One Upon a Time VIII: The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

Steel RemainsSometimes I have to overcome my bookseller’s instinct to sell you ALL THE BOOKS. Because let’s be honest, you don’t actually want all the books. You want a select set of books that were written just for you. You know, the ones where authors looked inside your brain and wrote down exactly what they saw.

So let me just say that if you can’t tolerate swearing, gruesome things, violence, or graphic sex scenes (though rather well-written, in this case) you probably won’t like The Steel Remains, the first book in Richard K. Morgan’s The Land Fit For Heroes trilogy. It’s rated R all the way. I’m not going to say ‘if you like’ such things, because honestly I don’t really ‘like’ gruesome stuff, but I can take quite a bit of it in my fiction. I do enjoy swearing if it’s done well (I’m Russian, I believe there is such a thing as the art of swearing).

Ringil is probably one of the best characters I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in fantasy literature. He is irreverent, cynical, and misanthropic. He is also queer. Not only is he queer (and fairly openly), he is queer in the world that does not tolerate that kind of, hrm, lifestyle choice. He is protected from some more drastic punishments by being a member of a noble rich family, but he is not protected (well, as much as a guy with a giant sharp sword is not protected) from insinuations and name-calling.

9780345493064The Steel Remains is a rather slow-moving volume. It’s also one big setup for more things to come. The dust jacket blurb leads you to believe the book is about some dark lord rising. In fact, we don’t get into even a mention of said dark lord until well into the book. Ringil is asked by his mother to assist in finding a family member sold into slavery. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that selling into slavery and prostitution is now legal, and Ringil can’t just go about bashing heads in to save his cousin (that doesn’t stop him, by the way). There are also mysterious attacks, some shadowy otherworldly forces, and a vanished race, all the good sword-and-sorcery (sworcery?) stuff. In fact, I quite enjoyed the world, and the book definitely satisfied my need to read about people poking each other with sharp implements.

The trilogy continues with The Cold Commands and concludes with The Dark Defiles, out in October. I am a big fan of authors finishing their series, so continuing to follow Ringil now seems even more attractive.

A couple of days ago, NPR had a post on what other fantasy works would make a great ‘Next Game of Thrones’ series. One of my bookgroup members pointed out that if HBO picked up The Land Fit For Heroes books, they wouldn’t have had to put in all the gratuitous sex scenes.

And thus I complete the first of five books I set out to read for Once Upon a Time VIII. Head over to Stainless Steel Droppings to discover Once Upon a Time participating blogs, or sign up yourself (it’s not too late).

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4 comments

  1. I read this one. I thought it started off very strong, had a great set up, and a interesting world. The character having a certain immunity due to his family status was a cool way of getting around the old ‘its just the way it was back then’ argument.

    I just never got into the second half of the book at all. And never bothered to pick up the sequel.

    1. It seemed to pick up some steam by the end, at least for me. I also like Ringil as a character enough to continue with the series. But I definitely see your point.

  2. I just picked this up, with 3 other books. I’ll probably start it in a few weeks. I got it for Once Upon a Time and the LGBT challenge on WWEnd. And I was interested in how a straight British man would write gay and Lesbian characters in a gory violent fantasy.

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