British Invasion, part 1: Brian Ruckley's WINTERBIRTH

No, it's not the Beattles playing at Shea Stadium!

Two bright new voices in the fantasy genre will soon see their debuts released in the USA. Indeed, in a couple of weeks Brian Ruckley and Joe Abercrombie will be unleashed on the biggest SFF market on the planet. And I for one am curious as to how popular both Winterbirth and The Blade Itself will be on this side of the Atlantic.

Though both fantasy debuts are very good, it's never a done deal for a UK writer to make it in the USA. Just ask Terry Pratchett -- it took him years to finally be recognized by American SFF readers.

As a fan of both authors, I'm hoping that they will make it big on this side of the pond!;-) Which is why I will be posting my reviews from last year once more, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that it will help give their books more exposure.

So in this first installment of the British Invasion we'll begin with Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe), which will be Orbit USA's launch title in early September. The novel made my Top 10 in 2006, so nuff said!

In addition, here is an interview I did with Brian last December. It should help you get better acquainted with the author. . .:-)

So without further ado, here's my book review for Winterbirth (Original post December 2006):

Well, 2006 is turning out to be the year of the hot debuts. Hal Duncan, Naomi Novik, Scott Lynch, Joel Shepherd, Joe Abercrombie, and now Brian Ruckley. In any other year, Winterbirth would undoubtedly be considered the best fantasy debut. But this year, the opening chapter of The Godless World trilogy must share the spotlight with powerhouses such as Vellum, The Lies of Locke Lamora, and a bunch of other spectacular debuts. Such is the quality of this year's new talent. . .

I learned about Winterbirth while browsing through the various threads on Some readers there opined that fans of George R. R. Martin would probably enjoy this one. Upon reflection, I agree with their assessment. Yet I wish to clarify one thing: Winterbirth is nothing like A Song of Ice and Fire in terms of story. In style and tone, however, Winterbirth is similar to Martin's series. It's a dark and gritty fantasy; don't expect humour and bantering dialogues in this novel. And not unlike GRRM, Ruckley is not averse to killing off his characters.

This book is a fine example of good worldbuilding, even though we only catch a glimpse in this first volume. Still, the author provides many hints which indicate that this universe has a lot more depth. A past not yet buried offers a few fascinating glimpses which truly piqued my curiosity. The dissension among the True Bloods was a bit predictable at times, though.
I enjoyed the way magic is subdued to some extent -- again very similar to the manner with which Martin portrays it. The na'kyrim resemble Katherine Kurtz's Deryni in many ways. The storylines involving the Bloods of the Black Road and the Inkallim were my favourites. The presence of those fundamentalists and their religion in a godless world added another dimension to this tale.

The characterizations are typical at the beginning of the book. But when Ruckley starts to kill characters that appeared to be there for the long run, one immediately realizes that the author has several surprises in store for his readers.

The pace is good, meaning that the novel contains no dull moments. The fact that this is a trilogy forces Ruckley to write a tight story, thus preventing him from leading readers astray with a panoply of subplots that serve little or no purpose.

I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. As the first volume in a trilogy, it is, in essence, an introduction to a vaster tale. Yet the ending brings closure to certain storylines and it leaves the door wide open for a lot more to come.

If you are looking for another fine debut, Brian Ruckley's Winterbirth should not disappoint. This title will be one of the first novels published by the new US Orbit imprint. Those who cannot wait can order it from . .

Definitely one of the best fantasy novels of 2006.

The final verdict: 8/10

3 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Well, there *is* some humour and bantering dialogue in ASOIAF - usually whenever Tyrion is involved - and it's still dark and gritty fantasy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the enthusiasm, Patrick! If you ever get tired of the blogging game, maybe you could make it as a cheerleader ...

Definitely never a done deal for UK writers to transfer to the US market, so it's just a wait and see game for me at the moment. I suspect the differences between the two markets are quite subtle and unpredictable, so who knows? Nice to have the chance to find out, whatever the result!

And no, not many laughs in Winterbirth. That's an inescapable truth.

Tia Nevitt said...

Another debut for my calendar! Thanks! I ought to add you as one of my official sources. In fact, I think I could use another category on my blogroll . . .