Rafe (etcet) wrote,

[Review] "Range of Ghosts," by Elizabeth Bear

"Range of Ghosts," by Elizabeth Bear (Ms. matociquala, if you're nasty) is the first book in a trilogy of central Asian high fantasy - there is magic, and wizarding, and fantastic creatures, and a changeable sky that reflects who rules the land where it's seen, and it's all handled with the deft, sure-footed, and subversive touch that Bear brings to, uh, bear, on any trope she feels like fucking with.

We have a handful of POV characters, who each get thrown into the fracas of a continent-spanning internecine scuffle, and ultimately wind up together. There are enough hinted-at machinations, and a few subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to contemporaries in the slightly-skewed world of "the new weird," notably a humanoid tiger race that I recall meeting brethren and sistren of in Jay Lake's "Kalimpura" books.

The action builds slowly, stirred and stewing, bubbling up occasionally with a gout of steam and spice, rather than at the chaotic, slapdash pace of many; there is a steady hand on the tiller, mixing in menace and loss and romance and horror and frustration... it's easy to see why this is a trilogy, rather than a single, prodigious, Stephensonian doorstop (which isn't to say I would have minded a single, massive sheaf pages).

I'm looking forward to the second and third installments, and not merely because I glibly told Ms. Bear "This is a love note to horses and endurance athletics" (which are two things I am, respectively, indifferent to and avoidant of *laugh*).

Bear has her own amusing names for the world as she was creating it, but I called it "Nongolia," because of course I would. I spent a good bit of time navigating the world backwards, thinking east was west and vice versa, not through any fault of the narrative, but because it's a fluid enough space that coming unmoored is neither a boon nor a hindrance, and it was a savory, dreamlike escape from my workday for very pleasant lunch reading.

Four point two mis-matched moons (out of an original thirty-seven) out of five.
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