A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So, a middle aged female Heavy Metal Rocker comes out of early retirement and decides to Bring Back The Band. She wants to Tear The House Down, with a passion and verve that seems very unlikely for a woman of her age... or so everyone thinks. The stage is set, a bunch of aging rockers fill the stage, but there's a twist: the auditorium had come for a Christian Rock Band with obvious religious tones. The battle commences!
This is what the story IS, assuming there's no actual music involved.
The middle-aged kick-butt woman, Zosai, is actually an accomplished warrior who had brought a kingdom to its knees, dropped out of the scene to live the quiet life, only to be Brought Back In when all her loved ones get massacred. She gets her old generals, who all think her dead, and take on the world.
Pretty standard fare, all told, except for the little hooks that make this epic fantasy stand out. Namely, the age and sex of the protagonist. I like her almost as well as I liked Chrisjen Avasarala from the in the Expanse series. She's a strong female protagonist who happens to be a bit more realistic than the legions of YOUNG and strong protagonists littering the battlefield.
The second bit of goodness that makes the book stand out is the insistence that a person's sex means squat. In that respect, it's very D&D. Everyone lives lives, has sex, goes to war or makes families. There are no cultural restrictions. This is obviously on purpose. Gay or Straight is meaningless except on a personal basis. No one is looked down upon or forced to be anything they don't to be... unless you're talking about religious persecution, and the self-flagellating religious nuts under the rule of the Empire are pretty crazy.
Other than these little tidbits, the novel is pretty standard fare for epic fantasy. It's long, there's lots of conversation and bickering and flirting between the band members, there's a lot of confusion on both sides of the war, and the epic battle is decent. It's better than older style fantasy, but pretty average for the modern stuff.
I wanted to like it more. Perhaps I'll enjoy it even more as it progresses further. It's certainly competent. I just think it needs to stand out more. The characters are fine and fun. The action is good, when it happens. Perhaps I want more plot. I don't know. It IS hard to review it because what I think it needs seems to elude me. I feel like it's missing "something".
Regardless, I'm quite happy to have read it.
Now on to other matters.
Alex Marshall is a pseudonym for "an acclaimed author in another genre".
As of this writing, I have not figured out who it is, except that it is probably someone in the Orbit brand of books who wanted to see if they could break successfully into the Epic Fantasy genre. It is rather annoying, because now I want to read the author's other works and see how much of a stretch and change in style is happening here. The curiosity could, very likely, kill me.
Let's see how long I survive! ;)
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