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Friday, December 30, 2016

Latest reviews of A SEA OF SKULLS

At Castalia House, we are intent on building gradually, on the strong foundations of well-loved series of novels rather than chasing one-off hits. Amazon has listed Arts of Dark and Light as a series now, and the reviews for the latest installment continue to be gratifyingly positive.

Epic Fantasy done right

Vox Day has a gift. He is exceptionally skilled at crafting viewpoints that are reasonable, relatable, emotionally compelling, and completely opposed to each other. This serves him well in the genre of epic fantasy, as it enables him to ensure the reader is fully invested in all the many pieces that make up the puzzle of a great fantasy epic.

Not only do his characters feel realized, his plot is suitably grand. From labyrinthine schemes, to an army that has yet to show its true terror, and a pervading presence of evil that threatens all of Selenoth, our heroes have quite the obstacles to overcome. With these first two books we've been shown small pieces of the disaster that is to befall Selenoth, and I for one, cannot wait for the next installment.


Simply Amazing

Head and shoulders above its predecessor, which is no mean feat! It manages to have multiple characters with completely different viewpoints without a) becoming a confusing mess or b) being disappointing when subbing in an uninteresting character for an interesting one, since all the characters were genuinely interesting. All were fully fleshed out and heroic in their own way. Amazing world-building also really made the story come alive, everything had a real sense of place. A fantastic read, and I can't wait for the next book in the series!


The Saga of Selenoth Grows and Gains Momentum

One of my favorite, all-too-brief parts of Lord of the Rings was the brief view of things we get from an orcish perspective when Sam is temporarily bearing the ring on Frodo's behalf; not with guilty pleasure because the orcs were bad, but because it gave us a glimpse of the world of Middle Earth and War of the Ring from such a different point of view. A Sea of Skulls, the second installment in the Arts of Dark and Light trilogy pentalogy set in the world of Selenoth--a fantasy realm where elves and dwarves, orcs and goblins, have been partially displaced by a Catholicized Roman Empire exerting powerful influence through the iron discipline of its legions--gives us that and much more.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like for Roman infantry, with their centurions and balllistae, to stand their ground against goblin hordes, war pigs, and orcish shamans (or have now begun to wonder), the world of Selenoth is for you, and the Arts of Dark and Light trilogy pentalogy  tells a complex and engaging story of war and intrigue set in that world as the various races of Selenoth are manipulated and set against each other by powerful actors in the shadows....

This is grown-up fantasy which makes for a decent study of human (or orcish, for that matter) nature, not to mention Roman military chain of command, and entertains questions like how the seemingly inevitable decline of an advanced but decadent elven civilization could possibly be reversed, and how dwarves unexpectedly stuck in their own tunnels might feel about it. The violence depicted is quite explicit, both in the grim reality of war and especially in the opening scene of a brutal orc raid on a human village, but not exulted in, and one manages to understand the comradery-in-arms of warriors on every side of the struggle, human or otherwise.


But speaking of trilogies that are not trilogies, let's not forget the first quarter of John C. Wright's excellent Moth & Cobweb series. The final book of The Green Knight's Squire have also been getting excellent reviews.


Fantastic modern, yet traditional fantasy

If you like the old tales of elves, heroes, Arthurian legends, men and monsters and great deeds, then you will enjoy this modern retelling. Highly enjoyable and recommended.


A Fine Conclusion to an Excellent Adventure Trilogy

Swan Knight's Sword is a fitting end to the story of Gilberec Moth, an idealistic teenager out of place in the human world who gradually becomes a brave, worthy, Christian knight....The same elements present in the earlier works are apparent here. Swashbuckling adventure featuring lavish description of mystical beings and surroundings as well as full-blooded, desperate combat. A strong sense of Christian morality. Many newly revealed secrets of both Gil's past and the elf world.

As with the second book, there are a myriad of references, both Christian and pagan, expertly blended together. I was particularly amused by the one to a character of Edgar Rice Burroughs, an author all modern adventure writers owe a debt of gratitude to. Or the use of Roland's horn.

