Tuesday, 18 January 2011

‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ – Ari Marmell (Spectra)

It was around about this time last year that an ongoing case of ‘reading burn out’ was nipped neatly in the bud when I found myself picking up Ari Marmell’s ‘The Conqueror’s Shadow’ on a whim and consequently thoroughly enjoying it. That’s not to say that the book was flawless because it wasn’t (look, just read my review Here...) but it was lighthearted when it needed to be and deadly serious when the chips were down. The end result was a lot of fun and a read where I found myself really looking forward to reading the sequel.
Fast forward a year to, well... right now.
I came out of Christmas feeling a little burnt out reading-wise and in need of something light and fun to get me back into the groove. As luck would have it, I’d been saving my advance copy of Ari Marmell’s ‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ for just such an occasion. Like I said, I’d been looking forward to this book for a year and it didn’t let me down. Once again though, ‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ wasn’t without its flaws. The signs are that there will be at least one more book to come (at least, the way I see it anyway) and I’ll pick that one up as well. There might not be that same level of gleeful anticipation this time round though...

Years after the events of ‘The Conqueror’s Shadow’, Corvis Rebaine has lost everything that he owned in his pursuit of a society that treated everyone fairly instead of drawing the same old line between rich and poor. Even his wife and children left him but this has not deterred Rebaine from his goal; this time though he is working from within the system to bring about the change that he desires so much. Life is never easy though and Rebaine is once again about to be reminded of this fact. The land of Imphallion is under attack once more and, once again, the squabbling nobility and guilds are unable to agree on what to do about it. Someone is doing something about it though, someone with a skull faced helm and a great big axe is cutting his way through both guildsmen and nobles and making it very clear who is to blame.
Rebaine must find out who is killing in his name before it is far too late for both him and the rest of the country; he has a job on his hands though when he is being hunted by his deadliest enemy, a mysterious sorcerer of great power and his own daughter...

The good news is that if you enjoyed ‘The Conqueror’s Shadow’ then you’ll have a lot to look forward to in ‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ in terms of a fast moving plot and characters that you can’t help but relate to. When I reviewed ‘The Conqueror’s Shadow’ I mentioned that I felt that Marmell was applying the same sarcastic brand of humour to all of his characters and ‘it got to the point where I found myself double checking names just to be sure which character was talking’. I was pleased to see that Marmell took steps to rectify this issue in ‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ but I wasn’t too sure about how effective it proved to be.

Marmell’s solution to characters all displaying that same sarcastic humour isn’t to introduce different kinds of humour into the mix but rather to just tone down the sarcasm across the entire cast. I can see where he’s coming from here as sarcastic humour does seem to be the only brand that would work in this particular setting. Toning it down though only dilutes the problem though instead of dealing with it. I could tell which character was which but there was still that nagging feeling that there sometimes wasn’t a lot to distinguish them. It’s a step in the right direction but I couldn’t help but wonder if this is all Marmell has in his locker... To be fair, this is balanced out by Marmell’s examination of Rebaine’s tortured psyche (has a former dark lord ever been so engaging?) but still remains an issue.

It’s a really good job then that Marmell also brings all the good stuff to the table as well. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the order of the day and I couldn’t help but agree whilst working my way through the book.
There are several good reasons why I couldn’t put this book down and why, despite my slight misgivings, I will be back for any further sequels. I could see where the ‘imposter Rebaine’ plot was going fairly early on (think about it...) but totally bought into the sense of urgency that sprung up in its wake. What’s going on here will have serious repercussions for the land of Imphallion and Marmell leaves us in no doubt as to what this means. Marmell then proceeds to ramp that urgency up by laying any number of obstacles in between Rebaine and his goals. All the while, we get to see how plans are unfolding for the villain of the piece and this racks up the tension even more. There is no doubt that Marmell knows how to put a story together that will engage you and get you hooked without you even realising it. There were a couple of intuitive leaps in the plot that didn’t quite gel but the sheer energy of the piece barrels you through these with only the merest questions raised.

Marmell then proceeds to add extra icing to the cake by punctuating the plot with set piece battles between characters that you’ve come to know and, well... maybe not ‘love’ but you will have certainly gained enough insight into them to wince a little in sympathy when the sword and axe strokes start falling. And when this happens, it happens in style with pages of stand up bone crunching violence really setting the tone. You know how each encounter will end but Marmell injects enough uncertainty that you have to stick around, just to be sure.

‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ is another thoroughly entertaining offering from Ari Marmell and one that any fantasy fan will have a lot of fun with. There’s that niggling doubt though that the same old shortcomings mean that any further books won’t quite fulfil the potential that this series has. I’ll continue to be around to check this series out but the sense of anticipation is starting to fade a bit.
You can probably find yourself a copy of ‘The Warlord’s Legacy’ right now (or in the next few days) in the US. Gollancz will be publishing the book in the UK but not for a couple of months yet.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

Stefan Fergus said...

I can't wait for this - loved Conqueror's Shadow. The characters, plot, writing - all entertaining and engaging throughout.
Sadly, I'm in the UK, so have to wait until May before I can get hold of it.