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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Book review by Jonathan Moeller

Jonathan Moeller, Pulp Writer, reviews A THRONE OF BONES:
A THRONE OF BONES, by Vox Day, is one of the more ambitious epic fantasy novels I have read.... I enjoyed the historical verisimilitude of the novel, especially the depiction of the Amorran republican legions. (It is in my opinion a bit fallacious to argue for historical “realism” in fantasy novels – if a book has characters that can shoot lightning bolts from their fingers, the writer have taken realism out back to be shot. Historical verisimilitude is then the best the writer can reach for, then, something I’ve done myself.)  In that vein, battle scenes are very well done. Additionally, none of the characters are caricatures. All of the nobles involved in, say, the Amorran civil war, have completely understandable motives for their actions, and none of the (human) characters are villainous so much as they hold incompatible views of how the world should work.

The author deliberately wrote the book in response to the moral nihilism of many contemporary epic fantasy novels. Many elements, in particular the civil war between noble families, seems to owe its inspiration to George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (though SONG was based on the War of the Roses, and A THRONE OF BONES seems based on the Social War of the Roman Republic.) The character of Corvus, for example, seems similar to Ned Stark in SONG, and like Ned Stark, makes a honorable but nonetheless stupid decision that has long-reaching bad consequences....
Read the rest of the review at Jonathan's site.  He has some interesting comments about the way the technologically-empowered bypassing of the conventional gatekeepers is likely to improve fiction.

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32 Comments:

Anonymous daddynichol January 03, 2013 2:05 PM  

I bought TOB ebook and have found it to be quite enjoyable. In fact, some required duties around the home are being neglected in favor of reading! Looking forward to the your additional works.

Anonymous Lana January 03, 2013 2:51 PM  

I bought the hardback version as a Christmas gift for my eldest son, but received it on December 22 and had no opportunity to look through it as I already had a house full of company. The cover art was striking enough that everyone wanted to have a look at it and a couple of the kids gave me the stink eye when they realized it was not also among their presents.

Having never been a SF/F reader aside from a handful of books the kids begged me to read, I had no intention of reading it myself. And then you sucked me in with the free link to A Magic Broken.

All that to say, I ordered the e-book and had absolutely no idea there was a glossary included at the back until I finished the entire book. I did struggle to keep all the Amorr character names straight at first, but it didn't really slow me down too much. Towards the middle of the book it really started moving quickly in terms of building anticipation and I was very disappointed when it was over. I thought it was a great read and plan to order the next one.

Anonymous Stickwick January 03, 2013 3:04 PM  

Now collapse these three time periods into one, add goblins and elves and sorcery, and you’ll have the setting of A THRONE OF BONES. So you have republican-era Roman legions fighting goblin tribes on the frontier, only to return in haste to Rome when the Pope is murdered by a sorcerer, while French knights battle against a race of werewolves.

I haven't read any fantasy in a long, long time, but given this description and the favorable review, I'm gonna read ATOB. I'll get a copy for Husband, too, since he's a history buff and is likely to appreciate a lot of the historical elements in the book.

Anonymous Josh January 03, 2013 3:14 PM  

Is this an appropriate thread to ask about weapons technology in ATOB?

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 3:17 PM  

Why not, so long as you avoid spoilers.

Blogger Nate January 03, 2013 3:23 PM  

Canonical has announced an Ubuntu based smartphone OS.

I am thoroughly intrigued.

Anonymous Daniel January 03, 2013 3:30 PM  

I'm still wondering when...and how, really, we can discuss abortion as it is discussed in Summa Elvetica while avoiding spoilers. I don't think it can be done.

Anonymous Josh January 03, 2013 4:15 PM  

Weapons technology:

Are we too assume that the amorr legions have similar metallurgical capabilities as the savondir knights?

And, if so, what historical metallurgical technology would they both be most similar to?

And how does their technology compare to dwarven or elvish technology?

Anonymous Sensei January 03, 2013 4:17 PM  

"the author’s personal politics (which don’t turn up in the book)" -JM

Someone wasn't paying very close attention...

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 4:27 PM  

Someone wasn't paying very close attention...

Demographics and economics aren't politics. That's the point of historical verisimilitude. It's essentially apolitical, whereas shoehorning anomalies in not only tends to be ideologically based, it sticks out like a flashing red siren.

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 4:33 PM  

Are we too assume that the amorr legions have similar metallurgical capabilities as the savondir knights?

