Considering that a lot of classic fantasy genre tropes come from this period and region of history, perhaps that is a bit of an oversight on my part, one that reading Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series has helped me address. In fact, reading these books, combined with some thinking I've been doing recently about plotting, has led me to some interesting reflections. So while this is still a review of the series, I also want to talk a little about those thoughts.
Creative writing, or the speculative fiction genre, has long leveraged something called the MICE quotient. I first came across this when I was reading an Orson Scott Card book on how to write science fiction and fantasy (I think it was even titled How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy). The premise is that stories in the speculative fiction genre can be broadly binned as having one or more of four, primary drivers: milieu, idea, character, and event. Although most good stories will incorporate multiple of these components, with different ones emphasized at different times, there is usually one that drives the story forward.
What is the modern fantasy genre may arguably be said to have been derived from historical fiction. After all, much of classical fantasy was derived from the myths and legends of times gone by, and for a long time (arguably to this day), fantasy was significantly stuck in twelfth century Europe. The genre has since expanded far beyond those historical beginnings, with subgenres like alternative world fantasy that are set in completely different universes, with their own laws of physics, and with characters that sometimes aren't human at all. However, given that heritage, it perhaps should not be terribly surprising that a historical fiction novel about the Wars of the Roses would read more like fantasy than anything else.
For a publishing site, there aren't really a whole lot of published works here on IGC. We have The Grounds Warden, which is just a stand-alone short story, and we have Zombies in a similar vein. Of course, we also have half a season of Blood Magic, with new episodes coming out at the end of each month. It's this last that I want to address, because I alternate between being excited about how well our library of Blood Magic stories is developing, and worried about how working on Blood Magic stories has led to drastically less work on my other projects.
There are certain novels that you can read again and again, and you’ll always get something a little different out of them. It can be because you’re at a different point in your life, or because you’ve read other things and are approaching the story with a different context, or simply because the story is that intricate and beautifully written that, like any other great work of art, there are always more mysteries to be revealed. When it comes to literature, these are often the books that first got you into the genre, and that you come back to time and time again. These are the books that are thumbed through and dog-eared and well-worn. There might be pages trying to fall out, maybe even a tear here and there. These are well loved books.
There's a lot of really good new fantasy on the market right now, but some of it can start to seem derivative, especially if you read a lot of fantasy. It's refreshing, therefore, to come across something new that is also original, and that was the case with The Lies of Locke Lamora, at least to an extent. It was definitely one of the more enjoyable and well-written fantasy books I've read in awhile.
At this point, I'm going to assume that you've already read my reviews for Checkmate and The Ringed Castle, so you should know that this review is going to talk about things like how beautiful Dorothy Dunnett's writing is, how fascinating her tragic antihero is, and how seamlessly the historical context and geopolitical maneuvering is blended with the fictional story of Sir Francis Crawford comte de Lymond and Seveigny, because those characteristics were not unique to the final two books; they were the defining traits of the entire series. One day, I'll have been doing this site long enough that I won't have to shoehorn in reviews of the previous books in the series that I read before the site was up when I do these series reviews, but that isn't today.
In a way, you're getting three reviews in one this week, because I'm going to be reviewing the whole Traveler's Gate trilogy in this post, rather than doing a single post per book. That's mostly because I happened to read them all in a single book, but also because I think that's how they're best presented: none are really so long or so contained that they need or should stand on their own. And how I wish that I could have given this three and a half stars, because that's more accurately how I'd rate it. Let's get into why.
No, I'm not above using cliche titles, when they serve me. Because I'm so very fond of stirring up controversy, I'm going to talk about something that divides more people than religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin: movie/book adaptations. Fair warning: we're going to talk about some big name franchises, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and others, so if you don't want to risk potential spoilers from either the book or movie versions of any of these, you might not want to read this post. Otherwise, let's mire ourselves in controversy.
Broadly, I classify my writing as speculative fiction, which includes the genres that are typically shelves under both the fantasy, and science fiction categories. Yet, you will notice that the majority of my works, both published so far on the site, and in progress, fall in the fantasy genre. Considering that my "real" job involves working with advanced, experimental satellites, that might seem somewhat counter-intuitive, and indeed I've gotten a lot of questions recently about why I don't write more science fiction. So, I've decided to try to provide an answer, other than the fact that I'm not nearly as skilled or imaginative, to why I'm not the next Isaac Asimov.