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Thread: Sean Russell - give me the scoop
June 10th, 2005, 07:47 AM #1
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Sean Russell - give me the scoop
I looked a couple pages back and haven't seen a thread (although I'm sure one exists), so my apologies.
Can someone give me the gist of his work. Please no fanboy responses , but a leveled crtique about strengths/weaknesses, and what series would you compare his work to.
Thanks in advance!
Last edited by Ainulindale; June 10th, 2005 at 07:57 AM.
June 10th, 2005, 08:05 AM #2
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Sean Russell is an interesting writer. He began writing fantasy for DAW in the early 90's and like so many other writers at DAW he's Canadian (Michelle West, Tanya Huff, Fiona Patton).
His first series was an Asian duology : Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds. Excellent series. Although low on magical elements it has such strong characters and the Chinese atmosphere is superb.
After that he started something very different. Another duology : World withoud End and Sea without a Shore.
This has a more or less 18th century background. It's about a world where magic used to exist but is now virtually extinct. The descendant of the last mage arrives in court among a lot of intrigue, romance etc... Eventually he must embark on a voyage of discovery which is perhaps based on the voyages of Cook and Darwin in the Pacific Ocean. I think this is a great series and one of the best kept fantasy secrets of the 90's.
The last books he wrote for DAW was another duology : Beneath the Vaulted Hills and Compass o/t Soul. These are prequels to the previous series. Not bad but since they're prequels you know almost everything that will eventually happen in the story.
Strangely enough after leaving DAW for Eos Russell is now writing an epic fantasy trilogy in the tradition of George Martin : The Swans' War. Haven't read these myself. Reading the review I have the impression it's a love/hate series : most people seem to like this series but there is a strong group of people who hate these novels.
June 10th, 2005, 08:14 AM #3
I read the first novel in the Swan's War series. A magical river, some bargain basement political intriguing, and some vaguely interesting queries surrounding the reality of competing legendary wizard types. Oh yeah, and a few yokels with longbows who are away from their little hamlet and out of their depth.
Its not bad, but not very memorable either. I'm not exactly salivating over future volumes (the second book is out, in fact, but I haven't bothered picking it up).
June 10th, 2005, 09:51 AM #4
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I appreciate it!
Those synopsis don't really sound too bad actually; at least worthy to give a try. I may have to scoop up his early work (if still in print), and if I like them enough maybe jump into Swan's War. Those sound more to my taste even thoughh I am a huge Martin fan, I'm jsut not sold someone else is matching him and I haven't heard about him.
He is an author who is mentioned a lot but as you both say there seems to be no consensus on him at all. It's maddening haveing an author talked about so much on various boards and I cant praise or knock him!
Thanks for the info; and keep it coming!
June 10th, 2005, 10:11 AM #5
The One Kingdom and Isle of Battle (first two in Swan's War) are the only books of his I've read. They're fairly standard stuff and many have commented on the similarities to WoT, however I think they're above average stuff and worth a read even if they won't be appearing on many people's top ten lists. One of major stengths is prose; Russel writes better than the majority of authors out there in a stylistical sense. Unfortunately pacing is a bit off. The One Kingdom for example shifts between overly drawn out travelling and extremely fast paced excitement at the end, so much so that I didn't make it though the book in one go. Still, I reccomend a looksie, but don't be expecting anything special.
June 10th, 2005, 10:28 AM #6Originally Posted by Lowlander
As far as the Swans War goes, I've only read the first book so far (waiting to get my hands on the third before reading them through), but it is of a much different character than the other series. But I wouldn't really compare it to Martin. The only strong connection to Martin I might feel is the use of noble families and houses and faction units. Other than that, I find the tone and character of the books much different and just flat-out telling a different kind of story.
(And Martin has a tradition now? When did that happen? I thought someone had to be around for some time and write more than one huge half-finished series to start a tradition. Which reminds me, Swans War is a trilogy, period. No "I thought it was three books, but turned out to be 400" stuff here)
June 10th, 2005, 10:38 AM #7
And Martin has a tradition now? When did that happen? I thought someone had to be around for some time and write more than one huge half-finished series to start a tradition
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Martin was a respected writer before that however, Fevre Dream is a huge critical success (not to metnion a damn great book), he is also a well noted short fiction writer (A Song for Lya and Other stories is fantastic). Sandkings is a sought after classic. Windhaven is a vastly underated book (with Tutle). Dying of the Light a more then credible first effort as well.
Martin appeared in soem horror antholgies with people like Dan Simmons and Stephen King, and was not outclassed.
Martin is harldy a new kid on the block and IMHO a bonafide master right now.
They're fairly standard stuff and many have commented on the similarities to WoT,
June 10th, 2005, 11:00 AM #8
Not really in terms of plot or stucture... just I've heard many mention that the three main characters (the joker, the strong silent type and the fairly normal guy) setting out from their little simple village are very similar to the boys from WoT. Plus several other little similarities, but in general it's not like Jordan.