Yes.

And, if so, what historical metallurgical technology would they both be most similar to?

Basic pre-modern.

And how does their technology compare to dwarven or elvish technology?

Significantly lower in effect because they don't use magic, however they have some advantages because what doesn't incorporate magic can't be as easily disrupted by it. In general, dwarf magic is more focused on practical matters, elf magic tends to be more esoteric, darker, and is therefore much more powerful when applications are found.

If you recall, Lodi once referred to elven magic as "witchen filth".

Blogger JDC January 03, 2013 4:37 PM  

Amazon appears to be out of stock...alas. I'll wait. Not like I'm doing anything.

Blogger JDC January 03, 2013 4:47 PM  

On a funny note - for Christmas my wifey was going to buy this book for me. It came in the mail and was neatly wrapped for Christmas. Problem...instead of "A Throne of Bones," by Vox Day I got "The Throne of Bones," by Brian McNaughton. My wife is wonderful, but sometimes misses the little details.

Anonymous Stickwick January 03, 2013 5:34 PM  

@ JDC: Noticed the other book when I went to buy a Nook version of ATOB. The cover is, well, interesting. And it appears to be a good example of what the reviewer above is talking about with the prevalence of moral nihilism in the fantasy genre: it's charmingly described by one reviewer as the LOTR told sympathetically from the perspective of the human denizens of Mordor. That sort of junk notwithstanding, I'm willing to give the fantasy genre another shot with ATOB.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 03, 2013 5:54 PM  

Vox, re your earlier challenge, who is Corvus modelled on. Was my answer too late to make the bell? I haven't seen a yea or nay on that thread.

Blogger Positive Dennis January 03, 2013 5:55 PM  

I just put up my review on amazon and I too noted some of these same traits. My only criticism was that I personally do not care for multiple perspectives. I do agree that a book with this large a panorama needs many perspectives, but I prefer a smaller scope in my novels.

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 6:54 PM  

My only criticism was that I personally do not care for multiple perspectives. I do agree that a book with this large a panorama needs many perspectives, but I prefer a smaller scope in my novels.

Fair enough, although it seems perhaps a little harsh to mark the book down a star for something that is necessary. But in any case, thanks for the review and I'm glad to hear you not only enjoyed it, but found it superior to Jordan.

Anonymous Question January 03, 2013 7:10 PM  

He says,

To put it bluntly, this is an excellent book, but not one that would have been placed with a large publisher, partly because of its complexity,

Really? Game of Thrones is nothing if not complex. Is the real issue that only "established" authors are allowed to write "complex" novels?


partly because the author’s personal politics (which don’t turn up in the book) are sharply at odds with the mushy SWPL-ism of most editors at large publishers.

I would think publishers would want to sell good stories regardless of the politics of the author. Jerry Pournelle gets published and he is not a mushy SWPL. John Ringo gets published and he is the opposite of a mushy SWPL. (Or is Baen not a "large publisher"?)

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 7:24 PM  

I would think publishers would want to sell good stories regardless of the politics of the author. Jerry Pournelle gets published and he is not a mushy SWPL. John Ringo gets published and he is the opposite of a mushy SWPL. (Or is Baen not a "large publisher"?)

You are very, very wrong. I've been told directly by Tor authors that Tor would never publish me as a result of my Incorrect Thoughts. It's one thing to get published when you are already established as a bestselling author, it's another when you're not.

Look, any halfway-sensible major publisher would try to pick up Arts of Dark and Light without thinking twice about it; it's outselling a fair number of much more broadly released books and getting better reviews in a subgenre that sells big and where there are very few competent authors able to do the work in a reasonable period of time. The publisher that publishes George Martin could probably turn it into a bestseller overnight.

Now, perhaps they simply haven't heard of it yet. But I doubt anything will happen until Book Two comes out and it becomes readily apparent that I am one of the better epic fantasy options available.

Anonymous Question January 03, 2013 7:26 PM  

I supposed I shouldn't be surprised that politics trumps economics, but I am!

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 7:30 PM  

Really? Game of Thrones is nothing if not complex. Is the real issue that only "established" authors are allowed to write "complex" novels?

Sorry, missed this. To a certain extent. As George Martin himself has pointed out, it's very hold to keep a novel of this size together and coherent. For an inexperienced, non-established author to do it is generally considered unlikely; look at the hash Martin has made of his last two books.

