Review: The Ragged Man
As you all are well aware, we reviewed the first three novels in Tom Lloyd‘s Twilight Reign series and basically said they were the best thing since sliced bread. So with the release of THE RAGGED MAN, the fourth book in the series, it really became a question of “What more can we say?”
As it turns out, quite a bit.
Those of you who recently read THE GRAVE THIEF are probably still picking your jaw off the ground after that COMPLETELY INSANE ending. Main characters dying, other characters becoming the Mortal-Aspects of Gods, Gods dying, and Styrax being completely awesome. It seems like after every novel in this series we say to ourselves “How is Tom Lloyd going to top this?” Somehow he always does, and his endings leave us completely floored. This novel was no exception.
THE RAGGED MAN picks up right after the bloodbath at the end of THE GRAVE THIEF. The Land is in turmoil. Styrax has become even more vicious in his conquests. Civil war is blooming everywhere. Times are grim. THE RAGGED MAN features a fairly common theme: the tragedy and loss that come from war. Just because many of the characters in Tom Lloyd’s series are larger-than-life doesn’t mean they have nothing to lose. It is really in this aspect of the novel that Tom really drives home the cost of war. There is a section toward the latter quarter of the novel where Carel is ripping into Vesna about how much everyone has lost. It is in these losses that the great and powerful should realize they are no better than the lowborn. It is particularly powerful to see how Styrax copes with his own losses.
Another of the themes that is illustrated in THE RAGGED MAN to near perfection is the idea of duty. Characters are literally bargaining their souls away because of the duty they feel towards the Land, and towards their Lords and Gods. No matter the cost, there are a few characters that realize just how bad events are becoming with Azaer pulling everyone’s strings. You see, with this novel we are getting people’s full motivations. It’s more than just conquest. Far, far more, and Tom does an amazing job of raising the stakes in a way that makes the reader cognizant of the current and coming dangers. Only those who are willing to sacrifice everything will be able to save the Land.
We’ve said constantly that we love this series. We recommend it to everyone. However, with our recent reading of Jordan and Sanderson’s TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, we realized WHY we love this series so much. Lloyd’s Twilight Reign contains all the things we feel are lacking in the Wheel of Time. Danger. Death. Consequences. This series even touches on some similar themes–the long dead king that was living in Isak’s head for example. Sound familiar? Only the handling of it in Lloyd’s series is so much better, and the purposes behind it feel much more immediate. Where the WoT gets bloated, repetitive and passive, The Twilight Reign is focused, dark, aggressive and active. THE RAGGED MAN really hammered home this sense of fulfilled literary promises that have been withheld by WoT and many other stagnant, epic fantasy series. Another comparison? OK. A few years ago we were at a convention where Lloyd was said to be in a similar vein as Steven Erikson. This is 100% accurate. That’s all you need to know.
If there is one thing we wish we could see more of in Lloyd’s stories, it is a bit more variety in the Land. We end up being plopped down in the same areas. If you look at the map, we pretty much stick to a extremely small area of the world. Other places are mentioned, but we never see them. Granted, this is part of what gives the story its focus, but there is a huge and rich world to explore here–not to mention the various cultures we barely get glimpses at. With only one book left in the series, it’s obvious we aren’t going to see these places. We are holding out for some stand-alone sequels like Joe Abercrombie is doing. And by “holding out” we mean begging.
The ending. What can you say. Holy. Freaking. Crap. A portion of the ending was expected–big huge battle with all sorts of death and destruction. But just because you know generally WHO is going to show up to save the day doesn’t mean you know HOW it is all going to happen. Trust us, the ending of this book was completely fantastic. In a sense, it was reminiscent of book 1 where the prophecy was broken. The last few lines of the novel really illustrate just how crazy things are probably going to get in the final book.
In THE RAGGED MAN, Tom Lloyd has once again raised the stakes in his series. The action was amazing like usual. Tragedy often strikes just when things seem to be going well. Consequences are real and powerful. This is a grim, dark world that somehow still has glimmers of hope as the incredible characters fight tooth-and-nail for their futures. But now comes the hard part: finishing it all off. With a solid ending, this series could become a cornerstone of the genre. The wait for THE DUSK WATCHMAN is already killing us.
If you aren’t reading this series, you are doing yourself an immense disservice. Fortunately, this is easily fixed. Go buy this book, and the three before it right now.
Recommended Age: 17 and up.
Language: There is quite a bit more this time around due to the focus being more on soldiers.
Violence: Tom writes awesome action. He writes very visual and visceral violence. This is a bloody, bloody novel.
Sex: Nope. None.
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