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Book Review: The Cold Commands by Richard Morgan

Posted by Katharine Stubbs December 10th, 2011 |

coldcommands‘The Cold Commands’ by Richard K Morgan is the second book in the ‘A Land Fit for Heroes’ series. His work has a common theme, as explained by what Morgan himself says on his website: “Society is, always has been and always will be a structure for the exploitation and oppression of the majority through systems of political force dictated by an élite, enforced by thugs, uniformed or not, and upheld by a wilful ignorance and stupidity on the part of the very majority whom the system oppresses.”

If you haven’t read ‘The Steel Remains’, the first book in the series, I’ll quickly sum up what this series is like.

It has been said to remind people of the game Skyrim, and is similar to Joe Abercrombie for style, as well as Scott Lynch for the charming use of language on almost every page which effectively sets the tone. This book is slightly different from Lynch in the amount of explicit sex and drug use used – which could put some people off. If you enjoyed The Steel Remains, this is very close to the first book. If you enjoy these themes, or at least can take them to build tone, mood and environment, then you won’t have an issue with this – after all, it simply shows what life is like in this world for these characters.

His series isn’t pure fantasy, as some may assume – they’re also part science fiction – quite like his Takeshi Kovacs series. There are lizardmen and alien races who have left a lasting impression on the lands. The main character, Ringil, has a sword known as Ravensfriend that is actually made from alien alloys. However, the people living on the earth think the alien technology is actually magic, giving the series much more of a fantasy feel despite the reality.

Many of his characters are lesbian or gay, which is refreshing in published fiction – though growingly accepted, it’s still rare (from what I’ve read at least) – at least in more than just a background character. However, it’s against the law of the lands, and we see how much trouble they go through.

‘The Cold Commands’ is quite clearly the middle of a trilogy, setting up for the finale. However, it doesn’t lack. The action and plot make this a very worthy book and we see growth from all characters, especially Ringil – I don’t think anyone could manage to read this book without shuddering at some stage at what Morgan puts poor Ringil through.

One of the strengths of this novel is the dialogue and prose in general – “the blade tore sideways through the pliant lips of the scabbard, made a blurred arc around and down off his shoulder, was there at guard in front of him, like steel laughter in the light.”

One of the weaknesses would have to be that the ending isn’t really an ending – this is a trilogy after all. Unfortunately, there is no title nor release date released as of yet for the remaining book in this series.

This series is for anyone who likes something that’s a bit different, gritty, blunt and not afraid to get as close as possible to complex and controversial issues.

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