Monday, February 25, 2008

Glen Cook - The Tyranny of the Night (Book Review)

Sha-lug, the slave soliders in the Kaifate of al-Minphet have only two choices – to do, or to die. For that they were bought and for that they were raised. Bringing mummies to the court of Gordimer the Lion, through the Holly Land around the Wells of Irhian was just one the missions that Else found himself doing of late. When a bogon, instrumentality of the night so powerful it could almost be considered a deity, turns up, he deals with it. The new invention, a falcon – blackpowder cannon – loaded with silver coins puts an end to the creature. It also puts Else in a centre of attention he's not even aware of, for how could a mere mortal kill even an almost deity. There's another's attention that he's much more aware of. Else is getting more and more sure that Gordimer, once a slave warrior himself, is trying to get rid of him. When he returns to the Kaif's court at al-Qarn another mission awaits him. To go alone and spy in Brothe, the heart of the of infidels, to see if another crusade for the Wells of Irhian, the Holy Land of Pramans and Chaldarean alike, is brewing.

The description above tries to catch the essence of the beginning of the main story, or perhaps better main character, that we follow through the larger part of the book. And just to make the things clear – all of this happens on the two thirds of the first fifty pages of the book.

Every short description of the book would do it injustice. Glen Cook liberally uses European High Middle Ages, blending together: crusades, pope (and antipope), Jews, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the King of Spain, Janissaries, ruling noble families of Rome caught in everlasting cloak and dagger games for papacy, corruption of the medieval Catholic Church, catharism and it's centre the Languedoc and last, but not least the Vikings and their pantheon. Now add to that the gods, or perhaps the demons, for this is the land where EVERY god truly exists. The strong ones may not meddle in the affairs of mortals, gorging on magic and prayers, but the small ones are an ever present threat which man had learned to live with, and sometimes tame.

All of that has to be told, put in place and woven in the story, and each of these aspects has a different, new name! If you don't have at least a general idea of European medieval history or if you aren't a careful, composed and systematic reader the first hundred, hundred and fifty pages can easily overwhelm you.

So I suppose the main question is: "Is the rest of the book worth the bother?"

In my opinion: yes. But for objectivity's sake I must in the same breath add that I'm Cook's fan. Well, time used to read a book is always well spent, and I think Cook will have a pleasant surprise or two in store for you. He is well practiced storyteller even if some of his books are not to be counted among the top in the genre. His characters are always realistic – they eat, they shit and they f**k and sometimes die doing one of those things. And above all they tend to be cynical to the extreme. In his books there is little place for idealism, but always for great ideas. If for no other reason to show what people do with them.

The Tyranny of the Night, the first book in the series The Instrumentalities of the Night is a rather old book. It was published three years ago - in 2005. The second volume of, I think, trilogy: Lord of the Silent Kingdom was published in the beginning of 2007, and mass paperback just a few months ago. Hopefully I will get my hands on one of those soon.

On this blog we have a habit of ending every review, with some kind of numerical appraisal. For the life of me I couldn't make an objective one, so form me this book gets a big, blue:


(And if you aren’t satisfied you can always go read the book yourself.)

- BlindMan -


FitzChivalry said...

I'm a fan of Cook also - Garret P.I. are my favorites, even before Black Company (I still have last 4books to read). What is your favorite Glen Cook Book?

BlindMan said...

Garret is a great read, though a bit repetitive after a while. On the other hand we are talking about dozen books, so it's understendable. I really love the first book in the "Black Company" series. Rest are decent fantasy, especially "Shadows Linger" and "The White Rose"... but later, without Croaker things just aren't so interesting :)
I also LOVE the "Dread empire". News that Cook does not intend to continue writing books in that universe was a great blow to my expectations :'(

Gladi said...

Bright day
Mamelukes, not janissaries.


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