REVIEW: The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

thedarkdefilesThe Dark Defiles is the third and final book of Richard K. Morgan’s Land Fit for Heroes series. It’s a rather epic, challenging, and satisfying conclusion to a strong grimdark fantasy tale.

The Land Fit for Heroes saga is a strange bird. It’s a broad stroke of science and sorcery. We have the Kiriath, an ‘immortal’ race of advanced beings that have departed the earth, leaving behind advanced machinery and weaponry. There’s the Dwenda, a beautiful race of powerful yet flawed human-like creatures. We have the Dark Court, a group of old and mysterious gods that like to meddle in the affairs of the world. Finally, we have humans. As usual, we’re the pawns of a greater design.

We follow the paths of three heroes: Ringil Eskiath (a gay war hero), Egar the Dragonbane (a berserker warrior), and Archeth “Archidi” Indamaninarmal (the sole Kiriath left on the planet, lesbian).

I mention the sexuality of Ringil and Archidi because both characters are shaped somewhat by society’s reaction to their sexual choices.

Oh, and spoilers below the cut (but not a great many)!

Ringil is the son of a wealthy and influential noble family. He’s a famed warrior, who along with Egar, performed some heroics in the Scaled Folk war. He has a special Kiriath sword named ‘The Raven’s Friend’ given to him by a commander under Archidi’s father. Ringil is intelligent, shrewd, and volatile. He’s a complete bastard at times, but he’s charming and likable and tries to do the right thing by people.

Egar the Dragonbane is an exiled leader of herdsmen. With Ringil’s help, he killed a dragon at Gallow’s Gap.

Archidi is the last of the Kiriath and 207 years old. She carries five named blades made of Kiriath steel. Archidi is an adviser to the throne.

Got all that?

That’s just the beginning. There are lists of bad guys, nobles, slaves, officers of the army, alliances, and more alliances, etc. It is all a bit much to keep in your head.

While the plot gets to be a bit much, there are times when Richard K. Morgan turns into a master of the written form. He’s fantastic at characterization. Ringil Eskiath is fantastically complicated and compelling. Egar and Archidi are a bit less dynamic, but they’re characters you want to see succeed. Morgan writes action scenes like no other (Abercrombie is comparable). Dialog is witty and clever if a bit profane. These men and women of war swear quite a bit.

By the end of the book, Ringil has leveled up as a dark sorcerer, Archidi has leveled up as a warrior, and Egar cements his legend as a bane of dragons.

Land Fit for Heroes is not a series for prudes. Along with the swearing, the violence is heavy, there are many sex scenes (both straight and gay), and callous misogyny. This is the grimmest of the grimdark.

For fans of Morgan’s Takeshi Kovac’s series (Altered Carbon/Broken Angels/Woken Furies), there is a nice little surprise for you.

I encourage fans of George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie to give Richard K. Morgan a read. The Land Fit for Heroes is an entertaining and challenging read fans of grimdark will love.

Available from Amazon

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