Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap, is a legend to all who don't know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteran of the wars against the lizards, he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire's slave trade. There, he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives.
Archeth - pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race - is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire's borders.
Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad and one-time fighter for the Empire, finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world, there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe's petty gods.
Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous, and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world.
©2009 Richard Morgan (P)2011 Orion Publishing Group Limited
Modern fantasy at its best. Great writing, great characters. One of the best original fantasy series I have ever experienced. Read it or lose out on a fantastic dark and twisty experience. Highly recommended.
"An enjoyable read, but not for the delicate"
I have long been a fan of Richard Morgan. Altered Carbon, Broken Angels etc, excellent reads. Morgan has never been afraid to add gritty realism to his characters and stories, often displaying a dirty underside which adds spice and life to his creations. The Steel Remains is not cyber punk, it is set as a more traditional style fantasy world. His writing is as enjoyable as ever, and as ever he doesn't shy away from violence or sex if he feels it is called for in the narrative. In this particular novel, one of the main protagonists engages in several graphically represented same sex acts. This is isn't simply shock value, the sexual orientation of the character impacts very directly on the plot and motives.
However it may gall me, I do think some readers should be warned about the graphic homosexuality in the novel, as many of the fans of the fantasy genre (I was going to say hard core fantasy but decided against it) may not expect to find content of this nature.
That being said, please do not get the impression that the novel is rife with sex. It is an excellent read/listen, well written, great story and great narration. I recommend it to any mature fans of gritty fantasy writing. Any Joe Abercrombie fans should also enjoy this novel.
"Good story, performance so-and-so"
The plot is ok, pretty good gritty fantasy. It soon turns out to be a real page-turner. The world is well-built and original, with elements of science fiction. Characters are good, even if this novel feels like it is mainly setting the stage for what is to come.
At first, I was impressed by his performance. He has a good voice and it is always clear who is speaking. However, he does this by assigning any number of accents to the characters (except the two male protagonists, who - despite coming from very different backgrounds - get to speak without accent). He also portraits women by speaking in falsetto, which is not only demeaning, but also quite tiresome.
These mannerisms are bad in themselves, but they are even worse in this setting, where the female protagonist is tough as nails, but consistently performed as speaking in falsetto, with a rather forced accent. Also, this manner makes it clear who the performer considers to be foreign.
After a while I got so irritated that I bought the book and read the last third.
I have already started reading (not listening to) the next part (The Cold Commands). This far, it seems even better.
"Always good to read the description"
Richard Morgan writes gripping novels, and The Steel Remains is no exception. He does "damaged dark hero" as well as anyone. In this series he takes the fantasy genre and makes it fresh.
Gil, the lead character, is complex. Sardonic, an aristocrat with many upper class prejudices, he is also an effective military leader and a consummate soldier. He is a loner, follows a warrior ethos, and also has a self-destructive side. He undergoes significant changes in the course of the novel and I look forward to the second part.
Simon Vance is an accomplished reader, and the two male leads were excellent. I was less excited by the female lead, as her accent, at least to my taste, was a little distracting. Too bad, as her character — half human, half alien, left behind — was fascinating.
I was compelled to finish the novel and have already cued up the second one.
Some have commented on the depiction of the lead character's homosexuality, which underscores the importance of reading the description and the reviews if you are easily offended. Interestingly, these same readers did not seem the least bit bothered by the equally graphic, equally frequent, depictions of heterosexuality. (In fact, the heterosexual relations depicted were often non-consensual, while the gay sex occurred between consenting parties. I guess raping enslaved women is less offensive than gay sex between equals.) Nor did they seem bothered by the continuous, and highly graphic, violence. Remember, following Dr. Kinsey, that one in ten sword-swinging gore-covered berserker warriors are, statistically, likely to be gay. Which puts a whole new spin on "hearing the lamentations of the women."
"Not for the prudish..."
The main characters have sex... but it is not really pornographic. Actually, it's not even as graphic as some of Morgan's other works, and definitely not as sexually graphic as Abercrombie's dark fantasies.
