Paperback Review: Winterbirth -

Paperback Review

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  • Paperback: Winterbirth
  • Author: Brian Ruckley
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Pages: 654
  • Price: $7.99

Paperback Review: Winterbirth

Pat's thoughts on the new Ruckley paperback.

By Pat Ferrara     May 02, 2008

Winterbirth, first volume of the Godless World Trilogy by Brian Ruckley(2008).
© Orbit

Pulling from such fantasy influences as J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, Scottish author Brian Ruckley has synthesized a worthy epic opener that goes far beyond a mere recycling of popular genre archetypes.

At the dawn of the Second Age the Gods created five races, and in them they imbued their hopes of a life unmarred by war or conflict. Their trust was broken, however, when the elf-like Kyrinin and human Huanin banded together to destroy a third race. As a result the Gods abandoned their creations to the Third Age, an age marked by bloodshed between the True Bloods and their exiled Northern neighbors, the followers of The Black Road.

But the Gyre Bloods of The Black Road have been deceptively quiet the past few decades and now Gryvan oc Haig, the High Thane of the True Bloods, is more concerned with annexing the wealthy lands to the south rather than bolstering his northern defenses. The coming of winter is usually a joyous occasion, yet this year’s Winterbirth will be decorated with the gore of battle as old hatreds spark anew.

Brian Ruckley’s Winterbirth is the kind of novel that, even though written as the first part of a trilogy, would stand solidly on its own two feet. With unpretentious charm Ruckley cultivates a universe as exciting as it is intelligent, fleshing out a tale layered with juicy subplots and surprising twists.

Medieval Scottish motifs and a subdued magic system lend the Winterbirth world a gritty and realistic texture; a world painted in shades of gray that’s no less violent or polarized for its lack of clearly defined absolutes. This is hands down one of the author’s greatest strengths: being able to convey a realistic sense of morality without painting characters as expressly good or expressly bad. The Godless World Trilogy doesn’t belittle its readers with transparent opinion or the tired concepts of right and wrong. Characters respond to actions based upon a complex series of cultural and historical interactions, i.e., Ruckley’s world has real history.

While Ruckley’s level of characterization may not match that of Martin’s, the author’s ability to balance meticulously calculated plot with heart-pounding action is second to none. Winterbirth steadily gains momentum as it unloads backstory, building to a climactic ending that’s satisfying yet still open-ended.

Though the novel clocks in at over 650 pages, the Godless World opener is incredibly succinct and, more importantly, very streamlined for its scope. Being a clear-cut trilogy, readers don’t have to worry about investing loads of time into a series that won’t conclude for another decade. With Bloodheir, the second installment, hitting the states in early June there’s no better time to get lost in the Godless World.


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dracor00 5/2/2008 4:21:45 AM
i dunno if its just me. but since tuesday the advertisment for winterbirth. has taken up twice the space as all the articles on mania. so that i have to use the side to side scroll to actually see all the articles. I dont know if that is a bug or intentional but either way it is extremely annoying
chirop1 5/2/2008 6:28:50 AM
I mentioned it in the interview thread, but I really did like the book overall. It was definitely slow to get into and I never did manage to get any "marathon" reading sessions in on it. By the time I finished, I really did like the characters and the backstory though. One thing I liked most was the fact that characters were not necessarily put out there as "good" or "bad" (well with the exception of Aeglyss... and even he gets a story arc explaining things). The opening prologue of the last stand of The Hundred made me think the Black Road would be the protagonists. I liked that about the book. The ending of the book really sets things up for some interesting developments in book 2. I'm looking forward to Bloodheir this summer.
mortellan 5/2/2008 4:48:16 PM
dracor: i agree, that Winterbirth ad is the most obnoxious thing on this new site design. I'm sure its a good novel but right now I just want it to go away!
kaybar 5/3/2008 7:19:38 PM
I hear you guys, hopefully the next wave of ads here at the site won't be so aggressive. Don't hold that against Ruckley's book though, it's one of the best fantasy openers I've read in years. Chirop check your profile wall when you get a chance.


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