June 10th, 2005, 11:28 AM #9Originally Posted by Ainulindale
It was a little tongue-in-cheek talking about his tradition before, but given that he has a tradition, what would be its defining characteristic? His works all seem so diverse to me that I would be hard-pressed to point out something that makes another specific work follow in his footsteps, rather than the footsteps of just one of his works.
June 10th, 2005, 11:35 AM #10
I started reading 'The One Kingdom' and put it aside about 1/3 of the way through as it completely failed to hold my interest.
I just didn't really have much interest in the characters and I felt the opening chapter was clumsily written where he tries to introduce about four characters all in the same scene. Pretty confusing.
June 10th, 2005, 11:58 AM #11
but in general it's not like Jordan.
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I'm not disupting that he can write well, nor that he has many quality works. But it seems when someone says "in the tradition of Martin" it means "like ASoIaF." His works are all so very different, so what exactly is the tradition? It's not like saying, "In the tradition of David and Leigh Eddings," where they only write one thing, one way, and that's what you can expect. Honestly, I'm not sure that many people know he wrote all those other books. They're not shelved in fantasy for the most part (with the exception of Wild Cards).
Farseer trilogy I liked, and thought it was damn good, but not on the level of the current great series right now (Erikson , Bakker, Martin)
Like many fans of Fantasy, my introducion to the genre was epic fantasy, and for some 15 years now I have seen the genre evolve and have not read and concluded a series worhty to be talked about amongst the great works outside of that sub-genre that IMHO absolutely dominate the genre currently IMHO.
When I think of the top 50 current authors I admire the most now and the fact that there are perhaps 3 epic fantasy writers in my top 50, it is disheartening to someone raised on epic fantasy. Bakker and Erikson came slightly after; IMHO Martin brought credibility to epic fantasy that had been absent through the dark ages of the sub-genre (Brooks, Eddings, etc). That said, I am not in any way taking away the impact those authors (Brooks, Eddings) had on the publishing level, bringing money into the genre; merely on a personal level I thought the work was crap.
Some perspective; before Martin, people actually thought Jordan was great.
To me Martin's series represented actual talent being still alive in epic fantasy, as at least in regards to what I was seeing , the sub-genre was DEAD quality wise in 1996, when A Game of Thrones came out.
Now before people go in an uproar, Donaldson's work is not done, it is damn good as well IMHO; but I don't put it in the Martin category even though I think Thomas Covenant is one of the great characters in fantasy history. Tad WIlliams was solid as well, but not on the level IMHO we are speaking of.
Martin (if he ever gets done); represents the hope for a epic fantasy work to be considered a masterpiece of Fantasy, not just epic fantasy, and we haven't seen that in almost 30 years.
In short his "tradition" IMHO is simply being representative that epic fantasy can still be made to look like something that warrants a look quality wise to authors in other segments of the genre putting out marvelous work, Mieville, Stross, VanderMeer, Tim Powers, etc and not be misplaced in such company, like 99% of the genre would IMHO.
Again these are just my opinions not a manifesto I think others should agree with.
Last edited by Ainulindale; June 10th, 2005 at 04:57 PM.
June 10th, 2005, 12:38 PM #12
I like Russell quite a bit. I read (and reviewed) all three books in The Swan's War:
The One Kingdom
The Isle of Battle
The Shadow Roads
In my review of The Isle of Battle I may have over-reached in my early estimation by comparing the story to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (personal fave), but the trilogy is very good. My only problem is there was a pretty large gap in time between books 2 and 3. I think reading them all at once would really benefit the story, which, as I read upon each book's publication, was still very strong.
I've also read The River into Darkness duology and enjoyed it very much as well as Moontide and Magic Rise. Both solid stories and great atmosphere and sense of the world.
HERE is the author's official Web site, hosted by SFSITE. Not very detailed or updated regularly, though. I wonder what he's working on now.
June 10th, 2005, 12:56 PM #13
I've read The One Kingdom and The Isle of Battle, and I enjoyed both of them very much. Originally I had bought the books because someone told me Russell's prose was poetic like Guy Kay; they were right. In the first book especially there were passages I went back over to read out loud because they were so beautifully written.
The plot was interesting and complex, the books contain some memorable characters (such as Llyn, a horribly disfigured and lonely noblewoman, and Carral, a blind minstrel). Russell does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the many strange and wondrous places in the world he has created.
I will definitely be getting the third book when it comes out in mmpb this fall. I don't know anything about Russell's earlier works but I'd reccommend these books to anyone who likes complex, character-driven epic fantasy written in a lyrical style.
June 10th, 2005, 04:34 PM #14
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I want to thanks everyone for such quality responses. Godd stuff, and thanks - tremendous help.
June 10th, 2005, 04:40 PM #15
I've read the first Swan's War book. It was atmospheric and I've considered reading on. Now, the fact that I needed to consider that at all will tell you that I wasn't blown away by it. What we have here is a man with a good sense of prose, a creator of atmosphere and a decent (but not superb) worldbuilder. Characterization is very uneven and never really comes to full flower. Having read many of this sort of book (Tolkienesque epic Fantasy) I can say that is slightly above the margin of mediocrity but not on par with for instance a Tolkien, Kay, Hobb or a Williams (in form).