Even if I didn’t already love Elizabeth Bear’s writing (see my review of Carnival last year), I would have wanted to pick up the book as soon as I saw her basic description on The Big Idea on Scalzi’s blog:
[I]t seemed to me that the obvious solution was to invent a different sun. Or maybe a whole slew of different suns.
So I did. Everybody gets their own sun! Or suns. And a set of skies to go with them.
How cool is that?! Not just suns, but moons, too. Then you add in descendants of Genghis Khan, or that world’s equivalent (Mongke Khagan) — you want to go find this book already, don’t you?
Picking up the book, I found it every bit as gripping as I’d hoped. Temur is on a battlefield, surrounded by the dead, both men and horses. His throat was cut, and he should by all rights be dead, but instead he lives, crossing the battlefield and looking for safety, somewhere where the very fact of his existence isn’t going to bring death to those around him. And the pace, excitement, and tension pick up from there.
Digression for those who read my post on Orullian — when Bear changed viewpoints, she didn’t lose me. I don’t know whether this is because she named somebody fairly quickly (from the first such scene — “Mukhtar ai-Idoj, al Sepehr of the Rock, crouched atop the lowest and broadest of them, his back to the familiar east-setting sun of the Uthman Caliphate.”), because I was already predisposed to trust her as an author, or because of a combination of the two. I think primarily it’s because she’s good with point-of-view; the first trilogy I read by her (the Jenny Casey books) mixed first-person and third-person point-of-view flawlessly.
(And do you notice how she worked part of what makes this not our familiar world into that sentence? “The familiar east-setting sun of the Uthman Caliphate” first of all puts the sun’s direction opposite to our own and underlines the fact that it is so only for this country; others have their own rules for the sun, some of which she delineates right afterward.)
This is a post for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. My theme is epic fantasy, and blog posts will cover authors, books, tropes, themes, or anything else I can think of to fill the alphabet. Check out some of the other bloggers participating or follow my blog by e-mail if you like what you’ve read.