Those Above by Daniel Polansky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've surprised myself by expecting less and receiving more from this book.
Honestly, I've read so many epic fantasies by this point that I either have to read something that is written extremely well or it comes with an extraordinary number of innovations, or both, before I get truly wowed.
I'm not quite there with this one, but after having read a good handful of Polansky's novels, I've gotten quite used to his style and know enough to be patient. It always pays off. Usually there's a lot of in-depth and long-building characters with a large amount of either politics or of rolling around in the dirt of a dirty city or of just plain warfare. Each is great in it's own way, but that's just the thing: It takes time and patience to pull off the big picture that he's painting.
But here's the good part: He paints beautiful pictures.
In this case, I knew before I started that this is a Duology. Knowing that, I didn't expect a truly satisfying end. I expected a picture-perfect build-up that will be concluded in the second novel.
This goes against a lot of modern expectations. Either we have immense build-ups over many novels that finish with a blow out, or we have individual novels that are fully satisfying on their own that happen to have larger threads that tie everything together for a big blow out. In this one, we may as well just clump these two together and call it one large tale.
Decisions, decisions, publishers.
I'm gonna shrug and read the second one right away and buck tradition. I'm just going to assume this is one big tale. You know, like Dan Simmons' Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion.
I'm fully immersed in this fantasy. It's the beginnings of rebellion between the downcast humans and somewhat bird-like peoples with long lives, great strength, and high intelligence. Simple, but written very well.
Above that, in my opinion, is the mythos that is developed and the depth of the world building. It sneaks right in there in all the nooks and crannies and it's really rather beautiful.
I've read a few reviews that complain about the characters, but I disagree. I like them. I like the political machinations above. I like the bad boys down below. I like the way that they all jockey for position and prepare or fail to prepare for the bloodbath to come. It's evocative.
And now I'm perfectly poised to dive in and see how this ends. :)
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