If Richard K Morgan had written Lord of the Rings, Bilbo would have had a steamy one night sex fest with Galadrial, told Samwise to man the fuck up, and Gandalf would have made a whole lot of orc heads explode through the judicious application of magic fireballs. The saga would have ended with Bilbo gruesomely decapitating Golem, shoving the one ring into Golem’s eye socket, drop punting his head into the fires of Mount Doom while shouting “whose birthday is it now motherfucker?”
So you can kinda guess where Morgan goes with “The Steel Remains”.
Morgan’s writing has the attitude of that dude who revs the crap out of his V8 at 3am before depositing six inches or rubber on the road outside the front of your house. It isn’t fancy pants elves singing songs of the enchanted woods, it is fantasy of the sit down, shut up, strap in and hold on school of writing.
If you don’t like the liberal use of expletives, you are going to hate this book.
If you don’t like a bit of gore in the descriptions of your sword fights, you are going to hate this book.
If you only like laid back narrative arcs that move sedately along their own meandering paths, you are going to hate this book.
What may surprise some readers is that Morgan’s lead character is gay. Well that isn’t all that surprising, but what will surprise some and that Morgan doesn’t shy away from the explicit shenanigans detailed in his earlier books just because there are two dudes involved. He dances around it for a while and the other characters all get on with the business first, but it is still a bit unusual to see a mainstream novel be explicit about such things. Probably a little less unusual now that Morgan has knocked down that particular wall with all the subtlety of an asteroid impact. Morgan is throws a lot of stereotypes out the window and a big one he chucks is the idea that the biggest, baddest, coolest dude in the kingdom might prefer princesses to princes.
The Steel Remains is apparently the first in a trilogy, though enough gets wrapped up by the end of the book that it doesn’t feel as though you are left hanging. More a “okay, what is going to happen next” rather than “damn, I wish I didn’t feel as though I’d been hit by a great big “too be continued” at the end of the book. I enjoyed it and I think that we’ll see a lot more of this type of “gritty pedal-to-the-metal hardcore fantasy” in future.