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The Cold Commands (GOLLANCZ S.F.) by Richard…

The Cold Commands (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Richard Morgan

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3701029,266 (3.82)13
Title:The Cold Commands (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Authors:Richard Morgan
Info:Gollancz (2012), Edition: Mass Market Paperback, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library, Speculative Fiction

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The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan (2011)

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Set sometime after [b:The Steel Remains|3314369|The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes, #1)|Richard K. Morgan|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348251475s/3314369.jpg|3352006], a book that basically blew my mind with how unflinching and hurtful it could be, while delivering more in characters, plot, dialog and worldbuilding than most fantasy series do. So the sequel had a lot to live up to, and mostly, it does.

In the first book, a kidnappd relative roused Ringil Eskiath, former noble scion and now cynical war veteran, from his drunken stupor and into battle. No one likes him much--for one, he's a spiteful bastard, and for two, he's gay in a world that kills people for that--but he's also a war hero with an enchanted blade, so they put up with him. After nearly single-handedly defeating an invasion of the world's most dread enemies, Ringil turned his attention back to the slavers, and didn't like what he found. Since then, he's been exiled from every empire and city due to his vociferous demands that (the very profitable trade of) slavery be outlawed. So obviously, he decided to declare war on slavery. Personally.

Ringil's a badass, but he's also the kind of guy that literally spits when a god tries to help him. He's frustrating but hilarious.

Meanwhile, his old comrade-in-arms Archeth still serves the empire her forefathers did, but her loyalty is stretched thin. To get her out of his hair, the emperor sends her to investigate the possible return of her people.

And the final member of their trio, the barbarian Egar, is mostly getting drunk and getting laid. But then he notices that a lot of numbskull fighter types (of the sort he used to be) are being recruited by a religious order, and he gets annoyed.

Morgan can write an action sequence like no one's business. The dialog and characters are natural but also almost preternaturally hard-as-nails. The plot threads didn't come together as well as in the third book, and Egar's plot dragged a bit. But I could hardly bear to put this book down, and can't wait to read the next one. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Dark Things are coming and as Archeth follows another cryptic pronouncement from the Helmsman, Ringil and Egar are seperated by cicumstances and so the adventures begin. The three are rarely together in The Cold Commands. Their stories do overlap but each has different paths to take.

In Cold Commands Morgan fleshes out more of the back story of the characters and the why and wherefores of the various warring parties. His descriptions of the skirmishes and fights are again detailed and gory without wallowing in bloodshed for it's own sake. They are almost like dance moves using very sharp objects. While there is considerable violence Morgan paces it so well that there is a rise and fall of tension as each situation is resolved. A continuous blood fest would soon pall and there is more to this story than that.

The dialogue is realistic for its milieu and there are no forced speech patterns just to show a characters status.You can tell who is speaking without the tiresome " and Ringil said that..." to indicate the speaker. There is humour and sadness, light and shade in the interactions.

Looking forward to book three 'The Dark Defiles' to see how it all pans out. ( )
  Robert3167 | Jan 28, 2016 |
(re-posted from http://theturnedbrain.blogspot.com/)

This review contains spoilers for The Steel Remains

Is it weird that my favourite character in this book was Ringil’s longsword, Ravensfriend? That’s right folks. No longer merely content with crafting some of the coolest human(ish) characters around, Richard Morgan is now imbuing inanimate objects with more personality than your average fantasy author could dream of.

But of course, there’s a lot more to The Cold Commands than just scene stealing weaponry. When last we left them it seemed that Ringil, Archeth and Egar would heading south together to Archeth's house, and given how fun it is to watch the three play off each other I was looking forward to seeing them share page space. So I was a little disappointed when the book opened, much as the first one did, with the three friends involved in three separate story lines. But come on, there’s only so long disappointment can last in the face of Richard Morgan’s awesome prose and clever dialogue.

