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The reason I didn't like this books was things like describing a brutal dictator and his harem of slaves as "whatshisname was a connoiseur of women" or contract killers as "wetboys, who don't have targets only deaders" or something like that.
Anyone who ever turned on the news is quite aware of "what mankind's capable of" but when reality turns ugly you at least don't get the feeling it's fondling itself.
I took the "whatshisname was a connoisseur of women" to be meant in a much more sinister manner. It sounds like insatiable appetite, that drives him to use women more like a collection of wine then treating them like people.
I love these books personally, but there are some flaws in the book that I can see detracting from the enjoyment for some people. My understanding is that this is Week's first novel/trilogy, so I look forward to his future works as he develops as an author.
Funstuffof Doom: I need some help. Every person I know who's read these books has enjoyed them greatly. I, however, found them to be, well, derivative, overly-dark crap. I'm just curious if I'm really missing something here, or if anyone else also disliked the books.
Okay, I'll play along.
Firstly, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy them. Hope you find something else out there that agrees with you.
My first question to you would have to be what you think this story is derived from?
And to be fair, it never had a chance at light and fluffy. it opened on a pretty grim world already, and never let up, even to the last moments. (If you still have them, reread that final conversation between Kylar and The Wolf.)
But again, sorry you didn't like them. I thought they were tightly plotted, the characters were believable, and the power level didn't turn to stupid crazy at any point without justification (Notice how the characters struggle alot without Artifacts to play with.)
They also did some interesting navel gazing throughout the trilogy, allowing us to ask questions of our own world in the process. And so long as you get your reader thinking after he puts down the book, it at least gains merit.
I thought the world was a rather generic fantasy realm. Not a direct rip from anything in particular, say, but the feel of the world was, to me, very much something I'd expect to see in the Forgotten Realms, or some equivalent. It wasn't bad in and of itself, it was just... average. Was it detailed? Sure, but the details always felt superficial, like Weeks was pointing out how everything was different, instead of actually presenting a world where everything *was* different.
The lack of realization ties into my first real complaint with the books. You call it a pretty grim world that never lets up. I counter that he didn't actually make a grim world. He simply took a standard world, and starting throwing unpleasant things at the reader. What narrative thrust of this story would be terribly changed if it took place in Faerun, instead?
To the unpleasantness: I'm fine with grim-and-gritty. However, I would like some justification and consequences. There are continuing examples of massive corruption, crime, poverty, and worse throughout these books. Yet, society still functions well, the nobility is largely unconcerned with safety to what I considered a plausible extent, and -and this last one's a bit petty, I admit- there is an appalling amount of optimism from people who really shouldn't be.
Before addressing my second complaint, I must admit, I only read the first two books. If the third book is an incredible tour-de-force, the likes of which have never been seen before... I probably still won't read it, but I'll probably stop bad-mouthing the series.
Anyway, second complaint.
I thought the Kylar was a piece of wood, constantly built up to be this great Wetboy, but never delivering a performance close to his supposed talent. I thought, in addition, that the talents he did have weren't terribly well shown, but rather told. Yeah, I realize that by half-way through the first book, he's spent years learning from *the* master assassin, but I do wish we'd've been shown more actual training, consequences, etc. You point out that he struggles quite significantly when he's not empowered, but if that's true, why doesn't the world at large focus on developing those powers a lot more?
So, those’re my thoughts. As I said before, I’m really a bit confounded, because every single other person I know who’s read the books has liked them, and if three people call you a horse…
So, please, correct me as you may, and let’s have us some good old dialogue, yes?
Most fantasy realms are like that. They are designed to simulate the idealized view we have of the Middle ages, knights in shining armor, dragons, and wizards doing battle, with a few extras from places like Japan so they can throw in ninjas as well. These worlds aren't rip-offs of anything in particular, but they feel a lot like Medieval Europe often: a bunch of small nations that have lost most of the knowledge they once had in the ancient past. They all have their own unique histories, but they can feel a lot alike.
What makes Weeks books different from that, as well as darker, is that its not as idealized, almost to Deconstruction levels. Weeks isn't trying to make his world more unique. If anything, he was trying to make it more closet to reality, by taking that romanticized image and making it realistic, by showing how the world wasn't like that.
I'm not sure why you think this isn't a grim world, just a normal one with a lot of unpleasant things in it: truth be told, I would say that is what a grim world is, a world where horrible things are commonplace and almost ignored by its inhabitants. while I don't know much about the Forgotten Realms setting in general, Weeks world is a lot darker than anything that would fit in standard D&D: the main character's goal in life at the age of 10 is to become a professional murderer, he is regularly beaten by a kid not much older than him, and his best friend is raped in the opening chapters of the first book. Not even Tome of Horror got that bad, and that was about things designed to slowly freak people out, whereas those events are depicted as just human nature adapting to harsh realities.