However, this installment also introduces several new wrinkles. There is a more varied, consistent use of humor. Much of it comes from Ruff, Gil's trusty dog whose barks he can understand. In fact, all the interaction with Gil talking to animals is funny. John C Wright evidently discovered the same comedic truth that Ricky Gervais has; personifying animals is always funny. There is also verbal humor and some absurdist situations.

Swan Knight's Sword features an especially strong conclusion, being the culmination of Gil's transformation from a strange boy into a righteous, mighty man. While it satisfyingly ends this tale of Gilberec Moth, it promises more adventure for both him and the world at large.


A worthy ending, a tantalizing beginning

Swan Knight's Sword is the best in this trilogy. A beautiful paean of adventure, courage, honor, loyalty and love. This book reminds me of the stuff I read in my youth, before the fantasy genre was a cesspool of pornography and meaningless nihilistic violence. I laughed, I cried, I wished I had a sword. But of course one does not simply walk into MordorMart and buy a sword, one must be bequeathed a sword by a father, or win one in a heroic quest. And sometimes one must hunt down and confront the magically invulnerable sasquatch that stole your father's sword. This is one of those times...

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10 Comments:

Blogger Some Guy December 30, 2016 8:50 AM  

Can't wait to get to ASOS. I'm rereading ATOB now

Anonymous Sensei December 30, 2016 9:32 AM  

Looking forward to my second read of ASOS now that I have some hours of freedom for New Year's.
Cover art looks very dragonish to me, are we allowed to know whether it's a reference to something that will come with the rest of the material next year or just a cool stylistic cover?

Alongside and mixed among the Ilk, VFMs, etc. are the Castalians...

Anonymous #8601 December 30, 2016 10:32 AM  

Did Castalia House ever consider, or get a shot at, publishing Milo's new book?

Anonymous a deplorable rubberducky December 30, 2016 11:36 AM  

Gratz, Vox on the glowing reviews. I haven't read your books (or any sci-fi) since _Summa Elvetica_, which I enjoyed. Not enough time in the day for me! But now I'm inspired to make time and pick things back up with this series.

Blogger Dave December 30, 2016 12:48 PM  

Clearly you and all of the Castalia authors need to get yourselves permanently banned by Twitter.

Milo's yet-to-be-published book hit 2nd overall on Amazon behind The Princess Diarest by Carrie Fisher. Fortunately for Milo it did not require his passing to drive sales to this lofty level.

Blogger pdwalker December 30, 2016 12:49 PM  

Call me crazy, but I suspect that Castalia House is doing something right with the authors they pick.

Blogger VD December 30, 2016 1:10 PM  

Did Castalia House ever consider, or get a shot at, publishing Milo's new book?

No, I knew Milo would prefer to go with a major publisher more than a year ago.

Anonymous #8601 December 30, 2016 1:18 PM  

Thanks. Yeah, I guess it's not surprising that Milo wanted go mainstream.

Blogger Elaine T December 30, 2016 9:26 PM  

will there be paper copies of any of these at some point? i know someone who would probably like them all, but really prefers paper. OTOH I love my kindle and have samples of most of them, as well as SJWAL.

Blogger wreckage December 31, 2016 12:14 AM  

I just finished Throne of Bones, reviewed it on Amazon. I am continually surprised and delighted by Vox's ability to run realpolitik national intrigues without resorting to "black and grey morality" or undermining the heroism of the characters; to hint at Dan Brown Esque church intrigues and conspiracies without defiling the faith of those who hold to it; and to present sympathetically and without favour or condemnation a variety of cultures - again without abandoning notions of honour, courage or integrity.

I also quite like the Amorran historical fiction, which seems to contain a neat combination of Eastern Empire geopolitics with Western Empire identity as it might have been at maybe 1000AD or slightly earlier, had Rome survived as an unmistakably Roman political and imperial identity.

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