By the time I hit the midway point my initial feelings of disappointment were a distant memory, and I was enjoying The Cold Commands even more than I did The Steel Remains. (And I really liked The Steel Remains). I spoke in my review of The Steel Remains of how well Morgan handles backstory, and here he continues to show his prowess in that area. The war with the scaled folk is fleshed out further, but it’s done very organically without the use of clunky flashbacks and the like. We also get a few tantalizing glimpses into the battle that earned Egar the title of Dragonbane.

And can I just stop here and say what a fantastic example of characterization the whole Dragonbane thing is. Because Egar and Ringil both killed that dragon, but only Egar is known by ‘Dragonbane’ title that killing a dragon gets you. Ringil, perverted degenerate and corrupter of youth that he is (can you feel my sarcasm from over there?), is conveniently left out of the tale. Where a lesser author would make a huge deal out of it Morgan doesn’t, and it’s very effective. You can tell a reader that your hero is an outcast for x reason until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean squat unless you show it too.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor is a simple one. Whereas Ringil spent much of The Steel Remains wandering around the grey places with Seethlaw, understandably way out of his element, here he spends the bulk of the novel in the “real world.” Watching Ringil (and Ravensfriend) interact with Morgan’s well developed cast was a real pleasure. Really, I can’t overstate how much fun I had watching Ringil charm, intimidate and terrify everyone around him in turns. (I did miss Seethlaw though…) His interactions with the Emporer (who remains one of my favourite non-sword shaped characters, if only for how impressive I find the way Morgan uses him to play with our expectations) was a particular treat.

I will say the plot is very much the plot of a middle book. Whereas the Steel Remains can and does stand very well on its own, The Cold Commands is clearly setting up the events of the trilogy’s final volume. Which didn’t bother me, but it might others. Plot elements introduced in books one, namely the whole “dark lord” business are also further explored here. When it comes to subverting fantasy conventions Abercrombie has nothing on Morgan in my opinion, and I’m very interested to see where this dark lord thing leads. It’s like a wicked inversion of the “chosen hero” trope, and I’m getting a real kick out of it. I also think the subversion is entirely intentional on Morgan’s part. Ringil’s reaction when that creepy crossroads dude (which, wow, what an awesome scene) calls him a farmboy was priceless, but also telling.

So, incase it’s somehow unclear, I loved this book. I really can’t see anyone who enjoyed The Steel Remains not getting, at the least, the same level of enjoyment out of The Cold Commands. I just can’t wait to see how Morgan brings this thing to a close. I’m also hoping to see a Ravensfriend spin off. What? It could happen… ( )
  MeganDawn | Jan 18, 2016 |
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2014/09/16/cold-commands-by-richard-k-morgan/

What I can’t get over with this book is just how beautifully written eviscerations can be done. Seriously, Morgan’s prose is just wonderfully written with a beautiful and poetic feel. This carries through for every part of his book, including the dark and gritty, violent sections like when the prose is describing disembowelment. Yes, this book, like the first one has graphic sex and violence. This series is not for the faint of heart. And just like I said in my review for The Steel Remains, I don’t think the sex scenes in this are any more graphic than many books with heterosexual sex scenes, but I feel they get more attention because they are homosexual. There are some reviewers that will always complain about this level of graphic sex scenes regardless of the genders of the participants, but I think the fact they are homosexual is beyond some readers comfort levels which is just sad. People are people and sex is sex. These characters and the sex scenes are very real and down to earth and I see absolutely no reason to complain.

The Cold Commands has 3 story arcs, each following a familiar character from The Steel Remains. Ringil, of course we get more Ringil. His story line starts with an encounter with an escaped slave and follows him trying to find asylum after being exiled. One thing I found interesting is I felt more interested in Archeth’s storyline for this one than I did in The Steel Remains. The Helmsman is warning her of dark things to come and is following orders of the Emperor she now serves as an advisor to. And Egar’s storyline. Umm…. maybe he didn’t have a major storyline. I mainly remember him drinking, fighting and getting laid. There may have been more to it, but that’s what I remember, which brings me to my one criticism about the book.

