- File Size: 371 KB
- Print Length: 298 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Lateral Books; 2 edition (December 5, 2013)
- Publication Date: December 5, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0087DNHV6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,392 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Nysta: Revenge of the Elf (The Shadow Realm Book 1) Kindle Edition
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From the Inside Flap
This is the book Heroic Fantasy was waiting for. Blending the most brutal elements of Westerns and Hardboiled Detective fiction into Heroic Fantasy, Revenge of the Elf offers a new breed of elf unlike any other you've ever read.
"Probably the most violent fantasy novel ever written this century ...Full of bad puns and pop-culture references, the Nysta series is guaranteed to be more violent than your average fantasy novel ... If Quentin Tarantino walked into a bar and found himself being molested by Sergio Leone while trying to convince a few D&D nerds to help him write a remake of Deathstalker, he'd probably find himself stuck with a script which looked a whole lot like these books. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not."
From the Back Cover
Joined by a mysterious warlock, she soon finds there's more evil in the Deadlands than the men she's hunting. In fact, killing the Bloody Nine might be easy.
Surviving the Deadlands could prove impossible.
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I do, however, enjoy a gritty and dark tale of revenge. I'm not sure what will come of the storyline between the three gods, two maniacal warring males and the seemingly more "righteous" female. I agree with the author that helpless or weak females aren't entertaining but I would disagree that most fantasy stories present them as so. Since the 80s at least, I have seen story after story of a female-focused lead that was above males in all regards. In reading many stories, male leads are usually flanked by a mixture of strong and weak makes and females but always at least one strong female without making it a point to point out to the reader "look at my strong male character". In this story, and with the author's after-story words, he seems to be pointing out "look at my strong female". I just want a good story.
At least in this story, whether intentional or not, there were actually strong males and females, minimally, but the main male is a scheming coward. No character was charitable and righteous but at least Chukshene kept helping Nysta when death was upon her.
I love strong characters, male and female, so I plan to move forward with the next story in the high hopes that Nysta and the female god Veil aren't representative of victims of a fantasy patriarchy that manage to overcome it all. I just want a good story with strong representation all around.
So far, I was entertained even with the Alice Cooper nod and cheesy one-liners and knife names.
This is a brutal and fast-paced book with a dark and low fantasy setting. At first it seems like it's going to be full of cheesy tropes but the author almost immediately subverts them. The characters are extremely well developed and complex. Don't expect any long boring plots involving court intrigue and such - the story is simplistic (in a very good way). The fight scenes are many and amazingly well written. The setting is a sort of wilderness / apocalyptic wasteland. Since this is the first in a series - many questions are raised and few are answered - in other words this book can't really be read as a stand-alone.
The only complaint I could come up with is that there were only two main characters - it felt like there was room for at least one more to add some diversity. However the author addresses this wonderfully in the following books in the series so it really isn't a problem.
Summarized - in my opinion there aren't enough books out there like this one. At the very least if you want something unique then buy this book.
Nysta's character is unique, witty, cunning, and powerfully imageful. Spellcheck says that's not a word but it fits. The plot is creative without giving up the reader's comprehension. Fast paced without giving up development. Violent without giving up...well, it gives up a lot to be violent. Peace, love, charity, and boredom. Nothing you would miss anyways.
I don't do reviews. It's not that I don't have anything to say, but why write when I can read? Thankfully Thorn doesn't think like that. Look, just buy the books. When I realized not everyone had, I knew I would have to intervene. If you can't buy the book, then murder someone and roll their corpse for one. Or, y'know, borrow them from a friend. But read the story, pass the word to your friends. Teach an idiot to read, just so they too can enjoy what i have.
And Lucas? Get your rear into gear. I will seriously start shanking strangers if I have to wait for five as I did for four. Genius isn't allowed to rest.
