The Blurb on Other People’s Words – The Unwilling Warlord

December 11, 2012 at 4:31 am (fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

The Unwilling Warlord by Lawrence Watt-Evans

You’ll hear me say I love fantasy and I hate it, because most fantasy lacks realism. Not that I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be elements of fantasy in a fantasy novel, but that the characters should be less than perfect, the situations less than ordained and less than typically heroic, and the scenery not so overly scenic. If you can give me a story like that, that is well written, I’ll give you a fantasy novel I’ll enjoy.

There are a select few fantasy writers I love, because they deliver on that realism. They have reluctant heroes who are likeable losers who experience a series of spectacular failures but still manage to struggle their way to success. The story ambiance is gritty and dirty, where they slog their way through bad weather and muddy pathways. They describe the things that matter, rather than the twelve different flowers they see along the roadside or the outfits of the half-dozen strangers they pass in the streets. Lawrence Watt-Evans brings that substance to his tales, and The Unwilling Warlord is no different.

In the beginning, we are introduced to Sterren, a failed warlock who makes money by cheating at gambling. Out of the blue, he gets the martial problems of a far away kingdom, Semma, dumped in his lap. Apparently, he has inherited the position of warlord there, because an unknown relative has died without a closer heir. It sounds like an interesting venture, but he is dragged there against his will, forced to learn their language, has to deal with a bitter and incompetent king, and must make do with horribly meager resources and less than favourable odds. He considers running away, but out of a morbid sense of curiosity and a masochistic sense of duty, he turns instead to making things work his own way.

To be honest, for all his faults, the reason there’s a story at all is because Sterren never gives up.

This was a fabulous story, with everything I look for in fantasy and none of things I don’t.

For those who were following my NaNoWriMo project, Chapter 18 is now up, here:

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