RoguesRogues by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.

Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.

The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.

Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.

The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature–more than not–very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.

Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)

Tough Times All Over

RoguesTough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sipani is a place of mazelike streets full of foolish nobles and streetwise commoners, amongst the latter are numerous thieves getting their hands on a mystery item that everyone wants but can’t seem to keep their hands on. Abercrombie uses the collections’ title to full advantage as the story shift from one different rogue to another throughout whenever they have a mysterious package in their possession. The large cast of characters range in age, gender, race, and use of magic if any with action from beginning to end and exposition mixed in results in an great opening story to the collection as a whole.

Last Argument of Kings (First Law #3)

1591026903-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The climatic last third of Joe Abercrombie’s Last Argument of Kings, is a fantastic sequence that the reader cannot help but read in one sitting.  After the first two book’s of The First Law trilogy this confluence of events is exactly what the series deserved in it’s final volume, however leading up to this literally climatic battle there was a congestion of happenings to begin the book that while not frustrating just took too long to get through that made the volume feel longer than it was.  Abercrombie’s characters lost none of their originality or well-roundedness throughout the book, however in a few instances they seemed to accept things or do things that seem literally out-of-character.  Like that previous two volumes, Abercrombie seemed to telegraph basic fantasy tropes then paid them off in surprising and unexpected ways though as stated before some of them happened at the beginning of the book and felt longer to get through then seemed necessary once you finished the book.  The ending of Last Argument of Kings is without a doubt a very thought provoking one, especially in the character of Bayaz who is the embodiment of the saying “history is written by the victors.”  Though I was a tad disappointed with the pace of the first 375 or so pages, the last 260 pages through are what makes The First Law trilogy great and so if you’ve read the first two books, The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged, then you have to read this book to see how all the story arcs play out.

First Law

Before They Are Hanged (First Law #2)

1591026415-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The middle chapter of The First Law trilogy is a fun mixture of epic journeys, brutal battles, political intrigue, and yes even sex (unfortunately).  Joe Abercrombie after leading all his flawed and well written characters to Adua in The Blade Itself, he sent them all far away from the middle continent of his world.  The epic journey of Bayaz, Logen, Ferro, and Jezal across the Old Empire on their way to the Edge of the World is given all the sense of an epic quest that sees all four change in their views of themselves but to the others as well.  Inquisitor, now Superior, Glokta journeys to Dagoska to find out what happened to his predecessor and to defend the city from the Gurkish any way he can while looking over his shoulder for the stab in the back he always expects is coming but is continually surprised when it never happens.  Up North, Logen’s former crew join up with Collem West and together they attempt to fight off Bethod’s invasion of Angland facing challenges none of them expected including dealing with the burden of leadership.  Abercrombie surprises fantasy fans, even those use to the twist and turns of G.R.R. Martin, by how he spins the three main story arcs in this book, especially the ending to the ‘epic quest’ led by Bayaz.  However it’s the characters that even really makes one not want to set down this book and that’s why this book is so good.

First Law

The Blade Itself (First Law #1)

159102594x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m going to come out and just say it, The Blade Itself kicks off with action from various point-of-view characters whose storylines intertwine in an interesting and believable way.  Joe Abercrombie has created a world of fading, but still deadly magic with monuments from a legendary age made famous by legendary figures in which ordinary characters suddenly find themselves interacting with.  The narrative covers locations over three continents of the First Law world, in which we observe or learn three distinct cultures thus further building up the world.  But what most impressed me was not the book concluding with definite end, but instead “open ending” that made the reader yearn for Before They Are Hanged.

First Law