The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan
The Blurb (from Orion Books):
Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap is a legend to all who don’t know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteran of the wars against the lizards he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire’s slave trade. Where he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives.
Archeth – pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race – is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire’s borders.
Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad, one-time fighter for the Empire finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe’s petty gods.
Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world. Called upon by an Empire that owes them everything and gave them nothing.
I am not even going to attempt to review this fantasy novel. For those who are interested see what Graeme at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review thought of it here.
I will say this… WOW!
The Steel Remains is one of the best anti-hero (and I do mean ‘anti’ at its finest!) stories I’ve picked up in a long, long time.
It grabs you by the throat and pulls you along in its wake right from its terrific opening:
When a man you know to be of sound mind tells you his recently deceased mother has just tried to climb in his bedroom window and eat him, you only have two basic options. You can smell his breath, take his pulse and check his pupils to see if he’s ingested anything nasty, or you can believe him. Ringil had already tried the first course of action with Bashka the Schoolmaster and to no avail, so he put down his pint with an elaborate sigh and went to get his broadsword.
‘Not this again,’ he was heard to mutter…
And would you believe one of the main characters is gay? I know; it came as a total surprise to me considering I’ve only just finished A Companion to Wolves. This author takes a different approach to homosexuality though, which is not romantic or character and relationship driven, but bold and hard. It’s not particularly nice, however in this context it worked for me.
The only issue I had with The Steel Remains was that it told the different stories of all three of the main characters. I’m not really a fan of this type of format – I always feel a bit schizophrenic – and it takes me a while to get into. Other than that…
If you like fantasy and anti-heroes, The Steel Remains is full of sublime goodness.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series.