Yes, this is a tale of vengeance and woe. It is dark and has swear words in it. It works. But, I do agree with an earlier reviewer that it does kinda fall flat at the end. I do kinda understand the inclusion of the mage as her sidekick, but he is still an enigma to me. There has to be some underlying meaning to why she allows him to live and adventure with her. I do hope that is answered in the next book. For right now, it doesn't make much sense why he is her traveling companion.
Other than that, it is a good read, and I will be reading further adventures of Nysta...
Top international reviews
It does read a bit like a novel with insufficient editorial control at times. For example, I found the sentence "Stepped off the porch and allowed her eyes the chance to drink in the view one last time." a bit jarring, as well as lines like "Her eyes lost sight of.." rather than "She lost sight of" (especially as I'd just finished Philip K Dick's short story 'The Eyes Have It').
The way almost every chapter ended with a pun interrupted the flow of the story a bit for me, especially since the rest of the book did not read to me like a humorous novel. There was also one use of a US/Oz colloquialism by an elf ("if you want it all to be jake"), which did not fit well in a fantasy setting. However, these are minor gripes and nothing that would stop me reading the rest of the series when it comes out.
I found the writing style easy enough to contend with, and enjoyed the story. Based on my experience of other similar novels starting off a new series, I'd expect the series to improve with each book, so I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
But really, "The Bloody Nine" being the group who start the ball rolling, that’s a direct borrow from Joe Abercrombie. Chukshene, as the Mage, that’s American for Charlie Sheen. Oliver Kween, or Ollie Kween whose good with a bow, That’s the DC character Ollie Queen or the "Green Arrow" as he is known. I will let you decide if you want to buy the book and find so many more littered throughout. Once you start looking for them and finding them it completely distracts from the actual story. Which if written straight I would have found enjoyable. I guess its a nice idea but not for me. However the story is not badly written, I could be missing the point, maybe in books written in this way you are meant to ignore the constant borrowing.
It is a shorter book than its page count might suggest, but it has a visceral quality that reads well keeping me turning the pages, or flicking the kindle. There aren't many books that hold my attention enough to be read in a few sittings over a couple of days. The opening scene with Nysta's husband, Talek is well written, drawing you into the experience of a great soldier brought low in enforced retirement. The writing has a terseness that keeps it tight and free of the purple extravagance of some indie prose. Description of scene and setting appear through the characters' story rather than as a writing exercise of its own, the book is about action and dialogue and the occasional internal ruminations of a guilt ridden central character drowning her sorrows in violence rather than drink, but all of it advancing the plot.
There is a gritty style to the book. The writing, dialogue and the action all have a certain edginess, an authentic voice of fury, desperation and despair and yes that means there's swearing, shed-loads of it. The wandering wizard Chukshene is a useful foil to Nysta. There is a natural rhythm to the entertaining abuse they exchange inbetween eviscerating a wide variety of foes.
Nysta is a distinctive character who I want to know better. A warrior who has so many knives she has to give them all names to tell them apart. An anti-archetype (well pretty much an anti-everything) she is not willowy or ethereal, more waspish and feral. This is indeed a very different kind of elf.
The world building is subtle, all seen through the lens of the character's viewpoints and dialogue, but there is enough to stimulate a certain curiosity. A world of (at least) three gods who came and fought each other on the earth. None of them seem to be particularly godly, walking amongst the living and apparently as fond of a good piss-up as the next man, but their bar-room brawls last for centuries and desolate continents. Throughout the book we get tantalising glimpses of the mythology and culture of different people is from the character's interactions rather than through any tedious infodump.
There was a moment when Nysta flung a knife at a noise in the forest that I was reminded of an entirely different fantasy book, albeit it twisted through a wormhole of distortion. Chukshene, the wizard, works well as the coarse and cowardly lion to Nysta's anything but dainty Dorothy while they follow a ragged trail about as far from the yellow brick road as it is possible to get.
The book as a whole rattles along at a brisk pace driven by its expletive fuelled dialogue and it's non-stop action and there were times when I could perhaps have wished it a little slower, a little more measured. The opening scenes with Talek were among my favourite, perhaps because the violence was curtailed by Talek's physical impairments and so dialogue and interaction took precedence over raw action.
