Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Fallen Blade, Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Publisher: Orbit
Released: Jan 2011 - out now!
Source: Hatchette Book Group on NetGalley

Description: (From J C-G's website) Venice 1407: The city is at the height of its powers. In theory, Duke Marco commands, but Marco is a simpleton so his aunt and uncle rule in his stead. They seem all powerful, yet live in fear of assassins better than their own

On the night their world changes, Marco's young cousin prays in the family chapel for deliverance from a forced marriage. It is her misfortune to be alone when Mamluk pirates break in to abduct her – an act that will ultimately trigger war.
Elsewhere Atilo, the Duke's chief assassin, cuts a man's throat. Hearing a noise, he turns back to find a boy drinking from the victim's wound. The speed with which the angel-faced boy dodges his dagger and scales a wall stuns Atilo. He knows then he must hunt him. Not to kill him, but because he’s finally found what he thought was impossible – someone fit to be his apprentice.

My Thoughts: Fantasy in Medieval Venice, with vampires and other nasty beasties? What's not to like about that? I was very excited by the premise, so I was eager to read this book.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but I found it quite hard going in some places. I love stories about Venice, especially Venice in this time period - there's just so many interesting things going on. I found it quite hard to get into the book - it was a bit confusing as to what was happening where, to who, etc. (And I'm sorry to say, I think I wouldn't have been quite so confused if I was holding an actual book and could flick back and forth easily, look at the map quickly, etc - but this isn't the place for a books/ebooks debate.) It wasn't just keeping track of the characters though - I didn't always understand what time events were taking place compared to things that had been in the previous, or even same, chapter.
That said, though, once I got into the book and had got to know the central characters, it was very interesting. I got to that stage of reading where I get caught up in the story, then look up to realise I've gone through over a hundred pages without really noticing how long it was.

Be warned that this is not a happy book. It's very dark and creepy in some places - and there is one particular scene not too far into the book that I wish I'd skipped over more - I partially skimmed it, and I wish I'd just jumped over it altogether, because it was not pleasant to read at all.

It was a very well built world - the supernatural elements were carefully woven into the rest of it. The 'young cousin', Giulietta, was my favourite character. Although she's spoiled and doesn't really think about others much to start with, this is understandable with the way she has been brought up, and I like the way she changes over the story. The other main character, Tycho, was also interesting to follow, and I liked seeing him learn more about the city he finds himself in, and how to survive there, even if his head is quite a dark place to be sometimes!

It was a very gripping story once I got in to it, but it's not a book you can dip in and out of. It's an interesting new world, and I will probably read the sequel, because I want to know where the political machinations end up, but the complexity and creepiness were just too much for me sometimes. I'd recommend this book to fans of fantasy series. I give it 6 out of 10.



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