Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

As part of World’s Without End WoGF reading challenge for July I read Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear.  I must say that I’ve been enjoying myself with this challenge.  It’s given me the incentive to pick up authors that I haven’t previously read and it’s introduced me to some amazing books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading.   So I expected much the same with Range of Ghosts – after all this book has received a lot of glowing reviews and the author is very well respected (not to mention can I just bring your attention to that gorgeous cover).  Anyhow, I won’t say that there was an immediate feeling of love for this and I certainly didn’t feel it started off easily but, after my initial hesitancy, the story did win me over and I will definitely pick up the next book.

The story starts with the aftermath of a fearsome battle.  A lone survivor makes his way through the dead bodies.  Temur.  Injured on the battlefield and suspected dead, he now makes his way South to the mountains to hopefully live out a quiet life in exile. We then skip to a different storyline.  To the once Princess Samarkar.  Originally heir to an empire her claim ended when her father’s new wife bore him a son and she became a bartering tool, sent to a marriage that ended in failure and bloodshed.  Samarkar has renounced her royalty to become a wizard. In doing so she not only renounces all her worldly status but also her ability to bear children.

Temur and Samarkar’s destinies are inextricably linked.  They will come together with a small band of travellers in a stance against the evil that is bringing about destruction across their world.

So, I must confess that I found this book a little difficult to get along with to start with – in fact for almost 50% of the journey.  Which is a bit of a surprise for me because the world building is thorough and the build up of the two main characters Temur and Samarkar is excellent.  On top of that we have ghosts, massive birds of prey, assassins, battles and other weird and wonderful things.  I enjoyed reading about both the main characters so it is a bit of a mystery for me as to why I felt the first half of the story dragged.  After all, I don’t need my stories to be action packed or to rush along at breakneck pace.  I suppose if I look at this seriously the first 100 or so pages are primarily about world building and really very little else happens other than an introduction to the two main and a couple of periphery characters.  Personally I think well rounded characters are a must to make a story compelling.  if I don’t particularly care about the characters then it all becomes a little bit meaningless and it took me a little longer than I would otherwise have liked to really start feeling for these two.  However, I did form an attachment, just not immediately and I think that may well be where my main issue was.

Another niggle for me about the story is that put in black and white it’s basically a rescue mission.  And yet, I felt that there’s only a very tenuous connection between Edene and Temur – in fact I thought he had a much stronger connection to Samarkar – I guess we’ll see what happens in the next instalment.  It’s probably simply that we didn’t spend much time with Edene so I haven’t really got a feel for her and yet alternately Samarkar has really come into her own and is an interesting and strong character to read about.

The second half of the book however I felt things really came together a lot more.  The travellers group expanded and became very interesting in nature.  They travelled to new places where they were out of their element and met new people, they also came much more under threat with sneaky assassins dogging their movements.  I particularly enjoyed one of the characters – Hrahima –  I won’t really expand too much on her because it will spoil it for others but I do think she’s great to read about.  I also love Temur’s horse – Bansh – and if you’ve already read this then you’ll know why and I suspect will probably feel the same way!

Now, in spite of my initial criticisms the author turned me round with this.  Yes, it was a bit slow to start off with, whether that was because of the names or maybe it just felt like a lot to take on board at the beginning I don’t know, I’m sure it’s got a lot more to do with the way I initially approached the story rather than any fault in the telling.  I just think I went into this with an unrealistically high level of expectation which is always a lot for any novel to live up to.  However I do know that I now feel keen to pick up No.2 and see where this goes next and fortunately I don’t have to wait for the next instalment which is always a bonus!


Image taken from Goodreads

Image taken from Goodreads

14 Responses to “Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear”

  1. jessicabookworm

    I’ve been intrigued by this book from what I’ve heard about it but haven’t read it. I simply love this cover especially as its purple!

    • lynnsbooks

      The cover is gorgeous – and the next book also. I just wanted to keep flipping to the front – perhaps that’s why I struggled a little at the beginning. Now that I’ve had a day’s grace I do think this is a good read – but it’s slow to get into and I for some reason wasn’t totally gripped at first. I think it may have been my own reading mood.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Redhead

    I loved the idea of this book (and wow is that cover art amazing!) but I had a tough time getting into it as well. Not sure what it was about it, but it just didn’t work for me.

    • lynnsbooks

      I know, I can’t really put my finger on it – although I would say that I never felt any real fear when the characters were in the throes of things and I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t care about them as much as I wanted or not. I thought the last third was very enjoyable and I will probably check out the next one – maybe it was just the whole first book set up thing.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Two Dudes in an Attic

    Another author long on the Must Read list. I started “Hammered,” but on a laptop that migrated to my wife, half broke, and finally got stolen. Sooo….. I’ll be starting over I guess.

    • lynnsbooks

      Oh no – that’s terrible. We had a computer hard drive stolen and it’s totally naff – we had photos and all sorts on there, contacts, etc!
      Lynn 😦

      • Two Dudes in an Attic

        This wasn’t too terrible. It was a netbook held together with duct tape, with data copied to another machine. It does however mean that my only attempt at Elizabeth Bear was aborted.

      • lynnsbooks

        Haha, sounds like one of our laptops! You’ll just have to try again with Ms Bear.
        Lynn 😀

  4. nrlymrtl

    I only have a small collection of books signed by the author and one of those author’s is Elizabeth Bear. While I have not picked up this book yet, I recently read The Mongoliad which is a team effort of several authors including Neal Stephenson and Elizabeth Bear. It was excellent, a historical fantasy concerning the Mongolian Horde.

    • lynnsbooks

      Interesting – I’ll take a look at that. I’ve read good things about a few of her books.
      Lynn 😀

  5. TBM

    Good to know it picked up. Sometimes I like a slow start to a book and then when it picks up it’s like a ride.

    • lynnsbooks

      It definitely picked up. Slow start – which I don’t mind to a certain extent because a lot of worldbuilding was taking place.
      Lynn 😀

  6. elizabeth

    Hum. Yes, I started this two or three times. I think this will be a dedicated weekend of reading to get over the hump at the beginning of the novel.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it is a bit of a large hump to get over to be honest. I’m hoping that the 2nd book will be a little more straight into the story now that a lot of world building has taken place.
      Lynn 😀

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