Michelle West's Essalieyan Epic

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by AmethystOrator, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    Michelle West, aka Michelle Sagara West, is the author of the four fantasy novels constituting The Sundered, as well as the continuing Fantasy series about the Chronicles of Elantra (nine novels and a novella so far), in addition to other assorted essays and short stories. However, her longest-running project is a fantasy series set in a world in which the Empire of Essalieya is the major power. Imo this series has not received the attention that it deserves, and so I am beginning a thread to (I hope) bring it more exposure and explain it's chronology. I am sure that I can't do the story the justice it deserves, but feel that I owe it to the author and to potential readers to at least make the attempt.

    Michelle West began writing in this world in 1995, with the publication of The Sacred Hunt duology, comprised of Hunter's Oath & Hunter's Death. She then began the six novel Sun Sword series (1997-2004), made up of The Broken Crown, The Uncrowned King, The Shining Court, Sea of Sorrows, The Riven Shield and The Sun Sword. All of these books took place in the same chronological and publication order, and there are a couple of past threads (though none recent) which discuss them. During this time, she also wrote six short stories set in this Universe, most dealing with events that occurred earlier than any of the books.

    However, she then made the decision to fill in some of her characters' backstory, with the House War series. Beginning in 2008, she wrote The Hidden City: A Novel of the House War and City of Night: A Novel of the House War, the first of which seem to take place earlier than any of the novels that came before, while the second is primarily earlier, with a bit of overlap with the Hunter's books at the end. Then she finished House Name: A Novel of the House War, which seems to take place concurrently with the original The Sacred Hunt duology.

    In January 2012 Skirmish: A Novel of the House War was published. It jumps ahead in time and occurs after all of the other House War novels, and seems to take place concurrently with the final book of the Sun Sword series, the novel called The Sun Sword. This was to be followed by three more installments in this series. Battle: A Novel of the House War was released December 2012, Oracle: A Novel of the House War will be released mid 2014 and lastly War: A Novel of the House War will be released before the next series, with a working title of The End of Days begins.

    These books are definitely in the Fantasy genre, dealing with an original world with a detailed backstory. There are competing gods, their offspring, demons, magicians, healers, seers, bards, artisans, powerful artifacts, armies, and two major cultures (as well as some smaller ones) that are quite different and defined in depth. The author uses these differences to explore a myriad of themes including the roles of men and women, children, family, rulers, religion, aristocracy and servants, honor, sacrifice and many more. She treats all of these matters with respect and deals with them in an organic way, as they arise from conversations and situations among the many complex and very detailed characters contained within these books.

    In fact, these may well be some of the most fully realized characters that I've yet read in Fantasy and I had no trouble believing the authenticity of their stories. The flip side of such depth is that at times these books are dense and slow-moving. Plot-wise, there is absolutely a lot that happens, but sometimes that progression really can take a backseat to some of the brilliant character moments and the author's allowing her characters to make decisions and progressions in an authentic manner. For those who like fast-moving books where the plot progresses steadily and character conversations and introspections are kept short, then these books may well not appeal. There are a lot of different tastes at a Forum like this, and what constitutes "good" to one person can easily be "bad" for another. That's very much to be expected. But for those who do enjoy this sort of writing, imo there are some similarities to a writer like Robin Hobb (though some differences as well), then this definitely might be a story worth checking out.

    There are free previews of the first Chapters of all of the books available at the author's site, http://michellesagara.com/bibliography/ though all of them contain potential spoilers except for the first Chapter of the first of the House War novels, which is here: http://michellesagara.com/books/the-hidden-city/

    Imo, it is a good starting point and should give any interested readers a solid feel for whether or not this is the sort of story and style that they might find appealing.

    Also spoiler free is the first chapter of the Hunter's duology, here: http://michellesagara.com/books/hunters-oath/, though as the oldest of the author's works in this world it may not be the best representation of her work.

    For those interested in ebooks, both of the Hunter's books have been made available. The six short stories and the four House War novels and The Riven Shield are also available. And the word is that DAW has been working hard on the rest of the main Sun Sword series.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  2. Contrarius

    Contrarius You talkin' to me??

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    Thanks for mentioning these. I'm an absolute junky for character, so I'll have to check these out!
     
  3. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

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    These are some that I've had cross my radar a few times over the last decade, but I've never known quite enough about them to bump them up onto the "acquire" list. This helps a lot in that regard. I'll probably give book 1 a try at some point.
     
