Monday, 13 April 2015

Review: Book of Iron

Book of Iron
Book of Iron by Elizabeth Bear

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I described this to myself, about halfway through, as "like Jirel of Joiry by way of Roger Zelazny". If your taste in fiction is similar to mine, you probably know what that means and are excited already.

Things I loved:
- The protagonist makes magical creatures out of bones and jewelry.
- Going to a different part of the world changes how many suns and moons are in the sky.
- Although there's a good old sword-and-sorcery adventure quest, the book is really about the protagonist, a dark-skinned wizard from more-or-less Africa, finding a friend in a wizard from more-or-less Britain. (The cover whitewashes the protagonist, unfortunately.)
- Subtle, gentle hints of Arthurian legend that aren't overplayed.
- The author knows how to use language with a smooth facility that's, sadly, all too rare, and when she uses a vocabulary word, it means what she thinks it means.
- Although the characters clearly aren't unambiguously heroic (some are necromancers), they're also not antiheroes, and it isn't grimdark. Although the thoughts, emotions and relationships are complex and not the usual for-dummies versions, it's hopeful rather than nihilistic. I can see why Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch are together; this could almost be a Scott Lynch book in all those ways, though it's more fantastical.

This is a prequel to a series, and though the books are short (at least, this and the next one are), there's plenty in this one at least. I'll be reading the next.

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