Of recent books that I have read it reminds me most of "Those poor, poor bastards" the first in the Dead West series. There was the same rapid acceleration to unrelenting action and the same authenticity of voice in the f-bombed dialogue and the same relief that the breathless pace was confined to a relatively short book. This is a sprint of a read, not a marathon.
There are some points of style one might question, A dearth of pronouns or even nouns to take the subject in a sentence for example. Instead of "She could move...." or "Nysta couldn't breathe...." we get "Could move.... and "Couldn't breathe..." It adds a certain sense of urgency and pace to the text, but there is simply the question of whether it is overdone. The borrowed references to other works and the punning humour that other reviewers found distracting did not affect me in the same way - perhaps because I was forewarned.
But the essential question is, is this a good book? is this a great book? Well it is certainly good, I wanted to finish it and I'm glad I did; that isn't always true when I read indie books, in fact it it isn't always true when I read any books. But then again, this book always had a headstart over the others where I am concerned, I mean bad assed female heroines! What's not to like?
"Nysta is certainly the culmination of many years of dissatisfaction in the presentation of female characters in fantasy.
As such, Nysta will never heal anyone with amazing healing powers. She will never drink tea and discuss dresses. She will not stand back and watch her boyfriend fight the monster.
She will not be rescued by the hero, because in my book, she IS the hero."
And in some ways Nysta is bad-ass. She's certainly skilled with a blade or two (dozen). But that's not really the same thing as strong. I could excuse all the tears and even the way her thoughts are scattered one moment and obsessive the next; she's grieving the loss of the love of her life, after-all. (And Talek seemed wonderful and worthy of her love.)
But the author fell into the same trite trap as many others when he made her a victim of sexual abuse and circumstantially forced prostitution as a child (starting as young as seven presumably). The book also starts with rape threats and whoring comes up frequently in conversation or insults. Nysta's very ashamed of what she had to do to survive and when discussing this history is the only time in the book that she feels fragile. I swear authors, there really are other ways for women to become strong. But you would never know it from reading fiction. How very pat.
I wouldn't even mention it, since it's basically the norm. Except that Thorn made it apparent in the above note that he was aiming to break the pattern of women's presentation in fantasy. Then why go with a plot device so overused as to have become cliché? Men don't have to be victims before they can become strong. They don't need that forging process and frankly neither did Nysta.
What's more, Nysta's presumed strength is of a very male sort. She can kill more people than the next guy therefore she must be strong. But I would argue that's skill and something else entirely. Internal strength needs to based on something more and Nysta lacks that. To paraphrase Chukshene, she's still just that scared little girl, servicing some minor noble on her knees in a dirty back alley.
So, I'll give it half marks for my hope of a strong, kick-ass woman warrior. She's kick-ass sure, but she didn't strike me as strong in any sense but the muscular type. Disappointing, to say the least.
The book also has a cool cover. But again, being as Thorn apparently wants to widen women's available and acceptable place in fantasy, I should ask why she's half-naked. Especially considering the book is set in winter and she's fully dressed in leather armour and a full length, fur-lined cape (mostly even with the hood up) for the entirety of the book. Again, for someone trying to break new ground, Thorn keeps falling into disappointingly well-trodden paths.
As for the rest of the story, I'll give it half marks too, because I liked it in a lot of ways, but feel very little compulsion to continue the series. For one, Thorn has a tendency to overuse things. Nysta, and to a lesser degree Chukshene, have a habit of dropping puns and one-liners. At first, it was funny. Then I couldn't decide if it was genius or just cheesy. By the end and the 100th such occurrence, I'd started imagining a 'ba-da-bum' and a laugh-track in my mind each time one of the characters dropped a clanger. It had been wholly reduced to Dad Joke level humour and definitely fell on the super-cheese side of the equation. Same thing with Nysta's constant threats and Chukshene's endless needling, it was effective in the beginning but just disruptive to the narrative by the end.