I loved reading this, but sometimes I couldn’t quite tell what the overall conflict goal was. If that makes sense, I’m not sure. Every minute of the prose is amazing to read, and maybe even more amazing to listen to Simon Vance narrate. But somehow I felt like if someone were to ask me exactly what was going on at points in the book, I would have been at a loss. I could tell you the latest events, but I also felt like I was missing something from the bigger picture and felt it moved just a little bit slower because of that. Maybe it was just me and my listening comprehensions skills that were lacking, but it did detract just a teeny tiny bit.

If you read the first one, definitely continue reading. Morgan’s prose is every bit as wonderful. And there world is both fascinating and relevant. As per many fantasy novels, there are many themes riding in this that can translate to modern day life, and I absolutely love that. And all of the characters are well done, believable characters with honest emotions and realistic reactions and motivations. This is not a black and white book, but one with much moral ambiguity, which I think is a closer representation of real life. Things are often not clearly right or wrong when you look at all sides. ( )
  tenaciousreader | Oct 6, 2015 |
If The Steel Remains was self-aware grimdark with a flicker of conscience, The Cold Commands starts by snuffing that conscience out. Morgan sets up his tent early on: this will be darker and more disturbing than the first novel (which is saying something). What he doesn't necessarily deliver is a well-paced novel that stands alone. The Cold Commands - even more so than The Steel Remains - feels like a lot of set-up and a heap of new possibilities, with a slightly engineered climax rather than closure and requires the final novel in the trilogy to balance it out.

However, if you can stomach the grimdark trappings, there's a lot of dry humour and entertainment here along with more side-swipes at fantasy and grimdark tropes as well as the workings of political and religious control. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Full comments: here ( )
  imyril | Jun 21, 2015 |
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I tell you, it's no game serving down in the city.

—J.R.R. Tolkein,
The Two Towers
The Cold Commands is for V.
who has given me something to hold
First words
When they got down into the fringes of the forest beyond Hinerion, Gerin saw the heat shimmering off the scrublands ahead of them, and knew the crunch had come.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Named changed from 'The Cold Commands' to 'The dark Commands' pre-publication as at July 2009
Published as "The Cold Commands" in October 2011 in UK
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"With The Steel Remains, award-winning science fiction writer Richard K. Morgan turned his talents to sword and sorcery. The result: a genre-busting masterwork hailed as a milestone in contemporary epic fantasy. Now Morgan continues the riveting saga of Ringil Eskiath--Gil, for short--a peerless warrior whose love for other men has made him an outcast and pariah. Only a select few have earned the right to call Gil friend. One is Egar, the Dragonbane, a fierce Majak fighter who comes to respect a heart as savage and loyal as his own. Another is Archeth, the last remaining daughter of an otherworldly race called the Kiriath, who once used their advanced technology to save the world from the dark magic of the Aldrain--only to depart for reasons as mysterious as their arrival. Yet even Egar and Archeth have learned to fear the doom that clings to their friend like a grim shadow. or the curse of a bitter god. Now one of the Kiriath's uncanny machine intelligences has fallen from orbit--with a message that humanity faces a grave new danger (or, rather, an ancient one): a creature called the Illwrack Changeling, a boy raised to manhood in the ghostly between-world realm of the Grey Places, home to the Aldrain. A human raised as one of them--and, some say, the lover of one of their greatest warriors--until, in a time lost to legend, he was vanquished. Wrapped in sorcerous slumber, hidden away on an island that drifts between this world and the Grey Places, the Illwrack Changeling is stirring. And when he wakes, the Aldrain will rally to him and return in force--this time without the Kiriath to stop them. An expedition is outfitted for the long and arduous sea journey to find the lost island of the Illwrack Changeling. Aboard are Gil, Egar, and Archeth: each fleeing from ghosts of the past, each seeking redemption in whatever lies ahead. But redemption doesn't come cheap these days. Nor, for that matter, does survival. Not even for Ringil Eskiath. Or anyone--god or mortal--who would seek to use him as a pawn"--… (more)

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