25 October, 2012

Review - Blade of Tyshalle (Acts of Caine #2) by Matthew Woodring Stover

I got a Kindle and guess what was my first purchase? You guessed it, Atlas Shrugged! Okay, no, it was this one, Blade of Tyshalle [US] [UK]. I was looking forward to it, but it's all but impossible to get in paper form unless you want to pay out the nose.

Because I had such a long wait time between this book and the first in the Acts of Caine, Heroes Die (which I was inordinately hard on for some reason), I had lots of time to read reviews and such and opinions are actually quite divisive.

On one side, you have those who absolutely adore the book and yet acknowledge how different it is from Heroes Die. These people tend to like Blade more than the Heroes. On the other side, you have those who just hated it, hated that it was a completely different book with a simple premise. I found myself in the former category (hence the 5 stars I guess).

I went into Blade not really knowing what to think, but having this idea that it would be a completely different book than it was. I had this picture that it would be a philosophical treatise almost. I was wrong. Not completely wrong, but very wrong nonetheless.

The thing is, Blade of Tyshalle is everything you would expect in a sequel to Heroes Die. It's easily one of the bloodiest, action-filled, killfests around. This was, for some reason, a big surprise to me. There is constant action.

At the same time, Blade is a very introspective book (this is where the philosophy comes in). There are lots of ideas thrown around about life and about living. I didn't even necessarily agree with all of them, but it got me really thinking.

Stover's "about the author" in some of his books reads something like, "Matthew Stover believes everything you need to know about life can be found in his books." I always thought that was pretty conceited, but now I'm starting to see why he believes this way.

One of the main arguments he puts forth here in Blade of Tyshalle is that you can really do anything you want. If you want it, do it. It's that simple. This kind of thinking really jives with me. I very much believe that life is what you make it, even as cheesy as that sounds. If you want to be rich, you can do it, you just gotta work your butt off to get it. Same goes for fame, for anything.

I think most of us fall in the category of 1) having multiple passions, which means all suffer and/or 2) getting comfortable where you are (or lazy in my case), which is why we're not rich or famous, but probably a lot happier. I'll stop before this takes over...

Anyway, tangent aside, the world that Stover has created is incredible. If the fact that his world contains a futuristic caste-based society that sends "actors" to a medieval fantasy-type world to reek havoc and practice magic purely for entertainment doesn't make you want to read a book, I don't know what would.

Seven years after the ending of Heroes Die, the first in the Acts of Caine, Caine finds himself it a bit un-Caine-like situation. He no longer has the use of his legs, what with that whole magical sword, Kosall, running him through to his spine. In fact, he hates when people remind him he's Caine.

His best "friend" (i.e., not really his friend at all, but worst enemy), Tan'elKoth, formerly known as Ma'elKoth or the bad guy from Heroes Die who found himself "transcended" to Earth, is the only one he can really talk to.

While "Caine" (or Hari now) pines for his old life, he now lives with his wife, Shanna, and daughter, Faith. He was even bumped up a caste to Administrator. So really, he's got it made. Well, not really at all because then we wouldn't have this fun story here.

Being Caine, Hari ticked of his share of people on both Overworld and Earth and that doesn't bode well for a nice, peaceful life of luxury. With a mix of old grudges and dark powers arising, Blade of Tyshalle ups the ante from Heroes Die in so many ways.

Not only does Blade deal with a medieval world that can be accessed from Earth, but the ideas Stover presents are epic themselves. Is it worth saving the world when you can't save a loved one? Is the world even worth saving? Is it worth saving one world while damning another? What if the first world has billions of more people, and especially children? These are just a couple of the questions that really had me thinking.

If there's anything I hate, it's plot-lines where the main protagonist, the hero even, loses his powers. This didn't work for me in Spider-man 2 (movie) or in Batman Returns (graphic novel). Although I still enjoyed the latter, I didn't love it because of this aspect. In this book, that seems to be the case, that Caine has lost his Mojo. It could be argued so, and I was definitely of this opinion for most of my read, but it's really not the case. Is it really the physical parts of you that make you you?

While at the limits of my gag reflex, Blade of Tyshalle comes highly recommended. It has EVERYTHING you could ever want from a fantasy and more. The pages turn themselves, the writing's spectacular, the world is insane and fully fleshed out (much more here than in Heroes Die too), and the action is the best you'll find. This isn't just puffery, I challenge you to find better action.

As bloody and brilliant as you would expect from the awesomeness that was Heroes Die and yet Blade of Tyshalle takes everything up a notch. Action-packed mayhem and ideas that make you think? Yes, you can have it all. Bloody brilliant.

5 out of 5 Stars (Best. Book. Ever.)

Note: This review may have had a hand in getting me to finally make time to read this book.


Neth said...

Happy to be of service to you in encouraging you to read more Stover. The Caine series is really incredible, now I suppose I should read the third book in it.

Bryce L. said...

Thanks a bunch, I can't believe I waited so long. I've even had Caine Black Knife for longer than Blade.

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