Archive for September, 2014

 

If there is something I like in a book, movie or videogame, that’s a Strong and independent female character. It always gives me great pleasure when authors treat female characters as human beings, who will fight and try to resist any actions against them, while it gets in my nerves whenever the female characters are helpless damsels in distress who spend the story screaming the hero’s name.

Fiction has come a long way when it comes to provide with strong and independent female characters. In this blog we already have mentioned Alanna, from the Song of the Lioness Quartet or Kata, from Unwrapped Sky both of them women who are willing to fight for what they believe and society’s prejudices be damned. In movies we have the so-called Trinity Syndrome, by which the story introduces a strong female character who becomes useless towards the end to allow the male hero to get up and shine, but I am sure that, after big blockbusters such as Maleficent and Lucy, it is just a matter of time we start getting over that.

It is true that there are some storied where the kidnapped princess is needed as a Plot element. I don’t defend the elimination of female victims just as I consider unfair the absence of male victims, sometime someone needs to be the victim for the hero or heroine to start his or her adventure. What I am against is the gratuitous representation of women as helpless beings who allow themselves to be kidnapped, killed or hurt meekly, always expecting the male hero to save the day.

To finish this reflection I would want to mention a beautiful play called “Compleat Female Stage Beauty”, which is about the moment in which English women were allowed to act in stages. An actor specialized in playing women asks an actress att he end of the play why his Desdemona wasn’t perfect, to which she replies “because you didn’t fight on her last scene, you just looked pretty and died”

TTN

The Thousand Names, written by the awesomely named Django Wexler (insert Django unchained soundtrack here), is set in a fantasy world which finds itself undergoing its own version of the colonial period. When a religious uprising threatens its control on one of its faraway colonies, the king of Voran sends an army of raw recruits commanded by the mysterious colonel Janus. There he will join with the colonial soldiers which have survived the uprising to try to take back the colony. On his side he will have Marcus D’ivory, the honorable though unimaginative captain of the colonial army and Winter, a young colonial ranker with a knack for command but whom would rather not being noticed.

Mr Wexler manages to create an unforgettable group of characters, all of them full of humanity, inner conflicts and contradictions which enrich the novel with every passing page as they win the reader’s affection. Janus is a mysterious charming bastard who likes to keep his men and, through them, the reader, guessing about his motivations and where his true loyalty lies. His charisma comes from a carefully built development and the author’s skill to give the reader peeks of information in the precise moment when it has the biggest effect but never revealing too much.

D’Ivory is a captain whose loyalty and lack of ambition has landed him in an office everyone tries to stay clear from but that he happens to like, he is a conflicted character torn between his loyalty to his fellow officers and rankers and the loyalty he owns to Janus as his commanding office. His development is probably one of the most entertaining that I have read in a long time it is fluid and sensible, his actions always in the line with the character we have been introduced.

But if there is a character which, in my opinion, deserves a mention, that is Winter. A girl posing as a man who has managed to fool her platoon for years, she suddenly finds herself being noticed by Janus, who recognizes her military genius and her talent for command. She is a complex and humane character whose character and development have been carefully crafted and are as realistic as they get. Her own inner conflict, as powerful as D’Ivory’s, between passing unnoticed or getting her platoon out of every battle alive is a realistic situation that will make the reader sympathies.

The colonial representation of The Thousand Names’ world is a realistic set which will enthrall the reader and keep him reading as much as the novel’s main characters. The military strategies, the cities lay down and the military columns marching through the dessert are elements which surprise because of their realism and the amount of research the author must have put into them. The setting fulfills its mission going beyond simplistic scenery in which the story takes place and becoming a vehicle that transports the reader into this mysterious and mesmerizing world.

Finally, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the writing style of the author. It is fluid, simple and allows for an easy reading without trying to use complicated language as a mean to show off his talent, but at the same time is filled with colonial and military terms which, again, is a master class for the aspiring author about the importance of research.

The first thought that hit me after finishing The Thousand Names is that it is a worthy successor for the Malazan Book of the Fallen. A thrilling tale which I recommend to the lovers of the fantasy genre in general and those in love with military fantasy in particular. Undoubtedly I will keep reading books of Mr. Django Wexler as they come along.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

Ps: My apologies for this month of silence. Saint Sebastian Film Festival has been crazy but now it is finished and I have again free time in my hands. I will try to catch up by posting two reviews per week