Review: An Affinity for Steel

Posted: July 14, 2016 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Sam Sykes, Fantasy

It’s not very often that I get to write one of these kind of reviews. I had couple of them a few years ago when (oddly enough) Orbit picked up another favorite author of mine and did a new printing in omnibus fashion of an earlier series of his. In these instances, it never even crosses my mind to skip over reviewing such a book. It gives me a chance not only to go back and remember my reading experience with them (actually, I remember saying something recently about wanting to do that for this series…), but mostly to introduce new readers to an awesome author. And also doing our best to help the current publisher of our favorite authors might be wrapped up in there somewhere too as well. So, lots of reasons to write such a review. Pick any of them. Pick all of them. Just know that I’m happy to be able to do my part.

AN AFFINITY FOR STEEL (Amazon) is an omnibus printing of the entire Aeon’s Gate Trilogy, originally published by Pyr, by Sam Sykes’s new authorly home, Orbit. To tell the truth, I was really looking forward to seeing this particular omnibus in print. I made mention in my review for the last book in this trilogy of the idea that reading all three books back-to-back would be of considerable benefit to new readers, and now everyone can do that with relative ease. After such a prediction it would be extremely interesting to me to see if a new reader of this book had the same issues that I did when getting them one at a time. Would love to see any comments about that.

TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, the first of the trilogy, is a whiz-bang of a novel. I found readers to be very polarized in their love or hatred of it. In a nutshell, the entire story happens on a single boat over the course of three days, and it involves a group of five adventurers, who pretty much all hate each other, as they are trying to recover The Tome of the Undergates. The problem is that this is really not the first book in a series. It’s much more similar to the last novel in a series. And it might have actually been one if any other author had written this story. Thus there is all sorts of history with the world, and the setting, and the characters that we just don’t get. Instead, we get the fallout of all this setup as we, along with our trusty band of adventurers, try to keep our heads above water. The part that made this book amazing for me was the well-drawn characters and the great writing. People who couldn’t fall for those things, I think, just had a hard time with what was happening due to that lack of historical context.

BLACK HALO, the second book, picks up immediately after the closing of TOME, and is both somewhat better and somewhat worse than its predecessor. It fleshes out some of the history that I mentioned was missing in TOME, and the characters finally get off of their boat, but most of the time spent in this book (whose timeline I vaguely recall as being somewhat more or less than a week) falls to information gathering and navel gazing on the island where they’ve been shipwrecked. They’re still chasing the veritable Tome and I still have no clue where they Black Halo reference comes into play. Sykes’s characters, which we get to know better, and his writing are still in tip-top form though. So, while the pacing drops to a crawl, it’s still an engaging read. The other thing the novel did do just a bang-up job at was setting up the third book.

Has some difficulties, but is a great read. And afterward, you get the Bring Down Heaven series, which is a diggety-dog whirling dervish of a killer story

THE SKYBOUND SEA, again picks up immediately after HALO, and now I’m sure you’re seeing, at least in part, one of the reasons why I thought having access to all three novels in one book could be of value. Especially given the book’s timeline. After learning where the Tome has been headed all this time, all five adventurers make their way to the hidden island where everything in this climax of a series, comes to a climax. A banished Aeon (aka demi-god), Ulbecetonth, is trying to make her way back into the world, and she needs the Tome to do it. Forces benign and magical from several various directions meet in an epic clash of violence and chaos and oh was it FUN. Sykes had learned a lot, I think, about writing these books, and wrote a great third novel that was not quite as action-oriented as TOME and not quite as information-laden as HALO, but the perfect balance of the two.

Even by the end of this massive tome of a story, there were questions I had. Lots of them. World-building. That history stuff I mentioned? Yeah. Even some of that information that seemed to be answering some kind of question left me wondering what those questions were. But man did I feel like I knew the characters. They’re great. Some of my favorites in the realm of fantasy as a whole. And did I mention how well the guy can write? Lends itself to a very rapid rate of word-consumption for me, which I love to see. The books I enjoy the most seem to be those that allow me to forget that the words are even there and let the picture-movie go straight into my head. Sykes’s writing does that for me. I recently mentioned that I thought Pierce Brown was an exceptionally gifted writer for being so early in his writing career. Sam Sykes is another author that inspires that feeling of awe in me.

This book is a brilliant-good read. It has its difficulties, yes, but even disregarding the fact that this is a debut series for the guy, it’s still a dang good one. Plus, once you read this stuff you can get to the series that follows it: Bring Down Heaven. And let me tell you, that one is the diggety-dog whirling dervish of killer stories.

Would love to see this series go on for ages, and I sincerely hope that it does. Story’s big enough, and the author has the chops for it. So I say let the guy write. I’ll be there to read it all.

  • Recommended Age: 18+, mostly for blood and gore
  • Language: Pretty tame and infrequent. Noteworthy in its own right.
  • Violence: Brilliantly-worked violence throughout, though mostly in the first and last third
  • Sex: Mostly all humorous comment and workup to scenes (one violent), but the line separating the actual act is never crossed on page

***If you’re looking for a little more in-depth review of each of the novels in this trilogy, you can check them out at the links below. If you’re already sold on the idea of reading the books themselves and haven’t bought anything yet though, go take care of that right now. Or you could enter the free giveaway to get the copy that we got from Orbit. Check out the post that went up before this one for details. Just remember, this thing is a beast of a book. Something like 1500 pages. I’ve seen it a hard copy and wow. Anyhow, you should probably go find those wrist braces you’ve seen hanging out in the back of the closet first and plan on wearing them whilst engaged in all the page turning. Either way, happy reading.

Individual reviews:

Giveaway for a free copy:
Here at EBR

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