The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan
Series: A Land Fit for Heroes #1
Also by this author: The Cold Commands
Published by Del Rey, Random House Publishing Group on 2009-01-20
Also in this series: The Cold Commands
A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword. Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but when his mother enlists his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one young woman. Grim sorceries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of the Aldrain, a race of widely feared, cruel yet beautiful demons. Now Gil and two old comrades are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.
There are three points of view in this, and I have to admit to a strong preference for Ringil. I feel like he is the star of the book and the other two POVs are there just to support his story. Initially I had trouble connecting with either Archeth or Egar’s chapters. I did come around, but never lost my strong preference for Ringil.
There were places that felt the story lagged, so between that and not connecting as strongly with Archeth or Egar I gave the story 4 stars out of 5.
Ringil is a fascinating character. He would have been a hero in his world, if not for his open homosexuality. He is every bit the strong warrior, every bit the motivating leader. He is sharp, good with people, but determined to not allow himself to be confined by the restriction of accepted societal norms.
Sitting down to write this review, I debated how much to discuss Ringil’s sexuality. Honestly, as a reader and a person, I don’t see what the big deal is. But seeing other reviews and discussions on it, I just decided to delve in and give my opinion.
People are people, sex is sex. It’s a connection between two people (yes, figuratively and literally). There are readers that will be uncomfortable or have issues with these scenes regardless of the characters. Me? While I don’t read books for them, they certainly don’t bother me. Yes, the necessity of them can be debated in any book. Whatever.
Being gay in a world that is not accepting of it will greatly impact aspects of a person’s life and it features in the book accordingly. I suppose the necessity of having graphic scenes could be debated, but that would be the case for heterosexual sex scenes as well. Is The Steel Remains anymore graphic than some other fantasy novels that feature graphic heterosexual sex? I don’t think so, but it is more risqué than the vast majority of epic fantasies I have read.
Honestly, I’m not one to be bothered by them regardless of the gender, race, species of the participants, but I do know some readers are. The sex scenes are hardly representative of the book as a whole and they are really limited in number. But they are there and to me, while explicit, they are no more explicit than some other books I have read. Some readers will complain about the explicit sex in this book because they would complain about it in any book. But some, unfortunately, will likely complain because it is homosexual sex instead of heterosexual sex. They likely won’t admit, maybe not even to themselves, but that’s the sad reality. I would never not recommend this book just because the main character happens to prefer men. I cannot understand judging his relationships different because of this either. I really hope that, despite some of the reviews I have seen, most people will react the way I do.
There, I voiced my opinion and now it’s time to move on. There is much more to this book than just Ringil’s sexual preferences.
This book takes some surprisingly dark turns and the violence in it is not for the squeamish. Also worth mentioning is the fantastical elements. In some epic fantasies being published today, they are used sparingly to the point a subset of the readers complain. That is certainly not the case here. There are a number of creative creatures lurking in this world leaving the reader with no doubt that this is a different world than any that has existed here on earth.
The end to this book was utterly fantastic and Morgan has left it set up wonderfully for The Cold Commands, the next book in A Land Fit for Heroes series. I am really looking forward to fitting it into my reading list.