And, to be honest, it's harder than it looks to keep everything coherent. Either you have to be seriously organized or borderline brilliant to just pull it off at all. I think I had it a little easier than most because I structure things logically as per core economic and historical principles, so it was a bit harder for me to screw things up.

Which I still managed to do, but not as badly as I might have. To be honest, two of the early proofreaders pretty much rescued the book from being a tedious slog by demanding a) more action, and b) more Lodi.

Anonymous VD January 03, 2013 7:31 PM  

very hold = very hard

Blogger Positive Dennis January 03, 2013 9:05 PM  

No way to do 4 1/2 stars. About where I place it. Hmm, I think I will edit the review to say this.

Anonymous 445supermag January 03, 2013 10:22 PM  

I thought you were against author reviews.

Anonymous Sensei January 04, 2013 1:10 AM  

Someone wasn't paying very close attention... -Sensei

Demographics and economics aren't politics. That's the point of historical verisimilitude. It's essentially apolitical, whereas shoehorning anomalies in not only tends to be ideologically based, it sticks out like a flashing red siren. -VD


You didn't have any preachy bits but it was clear you were making points about immigration and economic policy that you've expounded upon repeatedly here. That those policies were historically important to the referenced setting does demonstrate that you successfully avoided "shoehorning," but being basic principles for any republic they apply so directly to current American politics as well that I suppose I had trouble seeing where the line separating them from political commentary is drawn.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 04, 2013 3:37 AM  

...being basic principles for any republic they apply so directly to current American politics as well that I suppose ...

And to be fair, people have been trying to square-peg LOTR into political round holes ever since it came out. And as far as the economics goes, well.

"Human behavior is economic behavior."

Where is that from Vox? A test of your game knowledge. That's game with a lower-case g, BTW...

Anonymous VD January 04, 2013 3:49 AM  

I thought you were against author reviews.

Not in the least. I'm against dishonest, self-serving, inaccurate author reviews, and I support Amazon's decision to ban author reviews on its site. Neither of which applies to Mr. Moeller's review.

Author reviews can, in the ideal, be superior. It is unfortunate that they so often fall short of that ideal due to the frequent desire of the author to achieve some other purpose than simply writing an honest review of the book.

Anonymous VryeDenker January 04, 2013 7:02 AM  

So, was Sextus Valerius modeled on Pompey? It's either him or Julius Caesar, but I'm going with Pompey because he was named Magnus.

Blogger Nate January 04, 2013 7:48 AM  

"Basic pre-modern."

Two words...

dwarven blunderbuss

Anonymous Athor Pel January 04, 2013 11:46 AM  

"Nate January 04, 2013 7:48 AM
...
Two words...

dwarven blunderbuss"



If the dwarves in question are strong enough then being able to hand carry what would otherwise be a wheeled artillery piece would be truly devastating. Make it breech loading and the second rank would be the loaders.

I can picture it now.

First rank dwarves grab the handles of the tubes slung on their back. As they adjust to the shift in weight they all scream, "Feed Me!".

The enemy never having heard this before takes it for a normal battle cry.

The dwarven second rank loads the tubes and lights the fuses. The tube holders brace themselves and aim their tubes.

The whole front rank erupts in smoke and flame coupled with an enormous roar. Two heartbeats later, at two or three times the maximum range of any kind of hand carried bow, whole lines of enemy troops are cut down by the 2 inch ball rounds.

The front rank of dwarven tube holders all scream again, "Feed Me!" The second rank swabs the tube and starts to load again.

The enemy literally craps their pants and starts seriously thinking about running away.


Cross train them in melee weapon combat, (sword & shield and/or halberd/spear), and you have a steamroller. And of course they all wear plate armor.

I'm getting a little teary eyed just thinking about it.

Anonymous WaterBoy January 04, 2013 1:31 PM  

"The front rank of dwarven tube holders all scream again, "Feed Me!" The second rank all jab at their ears while bellowing back, "WHAT???"

You'd have to implement some sort of visual communication mechanism, probably just hand signals; if the loaders are to remain in close enough proximity to reload, they'd need some kind of hearing protection (as would the tubers), which would prevent them from hearing subseqent commands.

But the imagery is inspiring, indeed.

Anonymous VryeDenker January 05, 2013 3:13 AM  

Superweapons rearely make for interesting battle depictions. Maybe having just a squad of dwarven artillery would be better story-wise.

Oh, and moar Lodi please!

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