I was supposed to review this book. I wanted to review this book. (I really enjoyed the previous volume in the series.) JCG’s Orbit US publicist, a very personable person, sent me a review copy of The Exiled Blade –
There are some books that come along at the worst possible time for you to read them. Some books, regardless of their talent and ability – sometimes because of the directions in which talent and ability is bent – you can’t read then. Or sometimes ever.
I lasted eight chapters. I didn’t stop because Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a bad writer. I stopped because This should have been when we were happy [p50]; because JCG is in fact very good, and the level of pain and grief and despair he managed to evoke, the cold sense of lowering doom, heartbreak, incipient dread, made my teeth hurt. I stopped because this is a Hamlet, isn’t it? Nobody comes out intact, everyone comes out broken…
…And right now I need sweet little hopeful happy-ending lies in my life. I need stories that focus on joy as well as pain. Because I need to escape from hurting for a while, me, not face the world’s cruelty condensed and intensified in JCG’s viscerally-rendered courtly shadows, his dark and glittering Renaissance Venice.
One day I’ll be able to read this book without bile backing up in my throat. One day I’ll want a dash of bleak horror in my literary cocktail again. But not this month. Maybe not this year.
Until then, cheers. I’ll drink something sweet and sticky, and leave dry bitters to other folks.
I shall endeavour to avoid spoilers, but if you want to come at it completely blank you may view this comment as very mildly spoilerish. I’ll stick it in the paragraph after next to give you time to make up your mind.
So this is the buffer paragraph where I explain that I want you to review it because I read it a couple of weeks back and I’d be very interested in your thoughts, because you have an often pleasing but equally often annoying habit of picking up on stuff I miss completely.
And this is the possibly spoilery but not really paragraph, where I tell you that it’s not just Hamlet, there’s a lots of other Shakespeare bits in there (spotters badges if you get them all), and the really important point is that he hews far less closely to Hamlet than he did to Othello in the first two books. I hope that’s sufficiently informative to encourage you to carry on, but sufficiently vague not to ruin it.
I’m the kind of person who reads final chapters before I get to the middle of the book, sometimes. (Not the *what* but the *how*, that’s what interests me.)
But right now, I have to ration the emotional energy needed to go through dark, bleak places in fiction, so JCG will have to wait a while.
But yeah, if you’re not in the mood for something then you’re not in the mood. I can certainly relate to that. Enjoy the sweet and sticky.
Not sure “not in the mood” is quite strong enough, but I look forward to having the intestinal fortitude to read about the murders and disembowellings at length again!