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Aug 04

Lamentation – Ken Scholes

About the book

Anancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir.  From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees thehorrifying column of smoke rising.  He knows that war is coming to theNamed Lands.

Nearerto the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city – hesat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watchedeveryone he knew die in an instant.
Soonall the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others’ throats, asalliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.

Thisremarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will takereaders away to a new world – an Earth so far in the distant future that ourtime is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areasof the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn’t changedthrough the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations. 

368pages
Publishedon: Feb. 17, 2009
Publishedby: Tor
Author’swebpage
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Forsome reason right now I’m having some serious issues reading long, long books.I start them, get a few hundred pages into them and give up. I’m blaming ashort attention span on a soon-to-arrive baby. Whatever the reason, it workedin Ken Scholes favor this weekend. I can’t, for the life of me, pull myselfthrough Dust of Dreams or A Dance with Dragons like I had plannedto do before the baby came, but I can read Lamentation.The length is perfect. The epic feel spoke to me. Basically, for my mood rightnow, it just fit.
Lamentation starts out with animpressive bang, with an important religious city getting completelyobliterated by some sort of magic. You’d expect the book to follow thisshocking start with breakneck pace, but it doesn’t happen. Scholes reignshimself in and because of this, Lamentationis, as another reviewer says, a slow burn. Despite the slow pace of the plot,there always seems to be something happening or developing. The book itself hasthe feel of building itself into an impressive crescendo, which is exactly whatit’s doing.
Scholeswriting does leave a little to be desired, especially toward the beginning.However, he irons himself out as the book progresses and his awkward sentencesand weird choice of words become fewer and further between. His writing becomessmooth and even, and if he does fall into the trap of “telling” rather than“showing” on multiple instances, I chalk it up to the fact that this is hisfirst book, and it’s also rather short so there is less room for him to “show”the reader what is happening.
Lamentation is the first book in aprojected five book series and even though it’s the first book, Scholes doesn’tspend the whole time setting up the world and cultures. This is a huge benefitfor the work as a whole. Lamentationdoesn’t have that; “I only exist to set up the rest of the series” feel to itthat so many first books have. Things actually happen in this book. There is agood story here; an interesting plot and it’s also nicely wrapped up. There’sroom for Scholes to continue on with the series (obviously), but the book isalso nicely self-contained. It doesn’t end with a hook or a horrid cliffhanger.Readers can choose to continue on with the series, or end on this book andeither way, the writing and structure is done in such a way that eitherdecision will be fulfilling.
Thatbeing said, Lamentation does have itsproblems, namely in characterization. Many, if not most, of the characters are cookiecutouts of typical fantasy characters. For example, there’s the terrible,horrible villain who is painfully obvious. There’s the beautiful andoh-so-intelligent consort. The hero is romantic, passionate and incrediblycunning. Everyone loves him because he does everything right. Then there’s alsothe puppet master pulling everyone’s strings and plenty of secrets to goaround. What’s disappointing about this is how formulaic it is. Lamentation has such an interestingpremise that these by-the-book characters aren’t nearly unique or interestingenough to support the story that Scholes is trying to tell. In fact, the hero(who is also the main character) is just plain boring, which is odd and reallyunfortunate. I hold hope that these characterization issues improve as theseries progresses.
Whilethe world isn’t the most impressive I’ve ever read; it’s still very well done.Scholes keeps things interesting, and unique with a dash of steampunk and anoverall post apocalyptic feel. This does somewhat make up for his lackingcharacters. Readers who are less than impressed with characterization mightfind themselves interested enough in the world Scholes created to make up fortheir lack of interest in the characters.
Lamentation is a book of layers woventogether like a web. Though it does have a fairly slow start, it quickly warmsup and Scholes seems to find his legs. The true action in Lamentation is political, though there are some physical battles aswell.  The political action allowsScholes to really dig deep and slowly, deliberately reveal the layers he hascreated in his world, situation and characters. There is depth here, andimpressive forethought toward the rest of the series. A lot happens below thesurface, and many readers will find a lot of appeal in guessing who did whatand why. There are also several nicely done plot twists and turns that willkeep people hooked and waiting with baited breath to see what will happen next.
Despitesome clunky writing toward the beginning of the book, a slow start and somethinglacking with overall characterization, Scholes has laid the groundwork for animpressive series here. The world and conflict are both quite interesting. Thebook is short enough to be a quick read, but has enough depth and layers togive readers that epic feel many are looking for, without being oppressive withit. This is the start of a five book series, and though it has its problems, Lamentation shows great promise andScholes shows skill as a writer. While I wasn’t absolutely blown away with thiswork, I was impressed enough to start looking for the next installment of thisseries.
3.5/5stars

4 comments

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  1. Scott

    Indeed, an accurate summation. I think for me, the payoff in the third act of the book is what really blew me away and his writing in that section was surprisingly deft for it being the same person who wrote the rather clunky beginning. To the point where I felt emotion for the villain of the piece. A good start. I have CANTICLE in my TBR pile and haven't gotten to it yet, but I plan to soon.

  2. Salt-Man Z

    Good to hear. I've got both Lamentation and Canticle on my shelf ($1 for the set when I joined the SFBC) and I've been meaning to read them for some time now.

  3. Biblibio

    The characterization is what has me worried. I have a very difficult time with character cutouts, particularly in fantasy. Too many fantasy books stick to the same formulas and after having recently read a fairly bad fantasy novel with mostly terrible characterization, I'm a little hesitant to jump into anything that might follow that approach, even if overall it's good enough strengths to make it worthwhile…

  4. Scott

    Reading CANTICLE now Sarah…and holy crap does it start out well! Huge things are afoot in this world, and the pacing has jumped. The events at the end of LAMENTATION have made for some really interesting character paths.

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