Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover

I have raved in the past about the Acts of Caine series by Matthew Stover, so if you have a moment, take the time to read those other reviews.
 
Heroes Die (Act of Violence)
Blade of Tyshalle (Act of War)
Caine Black Knife (Act of Atonement, Book 1)
                     
If you’re not familiar with Matthew Stover and the Acts of Caine series, please at least go back and read the review for Heroes Die. It’s a great start to get a feel for things, though the series really gets going in Blade of Tyshalle (in my opinion anwyway). Because, if you are a fan of epic fantasy, you are doing yourself a huge disservice by not reading these books. Do you like dark fantasy (or gritty/grimdark as it’s being called these days)? This series pre-dates and out does anything you’ll find in grimdark today. Seriously, this series is criminally under-read and I cannot state strongly enough that fans should read it.
 
Caine’s Law (Act of Atonement, Book 2) completes the series in what is the best conclusion to any series I’ve read. Let me say that again…this series has the best ending of any series I’ve read to date. The pure satisfaction of this ending is second-to-none. To give just the slightest hint at this, I will quote the last line of the book/series (now, this is slightly complicated due to non-linear storytelling, but this is essentially the last line).
 
Any fucking questions?
 
Caine is the antihero of antiheroes. He is not nice, he is selfish, he is ambitious, he will sacrifice whatever he needs to, and he will torture and kill without a second thought. But, he’s also the good guy. He is the ultimate take no prisoners, bad ass motherfucker. Caine is someone that you don’t want to mess with – it will end badly, and it will probably end just as badly for everyone you know.
 
And for all that Caine is fiercely protective of his own. Heroes Die is essentially about him saving his wife. Blade of Tyshalle is about him saving his daughter. Caine Black Knife is about Caine coming to terms (of sort) with his past and the wrongs that he has done (and about him saving his brother). Caine’s Law is about him saving everyone else. And it’s way, way more complicated than that.
 
Structurally, Caine’s Knife is a wonderful mess. As I indicated above, it’s nonlinear, but that doesn’t go far enough. It’s metaphysical – similar to what was seen in parts of Blade of Tyshalle, but much, much more. The best way to express this is to quote author’s note.
 
Several parts of this story take place before the events depicted in Act of Atonement Book 1: Caine Black Knife.
 
Other parts of this story take place after. Still others take place before and after both. Some parts may be imaginary, and some were real only temporarily, as they have subsequently unhappened.
 
This book begins with the end and ends with the beginning – framing it as a journey. Perhaps the hero’s journey…only not, because Caine is no hero…except when he is. This only adds another layer to the long list of what this book and series is about. Which is yet another reason to read these books – depth, depth unlike 99% of what’s out there. These books will make you think, they will entertain you, they will make you think about why they entertain you, they will make you lose sleep, and they just might make your language a bit more colorful.  
 
This book, and the series as a whole, are more than just the best, most badass character in fantasy. It’s a book about being human and what it means to be human. It’s a series the darkness of humanity and it’s a series about conquering the darkness. It’s a series about redemption and progress. It’s a series about the horror of oppression – both from government and gods. It’s a series about overcoming that oppression. It’s about love, sacrifice, family, and fatherhood. In short, it’s about progress, it’s about becoming better, and the inner strength of humanity to make it happen – in the face of all the pure evil that’s present as well. And along the way there is both romance, and lots and lots of graphic violence with equally graphic language.
 
It’s really ineloquent and ironic to continually gush my love for this book and series, so I think I’ll pause and to illustrate much of what goes on and what I was attempting to say above, below are a few of the chapter titles for Caine’s Law, in no particular order.
 

Beloved of God
Scars and Scars
What Dreams May Come
Times that Bind
Assbitch of the Gods
Enter Hero
Meat Puppets
Love Absolute
Consider Insanity
Truth to Power
Father Issues
The Art of Unhappening
Fuck God
To the Masters of the Earth
  
Assbitch of the Gods – is there a better chapter title ever? And as I said, it’s only better.
 
Go, read, now. That is all.
 
Any fucking questions?
 



Blade of Tyshalle: Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon

Caine Black Knife: Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon


 




1 comment:

Noble Alfred said...

I am now convinced on picking up the series.

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