Is it for kids? No, kids shouldn't be reading Morgan. But... just because it's gay sex doesn't make it pornographic. If it were a man and woman having at it, most people wouldn't have said a word about the sex scenes - eliminate homophobia and, at worst, it's a mid-range graphic sexual content. JR Ward's Black Dagger books are way more detailed and they're only considered girl-porn. Actually, every time someone comments on the presence of gay or pornographic sex in this novel, it worries me... there are a couple points where the author mentions how the women were literally "raped to death", and nobody bats an eye over this. Actually, an abundance of genre novels routinely have women being raped (more or less violently, of course) but nobody cranks and moans about that so much... but put one guy getting it up the rear and LOOK OUT IT'S PORN.
Wonder if that was actually Morgan's point?
Ahhh... what a world when the wholesale rape of women (read any zombie books lately?) has become perfectly routine....
Okay, on to the story... no... as you might not be able to tell from my rant, I actually didn't like it all that much. Morgan was trying too hard to shock us all with the "romantic" (hahahah... I mean "gay") component and not hard enough to shock us with the plot. I guess it worked, in the shock department... just not in the right way. It was just a bit too confusing, with just a few too many characters, and a just a bit too much "otherworldlyness" which I didn't think was explained well enough to follow completely. I think he did bring the characters' storylines back together at the end, but it was just a little too late to help the tension/pacing of the novel.
Someone described it as setting the stage for the future novels and that is very accurate; this story is more setup and world/character building and less action/plot.
I'd still read more of Morgan's stuff (and his Kovac's books are still some of my fav dark books)... and I might read the next in this series if I come across it somewhere, but I won't be seeking it out.
The narration is very good. There is a ton of foul language and several sex scenes. I didn't think it was particularly gory, but there was a lot of violence.
"Well-Written, Brutal, Sexual, Heroic Fantasy/SF"
Philanthropists, homophobes, fans of religion, and people squeamish about bad language and graphic depictions of sex and violence may recoil from Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains (2008). The sex and violence are not always gratuitous, as Morgan often depicts their psychological, political, and dramatic meanings as well as their physical effects, but erotic and bloody scenes are many. One of the freshest aspects of Morgan's novel is the homosexuality of its main protagonist, Ringil Eskiath, for there are few unabashedly gay heroes in heroic fantasy. Ringil's culture, the Trelayne League of free cities, would punish his sexuality with public impalement but for his family being elite and he a war hero. Ringil's gay outsider perspective offers refreshing moments, as when he explains to some outraged Imperial officers how he came by some vital enemy intel: "the thing about fucking is, it's a lot less wear and tear than trying to kill each other with bits of steel, and it's the sort of the thing that does lead to confidences and favors if you play it right. Ask any woman--she'll tell you that. Unless your experiences are limited to whores and rape."
The first book in a trilogy, The Steel Remains introduces the history of its world and its denizens (past and present). To defeat an invasion of alien sentient reptiles about ten years ago, the League had to team up with its bitter rival the Yhelteth Empire (which Morgan--less freshly--depicts as yet another pseudo-Islamic southern culture, following "the Prophet," forbidding graphic depictions of the deity, observing calls to prayer, and exploiting infidel slaves). Vital to winning that war were northern steppes Majak barbarians like Ringil's friend Egar Dragonbane and the Kiriath, a species of space faring engineers who had been forced to settle for a period on the world of the humans, whom they supplied with superior swords, sentient machines, and potent fortifications. After the war, the League reinstituted the slave trade to invigorate their economy, and the Kiriath decided to vacate the planet before the "fucking humans," a brawling, bargaining, lying, hate-filled, and cruel species, could debase them with their violent quarrels.
Ringil is living cynically in the backwater town near the site of his most heroic battle, selling the name of his sword, Ravensfriend, to the local inn for room and board, telling war stories for coins, developing a paunch, and engaging in one-night stands with stable boys, when his mother shows up to get him to try to locate and rescue his cousin, who has been sold into slavery to pay her deceased husband's debts. As Ringil returns to Trelayne, learning that you can't go home again, his old war-comrades Egar and Archeth Indamaninarmal (a half-Kiriath woman warrior-engineer-advisor to the Yhelteth Emperor) are also forced to deal with some disturbing changes in the status quo of their respective cultures. A fortuneteller tells Ringil that a big fight and a dark lord are coming. And it becomes apparent that the Aldrain (AKA the dwenda or the Vanishing Folk), legendary beings who left the world several thousand years ago, are manipulating human affairs for some purpose of their own.
