Saturday, August 21, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Blood and Iron: A Novel of the Promethean Age by Elizabeth Bear

Blood and Iron: A Novel of the Promethean Age by Elizabeth Bear
ISBN: 978-0-451-46217-6


For centuries, the human Mages of the Prometheus Club and the otherworldly creatures of Faerie have battled for control of Earth’s destiny, with neither side capable of achieving victory over the other.

Their impasse has come to an end...

She is known as Seeker. Spellbound by the Faerie Queen, she has abducted human children for her mistress’ pleasure for what seems like an eternity, unable to free herself from her servitude and reclaim her own humanity.

Seeker’s latest prey is a Merlin. Named after the legendary wizard of Camelot, Merlins are not simply those who wield magic – they are magic. Now, with the Prometheus Club’s agents and rivals from Faerie also vying for the favor of this being of limitless magic to tip the balance of power, Seeker must persuade the Merlin to join her cause...or else risk losing something even more precious and more important to her than the fate of humankind.


My Thoughts:

I came across Elizabeth Bear’s work in the Lovecraft Unbound anthology and was really taken with her story – probably my second favourite in the book after the Caitlin R. Kiernan piece – so I thought I’d track down one of her novels. Blood and Iron seemed like the best candidate based on my personal preference for Fantasy of Science Fiction and I have to say I am rather pleased that I picked it up, because it’s a really good book.

However, I’m going to start with my two smallish gripes. The first is that at times I felt like I was reading the second book in a series rather than the actual beginning. It seemed like there was a lot of back-story that I was missing and that would have added to my understanding of the characters. As the story progressed and more details were filled in, that feeling lessened. The second is that about halfway through the book the Seeker sections (Seeker is the central character of the novel) switch from third person to first person point of view, which threw me for a bit of a loop. There is a narrative reason for this that I won’t give away, but it was startling when it happened. Once I got over the initial flinch of the switch, I actually really appreciate the way Bear added a layer of meaning through this shift.

Now for all of the wonderful things!

Blood and Iron is a gripping story about faeries and mages and the conflict between humans and the unknown. It’s a story about stories and what is “real” and about love and loyalty and the cost and consequences of our decisions. It’s so many things all wrapped up in a neat urban-fantasy bundle. I’m actually a little sad that I didn’t know about Bear’s books before now, because this type of faerie story is what I crave when I read something like Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry books and that I don’t get from those at all. Yes, there was sex in this book, but it mostly happened off-stage, acknowledged but not the focus of the story. Instead, the focus was on the characters and how their decisions shaped the world around them, both on the side of the human mages and on the side of the faeries.

The characters kept me interested and I enjoyed watching them grow and change and sacrifice all in the name of survival, because both sides know that they can’t truly win. I also liked that there was an attempt made to strike a balance to show why both sides are the way they are – my feeling stayed with the faeries throughout – but Bear did make a clear effort to show the reasoning behind the actions of the Prometheus Club and did an admirable job of making them accessible and human (you, know, making the humans human as we must so often do). Another aspect I really enjoyed was the references to mythology and Arthurian legend, which seem appropriate to a fairy tale.

Okay, I have to stop or I’m just going to keep going on about all the little things I liked so much about this novel. I will conclude with saying that if you’re interested in urban fantasy, faeries, or Arthurian legend you may need to check this out.

Aside: I don’t know what it is but Vlad the Impaler is stalking me in literature – yet another book where he is mentioned at least in passing.

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