Fantasy Review: ‘The Scroll of Years’ by Chris Willrich

The Scroll of Years (Gaunt and Bone, #1)Damn it Nathan, just write a review for the book!

I am trying, but honestly I don’t know where to start.

Well, what is the book about?

Two lovers, one great with child, fleeing a nasty set of villains.  They end up in a land with a heavy Asian influence (or at least what an American may see as an Asian influence).  Once there they meet interesting characters, learn their unborn son is of much interest to important people, meet a dragon or two and a couple of teenage bandits.  Oh, and a magical piece of artwork makes everything a lot more interesting.

That is a summary, but I still don’t know how to review it. 

A lot of people are comparing the book to the works of Mieville, Valente, and Leiber; perhaps you can run with that?

Who the hell is Leiber?

I don’t know, Google it.  I know you have read the other two mentioned; does the book fit their mold?

I dunno, I guess?  I mean I can see the comparisons.  The writing has a certain something that stands out from the pack a bit, that is true.  I’ll be honest, I usually skip poetry inserted into fantasy books because usually it bores me to tears and feels more like an author wanted to show off that something that belongs in the book.  Here that is not the case.  And the book just flows, I never want to put down a book but this is the type of writing that makes me forget to check my watch periodically.  So sure, in terms of prose it can be compared to those two masters loosely, though I hesitate to compare anything to Valente on that front.

In terms of originality I guess it also belongs in their category.  Though more grounded in reality that say, Perdido Street Station, there were a couple of creations that could have fit right in in Bas Lag.  I would have loved to see Hackwroth from this book fight the Weaver from Mieville’s work.  The dancing between realities of the Weaver vs the premonition possessed by Hackwroth could…

Not everyone has read Mieville, you really should stick to talking about this book Nathan.

Hey, you are the one who brought it up.  But you’re right.  There was more to this book that just ‘weird’ though.  Relationships played a heavy role, many couplings that played with a Yin/Yang concept in subtle and not subtle ways depending on the couple.  A former couple now following different ‘paths’ both seeking the unborn child for entirely different reasons, with neither trying to harm the child?  You just don’t see this type of thing enough.  Gaunt and Bone themselves are interesting enough; protecting each other with neither taking a dominate role.  And the growth of young friends Next-One-A-Boy and Flybait was charming; full of youthful innocence.

Anything else?

This book has a powerful ending, something of a cliffhanger on par with few I have seen.  This only works because I cared so much about these people by the end.  I only want what is best for the young man Gaunt bore, is that too much to ask?

Oh, and my love of dragons is well known and here I get yet another unique and interesting take on them; pretty sure I have not seen them born of falling stars and made of stone before.

So you like the book a lot.  5 stars?

No, not quite.  Some of it was a bit heavy handed, some of it a bit too anachronistic for my taste.  Gaunt made some pretty astute political observations early on, and Next-One-A-Boy was pretty advanced in her feminism without much support around her.  (Really there was some inconsistency there, as there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of entrenched misogynism for her to be fighting so hard against; certainly gender didn’t seem to hinder any of the major characters throughout the book.  At one point we even see a women leave the husband at home with children for her own quest).  And while the first short story was included at the end of the book I felt that there were a few items that only would have made since had I read it (and any other short stories floating out there) first.  Felt like I should have done some homework before starting it.

I have seen your transcripts, if someone gave you that homework it would have remained undone.

But as I said I loved the writing.  Loved the wit, consistently funny  Though the characters often spoke like actors in a play they still felt like people, quite a feat.  I will join many others in praising this debut, and I cannot wait for the next in the series.

4 Stars

Copy for review was provided by the publisher.

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