The beautiful and apparently immortal and magical Aldrain resemble cruel and factional versions of Tolkien’s elves, but Morgan may be doing something more targeted at race, for the Aldrain are white and the Kiriath black, and his book is more science fictional. The different species seem to have come from different planets, and instead of a moon the world of the story has a Saturn's ring-like "band" composed of minute particles that cast "band light" at night and serve the superstitious Majak as the home of their gods. In later books in the trilogy I bet the band turns out to be artificial.
Like many of the best works in the contemporary "heroic" fantasy genre (e.g., by Abercrombie and Erikson), Morgan depicts a gray moral world. There are no clearly evil or good races, cultures, or figures. Humans, Kiriath, and Aldrain are all creative, cruel, violent, and selfish. Morgan does provide buoys, like the bravery, friendship, and ethical struggles of his three main characters. Although the "magic" of the Aldrain may enable Morgan to do whatever he wants too often (as in the climax), their travel between alternate worlds outside time is neat (one of the worlds recalls our earth, with highways--roads "of black stone built for giants"--and skyscrapers--"prisons . . . so tall they looked stretched beyond any humanly useful dimension"). Many of his fantasy/sf imaginings, like the corpsemites and helmsmen, are fine. And his writing is beautiful, horrible, and darkly humorous:
"There's a general hate in the hearts of men. . . . It's like the heat of the sun."
"It walked toward him like fire on paper, the dwenda, like a dancing blue rainstorm a dozen feet across, radiance falling and splashing back up off the floor again."
"The fight emerged from dream and became what it was--the man-dance, the steel measure, the promise of blood and death on cold courtyard stone."
"The thought spilled away from him like coins across the street and down a grate, little glints of gleaming meaning gone."
"You are immortal?" "So far."
Simon Vance gives his usual elegant reading of the novel (he makes the f-word, anal sex, and eye gouging sound refined), but his female characters are higher-voiced than need be, and his accent for Archeth is unfortunate.
"As usual Richard Morgan totally redefines a genre,"
Violent, Grim, Spellbinding. I'm a Richard Morgan fan, but I hate fantasy novels, I could not put this down. Morgan Imagination seems to inhabit a different plain, a strange and scary world which will always surprise you.
The character should have been less hung up about being a homosexual, He just sounded like an angsty teenager rather than a 30 year old warrior.
The performance was good I just couldn't get on with the story.
To be honest I think the book needs a complete re-write.
Dont waste your money on this trash unless you like wet angst ridden characters.
"good storytelling but..."
I am fairly certain I would have enjoyed this story, and certainly Simon Vance's reading of it, if it wasn't for the unnecessary sexual details (both straight and gay) and the swearing (f*** and c***) which to me was not used for literary reasons. If these things do not concern you then it looks to be a great story of mismatched and complicated buddies. I just wish Rochard Morgan left more things to my imagination.
"Up there with Hoffman, Lynch and Rothfuss,"
I loved this book, it has the same edgy feel that Name of the Wind, Left hand of God and the Gentleman Bastard books have. It could have been sharper and allowed the reader more use of their imagination by restricting the long descriptions he is so fond of. With that said im going to start into his next book immediately. One of the few new Sci Fantasy authors that entertain without harking back to Tolkien. As one of the main characters is gay, this book is definitely not for the homophobic. it was good to see something different tried in this genre. hope the next one is as good if not better.
"Entertaining story, fantastic narration,"
Ringil Eskiath, wielder of The Raven’s Friend. Ask a half-dozen people to describe him and you'll get ten answers. Noble by birth; warrior by training; hero by accident; legend despite himself; perverted, degenerate, twisted abomination to many of his countrymen; outcaste and viciously proud of it; drunkard, because of all of the above. Every bit of it true, depending on who you ask. All HE asked was to be left alone. He’d done his bit. He’d saved his people... and then been rejected by them once the cheering died down. When his mother came to him for help, all of his instincts told him to run. He certainly didn’t want to go off on some stupid search for a missing cousin, sold into slavery and abandoned by her immediate family, simply because his mother felt guilty about it. He would have been even more vehement in his refusal if he had known exactly where the search would take him. But mothers always know what levers will move their recalcitrant children. And so begin his first steps into a world where myths and gods of ages past walk the streets.
I believe this is Richard Margan's first foray into fantasy and it is an excellent debut into the genre. I've read his SF for years, though I lean towards fantasy. Simon Vance's narration is perfect. There are a handful of audiobook narrators that can almost make me ignore the author & genre simply for the pleasure of listening to his narration. I lost hours listening to this and I suspect that reading the book would be one of those times when I start reading in the evening and realise that the sun is coming up just as I finish it. The sequel, The Cold Commands, is calling to me now.
