Thursday, 28 July 2011

J.V. Jones - A Fortress of Grey Ice

A ways back, I review a book called A Cavern of Black Ice an original fantasy novel which, besides a few negative comments, I quite enjoyed. For one reason or another I put off reading book 2 in the series for a long time. Maybe it was the 734 page length that had me a little shy of diving straight in, but nonetheless, I got there in the end. And I wish I had much sooner.

My main quip about the first book was that there was a lot of unnecessary words being used. Pages of them, in fact. Whereas Fortress doesn’t shy away from words, it doesn’t matter because they all feel necessary to the story. There are perhaps a few chapters that add nothing at the moment, but every detail seems to count for something and I’m sure even the smallest details, which have not been fully explored in this book, will have some kind of factor latter in the series.

The ending left a lot of cliff-hangers and unanswered questions which is definitely enough encouragement for me to get involved with the next one. However, it is now apparently impossible for me to get to the end of a book without finding something wrong, although Fortress came very close.

To demonstrate how well written the book is, the only two mistakes I saw in the first 300 pages were a double space and ‘every’ instead of ‘ever,’ compared to Stephen King’s Carrie where spelling went out of the window after eighty pages.

A golden rule of writing is that if you are reading something and it takes you out of the story, there is probably something wrong with it. I had such an experience with the sentence, ‘He looked Marafice Eye in the face.’ Jones is forced to use face because of the character’s name but it just sounds stupid. I mean, if you look someone in the face but not in the eye, that’s just creepy. It also feels like a poor attempt at avoiding cliché.

Another slip, again involving character names occurred later when I was confronted by ‘Ask’ when too travellers called Ash and Ark are travelling together. Of course the misspelling by itself annoyed me but it is quite an important one as the line of preceding dialogue would indicate a great deal of character development if said by Ash.

However my main grievance comes in the form of Raif’s final battle with Shatan Maer. The whole book talks about how coming into contact with the unmade can made you unmade also. But for some reason Raif takes a pounding from the beast, the narrative reads like he is torn to shreds, and after he wins he just strolls outta there like it was nothing. Out of all the 700 plus pages used to get this far, the last 20 feel so rushed. It’s a great shame especially as Raif’s journey is the one of the most captivating, original and entertaining in modern fantasy fiction.

A Fortress of Grey Ice by J.V. Jones was published by Orbit in 2002. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)

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