Winterbirth review

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm coming in a bit late to Brian Ruckley but late is better than never. Winterbirth is Brian Ruckley first novel in the Godless World trilogy and was released in 2006. The follow-ups, Bloodheir and Fall of Thanes are already released. Ruckley is actually working on a new novel about an alternate fantasy version of Edinburgh.

The Gods have left the world and the Gyre blood, followers of the Black Road, are forced into exile. Several generations later, the Haig are ruling the Huanin race in the north but they still fight for territories. While soldiers of the Lannis and Kilkry blood are fighting for the High Thane in the south, their homes are attacked by an expeditionary force form the Gyre with the help of a Kyrinin clan and a forsaken Na'kyrim, a mixed-blood, Aeglyss. They will take prisoners but Orisian, the nephew of the Lannis-Haig Thane will take flight with his bodyguard. They will be taken in by the mysterious Kyrinin and with their help they will try to come to the rescue of their people.

Winterbirth is a tale of blood feud and vendetta where members of the blood have forsaken or killed their brothers and they want their revenge. This is a long ongoing cycle that doesn't seem to be breakable. The only way would be to wipe out your blood enemies completely or abandon the old grudges. This is the struggle lived by most of the characters in the novel, mostly so in Orisian (whose bloodline is decimated) case and for the Horin-Gyre bloodheir and his sister. Around them, some of the characters are more common occurrences in term of fantasy literature, like Mordyn, the High Thane chancellor who is the mastermind behind his thane conquest and prosperity, the dumb High Thane son or Varryn the exceptional and silent warrior. However I found more originality than déjà-vu, as in Ess'yr case, Orisian inaccessible love interest or pretty much all of the leaders of the different factions of the Black Road.

The tale is narrated at a nice pace through several PoV (in a third person perspective). Every side of the struggle are represented. Moreover, another interesting point within this story is that if one puts Aeglyss on side, since his past resembles that of the youth who is rejected by everybody for being different and who ends up as a blind avenger (even then his storyline will probably end up really compelling), all the other protagonists have justified reasons to act in the way in which Ruckley makes them. Moral limits are fuzzy and the faults of each one of them are skilfully exploited.

The mix of all their storyline viewed with the help of many PoV makes us live the struggle from many perspectives except for the Kyrinin (which are related to elves). Since they are as much mysterious for the Huanin (humans) protagonists as they are for the reader, I believe that it was a good choice to keep them on the side. In the mist of all this, there's the Na'kyrim, half Huanin and half Kyrinin, mainly represented by Inurian, the old advisor to Orisian father (an easy to love paternal figure) and Aeglyss. In short, a nice large cast admirably orchestrated.

While being slightly more limited in proportion and less profound in the exploration of the characters, perhaps that Winterbirth cannot be compared to aSoIaF, but I often had the sensation that the world delivered by the author resembled the northern portion of the Seven Kingdoms. The people difficulty to withstand the elements, the blood ties which are more crucial than anything else, the brutality and roughness necessary for survival, I found in both. Indeed, for me it seemed a bit like a portion of aSoIaF with elvish-like people, and this is meant as a compliment.

I felt that the world was ancient and that even if there's some hint about great cataclysms of the past caused by some rogue Na' kyrim, the humanity is thus because of the factors to which I allotted the resemblances to the work of George R.R. Martin. In my opinion, this makes of it a success in term of world building. In accordance with the history, races, gods and the geography, Ruckley succeeded masterfully in making me live what it's like to be among his protagonists.

As for magic, it reminds mysterious aside from some explanations about the Shared, the place in which the Na'kyrim draw their power and are interconnected. The development of Aeglyss in the following books will probably shed more light on this.

The naming pattern in Ruckley's work is tricky to follow in the first couple of chapters. Members of the blood are named by their first name, their link within the family and their Thane (chief) family name. This result in Croesan oc Lannis-Haig, Kanin nan Horin-Gyre or Aewult nan Haig. Hopefully, through the end of the first third of the book, they felt familiar. The cast of characters at the beginning of the book can be of great assistance.

Even though I think I saw easily where Ruckley is going with some of his storylines (anyway there's a lot of them), I'm still eager to pick up the next volume. The author created an unforgiving world in which I really want to see who will come out of it with his skin still on his back.

Technically, I would have loved to have the Czech edition on my shelves. Ketai Kotaki is one of my favorite artists. However, the Orbit cover is not bad with its distinct font. The paperback edition of the novel is 541 pages. There are two simple but welcomed maps and a cast of characters.

If you want to read an extract or take a look at all the cover arts for the book in different languages, head on to Brian's Winterbirth page.

Winterbirth review score :

Characterization............. 8.5 /10
World building............... 9 / 10
Magic system................. 7 /10
Story.............................. 8 / 10
Writing........................... 8 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10


Brian Ruckley page


a Fantasy Reader All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger