. A young war-leader has risen to challenge the order of things in the very heartlands of the Macht. A solider of genius, he takes city after city, and reigns over them as king. What is more, he has heard of the legendary leader of The Ten Thousand.

His name is Corvus, and the rumours say that he is not even fully human. He means to make himself absolute ruler of all the Macht. And he wants Rictus to help him
.

Corvus is dark and gritty military fantasy at its best. Joe Abercrombie's depicted heroism and the brutal violence of war with a witty and humorous style and tone in The Heroes. Paul Kearney's Corvus is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Although there are a number of poignant and touching moments throughout the novel, Corvus is all about the stark realism of military campaigns.

The author has always been known for his brevity, and this book features minimal worldbuilding which doesn't intrude on the storytelling. And yet, now that he can build on the events of The Ten Thousand, Kearney manages to flesh out his world and its people without relying on info-dumps or long-winded elaborations. The narrative is written with tight focus, keeping the pace fluid and making Corvus a veritable page-turner.

Most will tell you that Kearney's bread and butter are the battle sequences, and I would tend to agree. Still, I feel that the author doesn't get the credit he deserves for his characterization. Indeed, the man came up with a disparate yet amazing cast of characters for this one. Though there is an overall story arc, that of Corvus' campaign to unite the Macht, most of its threads consist of more personal plotlines adding more depth to the tale. The domestic scenes create a bit of balance between the more violent sequences of the book. There is also a great balance between the various POV sections, with the novel focusing in turn on Rictus, his wife Aise, the Speaker Karnos, Phaestus, and Kassander's sister Kassia. Seeing events unfold through the eyes of such distinct men and women imbues this book with a human touch seldom seen in military fantasy offerings. There is indeed a parallel between Rictus and Corvus and Philip II and Alexander, but it's nothing more than historical inspiration and doesn't take anything away from the story.

Corvus delivers on all fronts. As was the case with its predecessor, it features good pace, a grim setting, superior characterization, and bloody battles. -- It definitely is Paul Kearney writing at the top of his game.

It's another brutal and uncompromising tale of warfare and survival written by one of the most underrated talents in the fantasy genre.

Hard to put down. Do yourself a favor: Pick up both The Ten Thousand and Corvus. Mark my word: You will thank me!

The final verdict: 8/10

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

18 commentaires:

BrokenFiction said...

Paul Kearney is one of my absolute favorite authors. I felt The Ten Thousand was just spectacular, and still Corvus managed to top it. I can't wait for Kings of Morning, though Solaris indicates it's been delayed somewhat (Perhaps thanks to the GRRM bomb dropping near that time?)

Adam Whitehead said...

No, ADWD wasn't responsible for the move (which apparently took place before the ADWD publication announcement), although I daresay moving it out of that book's shadow would be a positive side-effect.

Simon said...

Kearney is an excellent author and I applaud your efforts in supporting him but your post does you no favours! My god the ego...

Niall Alexander said...

Simon said it.

Jeez, Pat. With great power comes great responsibility, remember? And you go on about the great power you wield so exhaustively it's got to be about time you took a little responsibility on board as well...

Anonymous said...

I find it incredible how people can't seem to lighten up. From where I'm sitting Pat has always come across as a funny guy who doesn't take himself very seriously. I can't for the life of me understand how or why people like Simon and Niall (especially Niall who clearly has a bone to pick with Pat and regularly pisses on him on his own blog and twitter) can see this as an ego trip of sorts.

The guy got a thank you note in the acknowledgements in The Ten Thousand, so it's obvious Kearney is grateful for that Hotlist rant of a few years ago.

If that's the only thing you take away from this glowing review of a book that really deserves the kudos, you can pretend that you are acting in good faith. :S

Neil

Niall Alexander said...

I'm sure Kearney is grateful for Pat's rant. No question the gent has a wide reach and decent taste. And I'm sure he's a funny guy; no-one's calling his person into question. But this business about The Ten Thousand, about Pat being in part "responsible for its existence"? Seems like overegging the pudding some. Seems like Pat plumbing the depths, and not for the first time, for tacit gratitude or praise for work that's very far from his own.

Which bothers me, yes. Should it not?

Anonymous said...

"Seems like Pat plumbing the depths, and not for the first time, for tacit gratitude or praise for work that's very far from his own. Which bothers me, yes. Should it not?"

Been a reader of this blog since the very beginning when I found out about it on wotmania. I've never felt that pat was gunning for this and I can't see how you could feel this way. I don't usually comment but this is taking thigns too far, I feel. Next thing you'll say that he'll be taking credit for the quality of ADWD because GRRM based a character on him for winning that football bet.

Gail

Niall Alexander said...