  4. PeterWilliam

    PeterWilliam Omnibus Prime

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    I have a fair amount of MSW around here, though I have yet to read a single one. Nearly started the Hunter's duology a couple of times.
     
  5. Whiskeyjack

    Whiskeyjack sapper-in-chief

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    Great recommendations. Her Sundered series is available on the Kindle at $7.16 total for all 4 books... a steal at that price, for what is a decent series. I'm still waiting for the Sun Sword books to come out on the Kindle, then I'm all over them!
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2011
  6. Severn

    Severn boss of several cats...

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    I had book one once and for some reason - not sure why now - I traded it in. Argh! I really want to read these. I'm a character junky also.

    Ah well, I'll just get it again.
     
  7. Contrarius

    Contrarius You talkin' to me??

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    Thanks, I just bought the first three for $0.89 + $0.89 + $2.69 :)
     
  8. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    You're welcome. I think that they're well worth sampling for any fan of character. I hope that you enjoy them.
     
  9. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    I actually haven't yet read Sundered. Contrasting her latest work to her earliest work that I've read, I can definitely see the improvement and evolution. So I'm a little worried that Sundered may suffer somewhat by the comparison. Still, since I've enjoyed the others so much, I'm picking the physical books up as I see them on sale and plan to get to them sometime next year. And that is a great price, MSRP on those four is over $80 for them in paperback.

    The House Wars are all out on kindle, and again, the first two are chronologically the earliest, with the third tied for third earliest. So personally I'd recommend beginning there even if The Sun Sword was out already:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-City-H...K/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

    http://www.amazon.com/City-Night-No...PYK/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

    http://www.amazon.com/House-Name-Bo...WQU/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2
     
  10. Gilliam

    Gilliam Registered User

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    I have to agree that Michelle West or Michelle Sagara is well worth reading and she would be one of my top 3 authors.

    She has a style of writing that I really enjoy. It is fair to say that not everybody is a fan of her writing and there are some whom prefer the Sun Sword series over the Elantra series and vice versa as her writing style is different between the two series.

    There is also an active yahoo group that discusses her stories and various thoughts and theories about characters and is located here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MichelleWest/
     
  11. HeclaBull

    HeclaBull Registered User

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    I read West's Sun Sword series years ago and it was really good. I think Malazan fans might enjoy it as it shares some of the traits that I thought made Malazan great. Although smaller in scope than Malazan, it too has a huge cast of characters and very in depth and detailed mythology and world building. More specifically, a large part of the series focuses on a squad of soldiers fighting and surviving through an epic and cataclysmic war much like how tMBotF focuses on the Bridgeburners and Bonehunters.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012
  12. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    Hi Gilliam & HeclaBull, it's always great to see fellow fans.

    I've only read the first book in the Malazan story, but I can definitely see some of the similarities that HeclaBull mentioned. I didn't find the characters in Malazan to be as well fleshed out, though perhaps my opinion might change whenever I get around to reading more books in that series.
     
  13. PeterWilliam

    PeterWilliam Omnibus Prime

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    From my "quick take" review:

     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  14. werewolfv2

    werewolfv2 Book worm

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    Strange, I havent read anything by her since The Sacred Hunt duology which I really liked. Somehow she fell off my radar! It looks like I have some more books to add to my list lol!

    as for kindle.. thanks, but I like to read books not a screen and Im a proud member of TYESI. :D
     
  15. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    Thanks for posting the review PeterWilliam. It seems fair and I enjoyed reading it.

    I would concur that world-building is among the author's strengths and that at this stage of her career (1995-1996) there is definite room for improvement in terms of her writing style and the editing. I would say that such improvement is seen as the books continue (though not all at once), and at present she has developed what I find to be a rather unique and compelling voice.

    I do think that there are times that her books could be more "polished", especially the earlier ones, but weighed against that is that she seems quite productive as an author (in my relatively limited experience). One of the criticisms that I've sometimes seen leveled against some BFF authors is the length of time that they take between books. Starting with The Sundered, West/Sagara has written 23 books in 22 years, many (though not all) of them quite long, with two more books still due this year.

    Ultimately, I'm glad that you enjoyed these two enough to recommend them, and hope that at some point you'll have the opportunity to continue on with the story.
     
  16. AmethystOrator

    AmethystOrator Registered User

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    It happens werewolfv2, but I'm glad that this discussion helped place her back on you radar. I'm envious of the fact that you'll have so many books to read for the first time, hope that you enjoy them!