Daniel Polansky, The Seventh Perfection (2020)

Author: Daniel Polansky

Title: The Seventh Perfection

Format: E-book

Pages: 176

Series: –

Daniel Polansky is known mostly for his Low Town grimdark trilogy. I read, and admired, his 2015 novella The Builders; a gritty and incredibly bloody tale of a group of small animals hell-bent on revenge. Think The Wind in the Willows x Reservoir Dogs (yes, I know. And yes, it works!) In The Builders I found that Polansky has a perfect feel of the limitations and opportunities inherent in shorter literary forms – though, frankly, almost 200 pages used to be a full novel, not a novella 😉. Suffice to say that when I saw The Seventh Perfection available on NetGalley, I jumped on it headfirst (or maybe teethfirst?).

And that’s the best way to approach this novella, in my opinion: don’t read blurbs, avoid spoilery reviews (yes, it’s self-defeating, but this one doesn’t contain spoilers, so it doesn’t count! :D) and be prepared to be surprised. But also, be prepared to shoulder at least some of the burden of understanding what in the world is going on – because Polansky surely and gleefully doesn’t make it easy for his readers. The Seventh Perfection is a reading challenge. A very welcome, and an extremely rewarding one, I might add. It’s written exclusively in the second person perspective, and each chapter presents a new point of view (there are very few recurring characters) – which might be overwhelming, but is also immensely enjoyable: all characters have their own peculiarities and their own unique voices, and, most importantly, their own agendas.

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Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn Trilogy (2006–2008)

sanderson-mistborntrilogyuk4The first book set in the Mistborn world, Mistborn: The Final Empire was the second published work by Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, Sanderson, the guy that now tells us from the covers of various fantasy novels whether it’s worth reading them. The same guy who finally managed to finish the never-ending Jordan’s series The Wheel of Time. A very popular and influential author who now has his own creative writing school.

It should tell you something about Sanderson’s style, that when appointed to conclude Jordan’s series in one book, he wrote THREE instead.

I’ve read his Mistborn trilogy soon after the last installment was published. Sanderson hasn’t become such a head honcho in fantasy then – he still had yet to write the Wheel of Time novels, and the days of topping the bestseller lists and making Laws In Fantasy were still ahead of him. In short – it was a long time ago.

So why do I bring him up? For all the aforementioned reasons: he has become one of the most popular and influential fantasy writers, he’s close to becoming an institution, and he writes more and more novels. And last but not least – after reading the Mistborn trilogy I haven’t touched a single book written by Brandon Sanderson. And I’m not planning to.

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T.H. White, The Once and Future King (1938-58)

Have you seen „The Sword in the Stone”? Nice Disney classic, „not much plot but great for little kids.” as an imdb reviewer noticed. I concur. It’s a nice watch, it’s deeper than most Disney movies even. But it’s just 10% of shiny stuff taken from the top of the novel that inspired it – the first part of “The Once and Future King” tetralogy by Terence Hanbury White.


A tetralogy consist of “The Sword in the Stone”, “The Queen of Air and Darkness”, “The Ill-Made Kinght” and “The Candle in the Wind”. There is also “The Book of Merlyn”, published posthumously, book that I prefer to pretend do not exist. They tell the story of king Arthur, from childhood to (spoiler alert) hist death in battle with Mordred.

The book is not for kids. There is humour and songs, just as in animated version, but it’s also slow paced, written in very demanding language and very long. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first encounter with Arturian fantasy. Start with some basic one-volume version of the story, see a movie or two, follow up with “The Winter King” by Cornwell, if you like history novels with warlords and battles, or “The Mists of Avalon”, if you are into feminist deconstruction of history and literature. But White’s retelling of the legend is the pinnacle of Arthurian fantasy. Readers already familiar with the story can fully appreciate this particular interpretation. It’s more than a very good fantasy book. It’s genuine Literary Fiction 😉

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Raymond Feist, Janny Wurts, Empire Trilogy (1987–1992)

Feist_Wurts_EmpireRaymond Feist is a fantasy author best known for his Riftwar saga – an epic fantasy cycle telling the story of a war between two worlds. The saga is set on Midkemia – a world very much like medieval Europe, or, to be more precise, like Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Midkemia is a brutal rip-off of Tolkien’s world, but Middle-earth is definitely a very strong inspiration for Feist. The world of Midkemia is basically feudal Europe, with plenty of castles, keeps, villages and cities, but most of all full of forests and roads – long and winding – leading through them. It’s populated mainly by people, sure, but also by dwarves and elves, trolls and goblins, dragons and magicians.

My first encounter with Feist was, paradoxically, not through any installment in the original Riftwar saga (starting with a classic Magician), but with a spin-off of sorts, a trilogy set on the other side of the magical rift – on the world of Kelewan. The Empire Trilogy, as it’s called, was the effect of collaboration between two writers: Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts. Wurts is a fantasy artist (she makes covers for her own books) and a writer in her own right, albeit much less popular than Feist – the Empire Trilogy remains her most popular work to date.

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Adrian Czajkowski (Tchaikovsky), Shadows of the Apt (2008–2014)

Czajkowski_Shadows of the AptMy traditional Wednesday post is somewhat late, because I was led astray by the charms of country life, mainly by the responsible tasks of growing lettuce, basil and tomatoes. But the second and no less important cause is that I find it very difficult to review a whole ten book series in one post. It simply doesn’t do justice – as it should – to every book.

But enough of justifications, let’s talk about the books. The first installment in the Shadows of the Apt series, Empire in Black and Gold, was Czajkowski’s debut. Actually, the first four books were his debut, as he managed to write them all before any of the books were accepted by Tor. Here was a guy who wrote for his own pleasure, was consistent, imaginative and perseverant. At first the world he created – and populated with insects – might have been seen as a slight disadvantage by any sensible publisher, but soon this very world, unique and fascinating, set Czajkowski’s work apart and made him popular.

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