Mark Lawrence reviews Exile

I should not have to explain who best-selling fantasy author Mark Lawrence is, if you haven’t read his work then you should. He is also the guy behind the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off that has done so much to raise the profile of the very many great self published fantasy novels that are out there. So to have him say nice things about Exile is a huge thing for me.

Here is his review as posted on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2774668065?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

“This book was given to me in the bar outside Bristolcon, which is where you’ll find me on the one day a year that Bristolcon takes place. Author Paul Lavender gave it to me on behalf of the actual author Martin Owton.

I get given quite a few books at Bristolcon, most of them self-published (as I assumed this one was, though it turns out to have come from a small press). If I don’t like a book I either don’t review it or I focus on the nice things I can say about it. This book however is rugged enough for me to voice some of my issues with it as well as some of the things I enjoyed. The copy I got was a nice sturdy hardback with the cover art printed directly onto the cover (no dust jacket) as they do in some European countries. I like that style and this was a high quality binding. The story is also quite solid and sturdy.

The book was entered in the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) and went out without comment (I’m now told this was because it turned out not to be self published)- but it did feature in the same group that yielded the book that won the whole contest, The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids. So for all we know, if that book had had a nasty accident, this one might have won!

Owton has a clear and direct writing style that passes unnoticed. There’s no ornamentation. I don’t recall a seeing a single simile in the whole book. There must have been some … surely? That may sound like criticism but it really isn’t. To write a book that isn’t a chore to read is a rare skill. To write prose that let the reader glide through rather than labour across requires talent. The writing will probably not wow you but it is solid and lets the story take centre focus.

The setting is a kingdom in the land of Generica, which is my smart arse way of saying fantasy-everywhere, a medievalesque land of castles dukes, kings, taverns, farmers, the occasional wizard or wise-woman, a “standard” comfortable fantasy land where you’ll encounter no surprises and feel at home. Again, you could read this as a criticism, but the reason many authors rely on established fantasy common ground is so they can focus on story.

So, the story! Well, it’s a quite small scale tale. Small scale for fantasy that is. There are no wars, the fate of nations is not really at stake. There’s no evil other than the common or garden human variety. No magical cataclysm approaches. We are concerned with one point-of-view character. He wants revenge on a powerful man but gets sucked into the affairs of an impoverished duchy. The bulk of the book concerns his getting involved with the local minor nobility and mounting an attempt to rescue the duke’s son from a rival holding him hostage over some land dispute. Not high stakes stuff, but interesting in a small scale swords & sorcery way.

Exile is a “traditional” fantasy of the sort that wouldn’t raise any eyebrows twenty years ago but might now get readers asking “what about the women?”. The women largely feature in the form of the duke’s wife and two daughters (both husband hunting) and later a minor goddess, all four of whom sleep with or snog our hero. Other women are relegated to serving maids, whores and wise-women. I’ve written books in this style but it does seem that the tide may have turned toward fantasy equality of the style Robin Hobb championed 20+ years ago when the castle barracks turned out both male and female soldiers without remarking on the fact.

I’m poking at this book, but as I said, it’s sturdy enough to take it. I enjoyed the story. It was sword-swinging, castle climbing, hard drinking fun.

There were moments of very literal deus ex machina but it didn’t bother me. It is, in a good way, a simple undemanding story that offers amusing diversion, and that’s a good thing.”

I think his review is spot on, and I agree with the points of weakness he mentioned – the setting is fairly generic and the female characters play secondary roles. If you want to read about the ladies doing more then you have to read Nandor, where they get a lot more to do, particularly Lady Edith.

Thank you, Mr Lawrence.

 

 

 

Coming soon – Shadows of Faerie

I got the edits through this week for my upcoming contemporary novel which is set in Southampton and the New Forest where I grew up. The publisher is Crossroad Publishing, an American publisher, so obviously my editor was American. She caught a disturbingly high number of typos and missing words considering the manuscript had been gone through so many times, and more vexing, she also changed all my …ise ending words to …ize, recognise to recognize etc. So I had to go through and change them back. This gave me the opportunity to reread the story, having not done so for about 3 yrs, and I have to say I’m impressed with myself. It is a good book. I hope you’ll agree when it comes out later this year. No exact date yet, but I’ll post the cover art when I get it. Now I need to get a decent author’s picture taken.

Welcome to 2019

Goodbye 2018. You were a tough year but I’m finishing in much better state than I started. The biggest difference is having started on Venetoclax in February which has worked really well. Most of my blood parameters are now in the normal range, I’ve put back the weight I had lost, and my knees and ankles are much improved after the damage Ibrutinib did to them.

My writing has picked up; I now have 80k of the first draft of my new fantasy novel – more epic than the Nandor Tales books – and hope to have a complete first draft soon. Since I resumed work on it I’ve written about 50k words which is pretty good going for me.

2018 was a tough year for a Southampton supporter too. Mark Hughes looked like a saviour at the end of last season but it quickly became clear that, despite the new players brought in, the team was still weak. I’ve been well enough to go to a lot of home games this season and the number of errors that cost us points was disturbing. The new man Ralph Hassenhuttl seems to have a strong vision for the side and I think we’ve made a good appointment. I look forward to seeing us win a lot more games in 2019.