So, to sum up... An entertaining story with excellent narration that kept drawing me into another world
I am enjoying this book very much. Simon Vance does an excellent job as usual of narrating the multitude of characters. The writing itself is excellent, lyrically descriptive in parts and the story is everything it should be in this genre - fast moving, complex, violent.
A word of warning however. The characters language is coarse at times, absolutely filthy at others and there are scenes of graphic homosexual sex which are probably a little overdone for their context. You wouldn't want your mother or children to listen to this book, which is a shame because it's a great example of the genre.
The themes, characterisation and narrative are very grown up. Homosexuality, bigotry and power are intrinsic to the story and often depicted graphically and uncompromisingly. In my view, this is utterly justified, as this is what gives the book such a edgy and for once, fresh take on a familiar story.
I say familiar but there are enough twists to keep me intrigued and keen to get book 2.
Simon Vance just terrific as always, he doesn't hold back at all and gives every expletive just the right amount of venom when it's being spat in a bad guy's face.
"Absorbing, unique, fascinating"
Where to start reviewing a story that is entirely unique?
Ringil Eskiath, a war hero, is a man with a rigid morality. This makes him ill equipped to cope with his society's lack of morality. He finds himself in direct conflict with virtually everyone around him. Society, in turn, is unable to understand him. Instead, he is censured for his homosexuality and is either dismissed as naive or villified as depraved. He's a sensitive man who can only survive by alienating himself and his superlative sword skill makes him a reluctant killer.
Brief synopsis: Ringil is asked to track down and retrieve a family member who has been sold into slavery. He stumbles into a deep laid plan by a mythical race of beings who intend to take back Ringil's world that they consider theirs by heritage. He is forced to carve his way through people and and problems with his sword.
The story twists, turns, doubles back, confuses and thrills.
A word of advice: listen very, very carefully. All three books are out now and I had to go back to the beginning to re-read. The entire story line contains clues that only become clear by the end of book 3. The story is not linear, so some actions taken make no sense until seen in relation to the entire story.
Richard Morgan has created a detailed, unique world that will catch and hold you tight till the very end. His characters are deeply sketched and nuanced. The support characters are just as carefully crafted as the main ones. The writing is superb and Simon Vance is an experienced, versatile narrator.
"Better & Better"
I was hoping for a strong story and gritty realism in this fantasy title and got what I was after. The narrator does very well with his voices and characters. Not as much dark humour as I might have liked but lots of clever observations and interesting motives to move things along. Well worth a second listen once you've gathered the plot.
Very well done!!!
The narration was good, with excellent vocal delivery and expert differentiation of characters.
The narrative was passable. However; after a strong start the character speeches devolved into swear words. If I wanted to hear the F-Word repeated over and over again I'd watch a British crime thriller. No thanks.
I couldn't get through 'Altered Carbon' (one of the authors Sci-Fi outings) either. In that story I grew tired of the main character's weary dissipation combined with his barely-controlled hatred.
I'm sorry to find the author just as one-note in this genre. Morgan has written another 'hero' with a sad life who really, really hates some other people.
"Good plot - Great characters - Interesting setting"
Great book with a good balance of violent action, political and interpersonal intrigue, and personal introspection; played out by likeable, if damaged protagonists.Primarily fantasy with a sprinkling of steam-punk and hints of possible Sci-fi.The main characters are well rounded, who grow and change subtly through the story, revealing tantalising titbits of even more interesting back stories.The plot, and details of the world and characters are expanded slowly through the book, at a good pace to keep you guessing and wondering, but not laying it all on a plate.The first chapter nearly put me off, but I carried on and ended up finishing the book in only a few sittings, and went straight on to the sequel.
There are some pretty graphic erotic scenes, which are maybe a bit unnecessary in their level of detail, but the are linked to very important relationships and events.
"Just too much graphic gay sex for me"
Stunning story, brilliantly written and brilliantly narrated - however - There is too much graphic homosexual sex, adult language and torture for me. Some people will think this is great but I had to fast forward quite a few parts of the story.
"Good in parts"
I have to confess to being very disappointed with what could quite easily be a very good book, the story line was good and some excellent dialogue, but sadly there was far too much explicit sexual detail that was totally unnecessary which had me pressing the fast forward button a number of times.
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