In short, then: I have a problem with a certain aspect of Pat's review, but you think Pat's awesome, so how dare I have a perspective in any sense other from yours.

If we can't agree that this review would have been at the least substantially less distracting if only it hadn't begun with Pat tooting his own horn - again - we'll just have to agree to disagree, "anonymouses." I'm afraid a squabble with the Hotlist Defence Force is not on the agenda for today.

Maybe next time, eh? :)

James said...

@Niall: No offence, but you're not white as snow. For those of us following the sff blogosphere, it's no secret that you've pissed on Pat and his blog for a long while. You, Aidan, Amanda, and Jonathan (sf diplomat) have been pretty vocal about what you don't like about him and the Hotlist. So maybe that's why you don't necessarily come across as a very objective observer...

I don't think that anyone puts in question that you can have a different perspective with regards to Pat's review. It's just that some of us are aware that you have your own agenda.:)

Anonymous said...

Are you boys done with your pissing contest? Back to the book...I would have given this book 5 out of 10. The fact that Pat states he feels "partially responsible" for things makes me a little suspicious of his 8 rating.

Adam Whitehead said...

It is true that Pat did draw Solaris's attention to the issues Paul had after Bantam dropped THE SEA-BEGGARS, which led directly to Solaris picking up THE TEN THOUSAND. Paul says as much in his acknowledgements.

However, Pat's attention was drawn to the matter by a discussion on Westeros.org triggered in turn by Paul's own revelation of the situation on his own website. So there was a number of people involved, but Pat's comments were the highest in profile and what led to the pick-up.

Of course, Solaris may have picked Paul up later on anyway, but given that Paul was talking about jacking in writing altogether after the screw-up with Bantam, the speed with which Solaris took him on did play a role. As such, Pat's role may have been crucial.

Whether you think it's crass or not for Pat to mention it again now is up to you, but it's an interesting story. Perhaps Pat should have held it back for a dedicated article, maybe an interview with Paul and a look at why exactly Bantam are still refusing to allow him to take THE SEA-BEGGARS to another publisher to finish it off, but OTOH it's definitely a good thing that Pat's done which I think he is justifiably proud of.

D-man said...

Thanks for the review Pat! I read Paul Kearney's Hawkwood and the Kings (Monarchies of God #1-2) last year and absolutely loved it. Will be picking up The Macht series once I've read Century of the Soldier (Monarchies of God #3-5).

If you haven't read The Monarchies of God, you should definitely give it a shot!

CJohnson said...

I just got an email from Paul Kearney about the Sea Beggars as a matter of fact. You'll be happy to know that he said this:

"Good news - I've just signed a contract for the last Sea Beggars book - I deliver it in April next year and all three volumes will be published as an omnibus in the autumn of 2012"

Simon said...

I don't know Pat and haven't got any problems with his blog, its one of the many I follow. I just thought the tone of this post was more than a little self agradizing, theres no need for it.
What I would say is that these posts are moderated and as such Pat deserves some credit for publishing the negative comments from Neil and myself.

Niall Alexander said...

What Simon said. Again. Credit to Pat for that - and for other things. Not least Paul Kearney.

Seriously: this part Pat played in Paul's deal with Solaris... I'm glad he played it. Better someone stepped up to the plate than it went empty, and we missed out on The Ten Thousand, which was incredible. I don't know of any other blogger with that sort of sway. Which is precisely why I'm disquieted that the Hotlist seems so often these days a platform for one blogger's haphazardly documented journey up his own... well. You can imagine.

It was otherwise. Would that it could be, can be, again. There's a reason I follow the Hotlist, and it's resolutely not so I can take pot shots at Pat when I'm feeling pissy of an afternoon.

Paul Skelding said...

I can't agree or disagree with the review becuase I haven't read the book. I did read Ten Thousand becuase of Hotlist which I did enjoy quite a lot and agree with Pat that Kearney is up there in Abercrombie's league.

And if you've read Pat for long enough you know eactly how to interpret his "horn blowing". Geez lighten up guys... go drink a beer or something and get off the jealousy trip. Let's all play nice we're all bloggers here not corporations.

Jebus said...

Fuck me but the internet can be funny sometimes.

For all those being whiny brats - this is Pat's blog, who the fuck cares what he does? He can be a self-aggrandizing douche if he wants to be, or he can be a humble little twit with no balls, either way - who gives a fuck? If you've got a problem with it then that's all well and good, if you want to comment on it - again all well and good, just don't expect everyone to care or agree.

Nice mini-review BTW Pat.

Stefan said...

What Jebus said.

Liking Pat's reviews and taste, but not the way he presents them seems like a severe case of "sitting on two chairs" to me.

Either don't read the blog at all, or simply scroll to the score skipping the book description.

Besides there's a lot of other book reviewers out there.