I was ranting this afternoon regarding the fact that I always come across brilliant series after they have finished. It happened with Star Trek Deep Space Nine, it happened with Star Wars, and now it happens with pretty much every second fantasy book I buy/receive. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, because you start in on a series, review the first book, and realize everything is downhill from there (Eragon, I’m looking at you!). Other times, it’s less bad.
I discovered Paul Kearney with his book The Ten Thousand, and naturally decided I needed to read everything he had written. I started the other day with Hawkwood’s Voyage, the first book in Kearney’s The Monarchies of God series. I am reading it in the lovely new omnibus editions, this one a nice fat TPB that fits book 1 and 2 inside the same covers.
I remember reading a review that detracted points for the time Kearney’s spend in meetings, talking about political and religious intrigues, etc. I wasn’t convinced, and I read it anyway. I was glad I did, because those aspects of Kearney’s writing are some of the best.
That being said though, there is very little to this book that I could find fault with.
The world set for us is a very religiously driven world, with very heavy influences taken from our own Catholic Church and Middle East religion to drive the two main religions. Maybe a point taken off for lack of originality in that regard, but the execution almost makes me forget it. You can imagine yourself living in this world, suffering under the harsh rule of the religious leaders and hoping that your king can get himself from under their rule and save you.
One third of this book takes place aboard ship, and I’m almost positive that Kearney was, at one time or another, a captain of a three-master, because I have no doubt he knows his seafairing back to front. Though I didn’t understand much of the nautical terminology, neither did some of the other characters, and in this way we were able to muddle along together without any of the hamfisted attempts to explain just what a “poop” is.
The remaining third is taken up in fighting, and if there was anything I knew coming in to this book, it was that Kearney knows how to write a battle scene. The realism with which he writes the bitter defeats, the treasured victories and the all too regular stalemates is breathtaking. Once again you begin to suspect that Kearney was a pikeman in some war against the Huns back when. Nothing is taken for granted; cowards are aplenty and even lead the story in some areas. There are no miraculous encounters with long lost loved ones to muddy the reality of the story; what is lost is lost.
One of the pinnacles of Kearney’s writing is his ability to draw out a climax until you are ready to burst. Many times I knew that something was coming, could feel it in the way I was feeling and in the words on the page, but it didn’t come for pages. The story that held up the climax was interesting, fascinating even in places, and absolutely not mundane in an effort to draw out the pages. When the climax hit though it was all worth it; the wait, the peak, the excitement and the hurried scurry to read as quickly as possible to see what happens, who survives and who dies.
Paul Kearney is really one of the best writers writing at the moment. He is not only technically proficient but he’s also wonderfully entertaining, rarely leaving us with a dull moment or place to put the book down to sleep. Hawkwood’s Voyage, in whichever form you read it, is a must read, and belongs on the shelf next to authors like Steven Erikson and George R. R. Martin.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Paul Kearney was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, in 1967. He went to a local grammar school, and then to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Middle English. Shortly after leaving Oxford, he [...]
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