And the end, or lack there of, is one of the biggest reasons I don't think I'll continue this series unless I come across the sequel as a freebie. The whole plot of this book is set up by the blurb to be about Nysta hunting down and killing her husband's murderers. However, she doesn't find them until about 80% into the book. Then there is about a one-page altercation in which most of them escape. That's it. That's the entirety of the fight between her and the men she's hunting.
She fights some robbers, some zombie type things, walks, rides a horse, cries, refuses to eat, talks and talks and talks, but she doesn't fight the Bloody Nine much at all. Then, just at the end something else entirely happens, opening the plot to a much wider path and the book ends.
You don't get the satisfaction of seeing Talek's killers caught or much of a sense of vindication on seeing them realise that Nysta isn't 'just a whore' but a dangerous killer they should fear. You don't know what's possessed Nysta (she's unconscious at the end). You don't know why Chukshene is sticking with her. You don't have much more than a hint at where the series is headed. It's just one big question-mark, making this whole book feel like little more than a prologue to something more. It is not a stand-alone book.
The writing itself is pretty good. Mechanically readable with believable dialogue (outside of the puns). There were a couple editing hiccups, but not enough to bother me. I was confused with the world-building. The author does set up a rather complex religious and political landscape, but it's set up, not described or explored. So, I only ever had a vague understanding of it. It was enough to follow the story, but not enough to feel fully invested in it.
The author also seems to have an odd attachment to spiders. Chukshene runs with his knees too high, like an injured spider. A hill looks like a spider squatting. Runes looked like spiders dancing. Someone is described as cold, like a spider. Plus, apparently Chukshene just doesn't like them and they can get as big as a hand. I second Chukshene here, hate them, so I notice these things.
All-in-all, if I had gone into this book with different or no expectations, I might not be as disappointed with it as I am. It's not a bad book, a lot better than many indies I've read. But I really wanted that strong warrior Thorn promised in the beginning and I didn't find her. (Maybe we just have very different ideas of what makes a woman strong, but I still finished in a sulk.)
And as one finale snarky side comment, though she never drank tea, Nysta did in fact discuss a dress, a red one. Maybe not in the 'I'm a pretty-pretty princess' way a lot of fantasy, especially YA fantasy (which this is not, it's harsh, violent and gritty, with lots of cursing—none of which I mind) does when they want to let a man provide the woman with the femininity she's obviously lacking by being a fighter, but still there was a dress, it was discussed.
I however found it difficult to connect with the character of Nysta. The writer clearly wanted a tough as nails character, but she is repeatedly spitting. In what is a rather short book then what the page count would make out, due to the formatting which leaves a line between every paragraph (and sometimes sentence), I felt that the phrase was overused and made me feel repulsed by her in parts. I would not have minded the odd reference which would have highlighted her seemingly lack of femininity, but for me it was just repetitive. The term Wyrm for describing things is also overused.
However, in general the book is entertaining and engaging, but I would have liked a little more character development, closure and building of the world. I feel this book would benefit from being fleshed out and adding whatever continuation the author decides the write onto the end. Without spoiling, a certain plot made me feel quite disappointed and I expected something more. Talek, the husband, starts the book and I found his chapters to be better written. I hope that we will be able to read more about him in further books somehow, which despite my criticisms, I will be reading.
At the end of the book the auther explains his use of humour, which is to add a pun to the end of every chapter, spoken by Nysta, that is inspired by his love of the work of Terry Harknett. Personally I was not a fan of these. I think adding it at the end of every chapter means that is was overused and often pulled me out the often dark situation happening in the book. As with any form of comedy however this is going to be a matter of personal preference and has not influenced my rating of the book.
This is a fantastic indie novel: well-written, well thought-out, and well-edited. Fantasy lovers will be hard-pressed to find a better work. On par with the Elric novels, Game of Thrones, the Drizzt novels and the other legendary tales of swords and sorcery.
Take note though, adult violence and language are used copiously, but are well-warranted within the world of the work.