As to your complaints about grim-and-gritty being too unrealistic, I'd like to point out that society can function perfectly well with obscene amounts of corruption and poverty. history has numerous examples of the obscenely rich living amazingly well while the poor lived in conditions unfit for animals, and Cenaria is presented as an exception to the rule in regards to corruption. The nobility isn't concerned with safety because they're either oblivious to or hiring the people most dangerous to them, too caught up in their personal feuds and lives to see the bigger picture. As for people being too optimistic, I really can't think of anyone who is, especially by the second book.
For your second complaint, I have an unpleasant truth to tell you: the most spectacular stuff Kylar does is in the third book. Even then, I'd like to point out that the point of a wetboy is efficiency: he should not be giving us a performance or even a great battle unless hired to or as a last resort. And Even then, at the end of each book the fights got very intense and interesting. I'm not even sure what you are asking with the world at large focusing on something, could you please clarify that.
Finally, complaining that the setting isn't unique and that Kylar isn't amazing don't add up to the entire series is crap. The characters are fun, there is a rather interesting story, there is some good humor in it and its not horribly written. Unless you have a personal pet peeve about those complaints, it just doesn't seem enough to make the books worthless.
You attack my conception of grim, and perhaps rightly so. But, allow me a moment to attempt to specify my position. Grim, dark, and what-have-you are wonderful tools for deconstructive storytelling, however one of the key elements of this is the necessity of far-reaching consequences. Certain places aren't hell because they spontaneously became hell, they're hell because everyone around those places is a bit hellish, too. If society were a white sheet, some parts of it wouldn't just turn black. There'd have to be significant grey around it, too. Weeks' world is unpleasant, we both fully agree, but it's largely a black spot on a white cloth. People are either morally good, or evil, but rarely somewhere in between. Yes, I recognize that the main character is an assassin, that most of the cast are criminals, but they are all morally good people. There is very little philosophical struggling in-story, and there is a vast disparity between the protagonists and the antagonists.
Were this a gritty world, that wouldn't be. The antagonists would be just as evil as the protagonists. The society would not be functioning. It would be falling apart. You stated that societies have survived massive corruption in the past, which is true, but they do not thrive with them. And, there is no world where throngs of people are willing to brave crossbow bolts for a bit of food. No, we have more survival instincts than that. When people get that desperate, people start rioting.
"Finally, complaining that the setting isn't unique and that Kylar isn't amazing don't add up to the entire series is crap. The characters are fun, there is a rather interesting story, there is some good humor in it and its not horribly written. Unless you have a personal pet peeve about those complaints, it just doesn't seem enough to make the books worthless."
...It does, really. These weren't my only complaints, simply the easiest to articulate in a short amount of space. That being said, to two complaints can basically be summed up as "I didn't like the main character", and "I didn't like the setting". Woven inbetween is a bit of disinterest for the plot, so what's left? The words themselves? The paper the book is printed on? The cover art? No, I think not. I did not like these books. I don't regret that.
I can't address complaints that are left unspoken. I can but reply to those given to me, so spell them out. We are virtual, there is no lack of space. I stand by my statement. Kylar being not quite as badass as you want and the setting being generic are not enough to condemn a series.
Personally, I liked the plot, and besides the main character and setting there is the style, the secondary characters, the humor, any of which can make a good book. Besides, my main point was "why are these books bad?" I know you don't like parts of them, that there not in so good it's great territory, but what drops them from so okay it's average to so bad it's terrible? Kylar and the setting aren't enough for that, not without many more flaws.
As to the lack of grey, you have a rather encompassing version of morally good. Kylar kills an innocent woman early in his apprenticeship, beats his best friend in a particularly cruel manner in the arena, and murders dozens of people as 'justice' for the sins of their souls, letting alone the killing is bad problems. Durzo is even worse than that by the time we meet him, and we see him kill people he doesn't have to regularly in the first book. Momma K betrays both Kylar and Durzo, letting alone the running of the Sa'Kage. Logan becomes a cannibal, Terah Graesin had her father murdered and would have done much the same to Logan, and even Count Drake, arguably the most moral person in the book, was heavily involved in the Sa'Kage and started slavery in Cenaria. That's leaving alone the third book, which really goes full-bore into the moral grayness of everyone. Besides which, if you check the morality tropes, there are ones which are gritty without being monochromatic. A Crapsack world is not necessarily an after the end one, and this isn't necessarily a Crapsack world. Grittyness, at least as I understand it, has more to do with how the world is portrayed than the morality of said world. Its about showing us the details which we like to gloss over, not whether the bad guy is good or the good guy bad.
Greyish-white on greyish-black morality is the order of the day here, for parts of the series at least.
Garoth Ursuul actually has a couple of sympathetic moments in book 2, Dorian becomes a bit of a bitch, Lantano Garuwashi is treated as a violent, brutal and respectable warlord, Durzo Blint has killed so many innocent bystanders he's lost count and acts as a (sympathetic) villain for part of the first bookcand the series' overall moral is " Sometimes Violence Really Is The Answer".
Interesting moral ambiguities? They're what kept me so hooked (among other things).
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