First a blog-related question – how do you like the new layout? I am, I have to admit, on a fence, but it is refreshing 🙂
And now, this:
Author: Adrian Czajkowski
Title: Guns of the Dawn
A book bought by me immediately after it was published, read and reviewed by Ola, and now I also finally got around to reading it. Ola’s original post is in Polish, as was often the case in our early days, so I’ll recapitulate, and maybe one day she will translate the whole thing.
Ola liked it, with 9/10 I’ll say she loved it. Sense and Sensibility in Vietnam was her title, and what followed were comparisons to Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now. And Shadows of the Apt, obviously 😉 Conclusion is, that the book is as well written as Czajkowski’s other novels, and keeps the reader interested up to the very last page.
In general, I agree, but I’m not as enthusiastic as Ola had been.
I agree, we do have a likeable heroine, Emily Marshwick, a copy of Austen’s protagonists, a daughter of impoverished nobility trying to stay afloat in a dilapidated family manor in a society that reached early industrial age – while preserving magic and strong monarchy. She’s pragmatic, self-reliant, smart, prideful and quite a bit prejudiced. It was light, not as fresh as Austen’s prose 200 years ago, but very entertaining.
There is also a war going on, and it quickly goes from the background to the foreground. In the distant land, Emily’s native monarchy fight against revolutionaries. First, the leftist scum beats the regular army, then – volunteers. Conscription of most of the country’s men does not help, and then they take the women. Emily refuses to send a servant, and joins the military herself.
She survives the boot-camp and gets a taste of jungle warfare (in a musket era), it’s camaraderie and its brutality, and pointlessness. Her cause proves to be less stellar than she thought, and the enemy more human. Not a new approach to war novels, but executed as ably as I’m expecting from Czajkowski. I neede some epic fantasy, and I got it, mostly having fun while reading.
What was there that wasn’t as fun? Well, the great reveal was absolutely unsurprising, the heroine quite annoying in her stubborn naivety that was so obviously going to be overcome, I felt I was treated as… not that smart a reader. Not as sophisticated as Shadows of the Apt, and not as entertaining as The Monstrous Regiment, Pratchett masterpieces that comes to mind for obvious reason.
Another vaguely similar book I liked better – McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy (that’s a review we should translate), did the French Revolution in a fantasy world theme better, if you want a less satirical approach.
I rooted for the Denlanders since the very beginning, and was more interested in what was going on on their side of the front. But, when we learned a bit about that, they proved to be a bit too good. McClellan’s clearly on the side of the progress as well, but does not hide its uglier side. The Austen-ish parts were fun, but a bit too long for my taste.
Altogether, it’s a book I definitely recommend, and what I see as its faults lay at least partially in Czajkowski’s conscious stylistic choice.