Review of Blackest Knights

I have a story in Blackest Knights, an anthology edited by Charles Phipps and published by Crossroad Press, who will be publishing my contemporary fantasy novel next year.

So is it any good? Here’s what I thought of it:

19 fantasy adventure short stories from 15 different authors, many set in the worlds of the their novels, all action-packed and never less than entertaining; there is simply not a bad one amongst them. My standouts were “Gift of the Gaze” by James Alderdice, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother” by Allan Batchelder and “Honor is Just a Word” by CT Phipps (who edited and has 3 stories in the anthology). This serves as an excellent sampler of the writing of these talented independent authors

June update

Saw the consultant yesterday for my monthly progress check. I’ve been feeling good all this month so was expecting things to look decent – and they do! Welcome back to my neutrophils. Now coming in at 2.4 (2 and above is normal). The only red ink on the report is the lymphocyte level (0.5 when it should be 1.0), and part of that is due to the medication. So yeah! Venetoclax works and for me has no side effects.

In other news I placed in the top 10 of the Farnham Flash Festival Flash Fiction Competition – the winning story was from a fellow Rushmoor Writer and way better than mine. Also my current work in progress is now at 65k.

Guest Blogger – Jesse Teller

I’m handing over this blog entry to a very talented writer whose work I would urge you all to check out. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the winner of the 2017 Drunken Druid Book Award, Mr Jesse Teller.

 

The Timeless Enemy
by Jesse Teller

When I was a boy, my parents took me to the movies. This was back when we had no money. No money at all. We had to fight to get food on the table and we were always strapped. Well somehow, my parents found the money and the time to take us to the movies, and I saw Sleeping Beauty.
I don’t remember much at all. Colors, I think, is all I could take away from it. I was about six and I had no recollection of the story or the images really, but I do remember very distinctly the dragon. I remember the colors, the breath, and the black. I remember this tiny man striving to fight it, and the way it seemed impossible. I remember thinking no force in the world could rival a dragon, and that is all I took from it.
Years later, I was watching TV in the morning on a Saturday, and I saw Bilbo Baggins take the first steps of his journey. The artistry of it consumed me, the way those particular animation artists moved the characters across the screen. They were the same animators that did The Last Unicorn and I will never forget the way they drew the line. The movie The Hobbit was fun until Bilbo and I found ourselves at the feet of Smaug.
So huge that dragon was, nothing Bilbo could do could ever stack up. There was no weapon to grasp to bring death to that monster. No hope, however slight, could be held when the idea of fighting that beast was at hand.
I do not accept the death Tolkien gave to his god of dragons. It is too convenient, too simple. No one arrow ever made could take down the beast I saw in that cavern, no matter how well shot, no matter the target.
I remember thinking if ever a power could exist that could rival a being that great, it would have to be me who found it. No other creator could reach within and pluck out the shred of hope that stood up to a creature so mighty.
Well, of course, I was wrong. Writers and artists have been killing dragons as long as dragons have been around. St. George cast one down centuries before I was born, and people have been doing it ever since. But Smaug stayed supreme in my mind, a creature of such immense power that no one dare stand before him had they not a ring of power.
So then I set to work. I began, time after time, crafting a hero or heroine strong enough to crush the monumental monsters of my mind. Soon wizards. Then warriors. Then one after the next, I began to put together an army of people and beings so invincible that they could stand up to Smaug. They could face the Nefarious, the Tempest and the Wrath of the greatest forces of darkness that any mind could find. Any mind anywhere. With this devotion to craft and heart of a creator, I plumbed the darkness within my mind to find magic.
When I hit teenage years, I wanted warriors. Arislan, Aragorn. Caramon Majere. I found Mycenae Kark and Sai Sibbius Summerstone. One after the next, I sought and found one swords smith, then another, to battle the monoliths of my mind. Twenties found assassins. Thirties, barbarians. One great hero after the next filled my mind, always with one goal in sight.
Crush Smaug.
Pulverize the immense. Bring down the invincible. I write high fantasy. If that means I am not grimdark, then so be it.
There is a boy in here, deep where no one can find him. He is fighting a monster, a monster deeply rooted in the fiber of his mind. That little boy will not let me go small. He has a nemesis. He has a nightmare, and one after the other, he will pump out the mighty and the brave to bring it down. I have never killed Smaug. He is, as far as, I know unkillable.
But Rayph Ivoryfist would get close. Smear Kond could sneak up on him. Dreark would make Smaug tremble. I fear that somehow the mighty, world-moving powers within my books will make me less grim, that I might lose some street cred. I might have readers who shrug and drop me, thinking they want lower fantasy than I am prepared to give them.
To them I say, please forgive. There is a monster in here. He scares me. I must fight him the best I can. Smaug is watching. Smaug is waiting.

 

Find out more about Jesse’s books here:  https://www.amazon.com/Jesse-Teller/e/B01G0ZB7JG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1526242642&sr=1-2-ent