Sea of Skulls (Vox Day)

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The shorter sequel to A Throne of Bones. It holds up well to its predecessor.  It doesn’t have the awe-inspiring “Bigness” of A Throne of Bones, but it does have a more focused narrative.  One reason why the first one was so long was the murky fleshpots of quasi-Roman politics.   Here Dwarves and Orcs have more focused (and are far more interesting).

My only quibble is the opening scene.  Be warned.  It is raw.  Remember those 1980s fantasy B movies where the “raiding hordes” come upon the village?  And if the movie is rated R, you probably know what happens next.

Now to the rubrics

Prose: Very good.  Probably better than his first book. 9/10.

Plot: same as the first book. 10/10.

Characters: He really outdid himself this time.   Even the character chapters about the orcs are fascinating.  10/10.

Ideas: Maintains the Warcraft feel to it.  That’s not a criticism.

Throne of Bones (Vox Day)

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I had several “hooks” by which I wanted to introduce this review.  As I couldn’t decide on one, I decided in good Michael Scott fashion to use all of them.  What does this book evoke?

  • Imagine if Warcraft II were actually a good novel?
  • Imagine Game of Thrones without the nihilism and torture porn.

It is modeled after A Song of Fire and Ice in several ways.  There is the theme of civil war.  Further, each chapter is from a character’s point of view.   It even has the “medieval” overlay to it.  But whereas  GoT uses medievalism to show how ugly it is (and how ugly life is), Vox Day uses it to tell a story.  What a novel (no pun intended) idea.

I’ll avoid all the mindless platitudes with which new fantasy novelists are showered.  No, he isn’t the next Tolkien.  Tolkien’s females don’t exist below the next.  That brings up the sex element.  On one hand he avoids the pornography that characterizes GoT. That’s good.  On the other hand, his characters, especially the married ones, have sex.  It’s not pornographic, but it is a bit more than simply implied.

While there is a Christian overlay to the novel, it isn’t a perfectly moral society.  The legions have their “camp followers,” with all of the (literal and metaphorical) baggage they bring. Other characters are either pagan or becoming so.  All of these point to something that transcends GoT: you can illustrate the sin in the world without becoming nihilistic. Redemption is still possible.

There were also some neat moments.  Readers of my blog will know exactly what Vox is getting at by his reference to the “Watchers.”

Is the book perfect?  No.  I will use Vox Day’s own rubrics in a final analysis. A novel has four aspects. Let’s see how Vox holds up:

Prose: it’s pretty good. I didn’t catch any real howlers.  It moved the story without distracting from it.  There was only one part where the pronouns could have been replaced by the characters. It was a sword fight and I had no idea who was fighting whom.  8/10.

Plot: I now see the strength in making each chapter focus on a character.  It forces numerous story-arcs, carrying with it a natural suspense.10/10.

Characters: None of them are perfect, but all of them are compelling–even the “bad” guys are compelling (and this lets him steal back one of GoT‘s strengths).  The only one that perhaps stretches it is Marcus.  He talks like an encyclopedia or a seminary student. I know, I know.  He was a seminary student.  I get it.  9/10.

Ideas: These are big ideas.  You have a world of multiple races: elves, dwarves, orcs, humans.  He’s not simply ripping off Warcraft, though.  He only hints at the dark magic of the Witchkings in this novel.