Friday 25 March 2011

Quoth the Scotsman | Jon Courtenay Grimwood on Reinventing the Wheel

A couple of caveats to bear in mind before we start. Unless otherwise indicated, none of the quotes quoted in the following article are representative of the beliefs of the person in question quoted nor those the person quoting the person in question. Additionally, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental... or so I'm saying.

In short, Quoth the Scotsman is just a space here on TSS for me to post neat quotes as and when I come across them. Simple. As. That.


It's not often I go from loathing to loving or loving to loathing, and in truth, though it did in the early going rather try my patience, I was never less than admiring of The Fallen Blade. There was, however, a moment in John Courtenay Grimwood's spectactularly dark first fantasy which served to turn my opinion completely on its head.

This isn't it.

What this is, in lieu of that, is an addendum of sorts to the glowing review I put up yesterday; a non-spoilery quote from the The Fallen Blade which speaks to so much of what I came to admire - indeed adore - about this inspired, and thickly political riff on Assassin's Creed.

For those of you who remain on the fence, then:

There were two tides a day. A low and a high. The first matter neither here nor there to those in the pit, who were removed from the festering mud banks of Venice's edges, and the stink of sour water, as backstreet canals revealed rubbish, puddles and the occasional corpse with every ebbing tide.

The second tide did concern them.

At high tide, lagoon water flowed along ditches, for a few minutes to as much as an hour, and splashed into the oubliette below. One day's tide left half the central island still exposed. Two days' drowned it, but left prisoners able to stand. Three days' killed those unable to swim. Only by constantly working the pump could everyone stay alive. Exquisite cruelty. Hard work for the sake of it. More than this, it stopped prisoners trying to escape. You worked the wheel; slept, woke and worked again. No one was allowed to slack. The oubliette was self-controlling, self-containing. 

In it, Tycho saw Serenissima. 

The varied councils, the courts within courts, the Arsenalotti at war with the Nicoletti, the cittadini jealous of the patricians, the patricians divided into old house and new, rich and poor. no one in Venice got off the wheel. 

Beyond the city, Serenissima's colonies fed the capital, the Venetian navy fought the Mamluk pirates; the Moors allied themselves with whoever the Mamluks opposed. The Germans offered support, claiming Byzantium was Serenissima's greatest threat. The Byzanties claimed the German emperor's ambition was a greater threat and offered support in turn. Timur's Mongols conquered ever larger slices of the world, threatening to recreate the sprawling empire of his hero Genghis Khan. 

And the wheel went round and round and round...

Oh, yes. Ye gods yes...

So who's going to give The Fallen Blade a shot? And who's read it already?


  1. Honestly, I didn't much care for this one - I thought it had a good start but ended in mediocrity. I go into the why about it in my review.

  2. I went to buy this one yesterday - but there's no Kindle version, so it will have to wait til I'm in an actual bookstore to find it. *sigh*

  3. There is a Kindle version. I just checked at Amazon. And I'll give it a try : the tide and the wheel made the deal.

  4. *sigh* A search of Amazon is getting me no Kindle version. Maybe it's just not available in Canada, though usually I can see them, but get they're "not available" when I click to buy.

  5. Sorry to hear that, Dayna. Perhaps someone at Orbit reading through this thread might be happy to help you out? I'm afraid, for myself, I wouldn't know what to do with a Kindle, or how to go about buying books for one, especially from another landmass entire, if the hardware hit me in the horrid Scottish face. :P

    Neth: I saw your review, yeah. And I enjoyed it, of course. To say the least it's odd how we seem to be on completely the opposite ends of the spectrum from one another with respect to The Fallen Blade. I'm surprised; we're usually on much the same page when it comes to the books we both read and review. Hm.

  6. Niall, I was also a bit surprised because we do usually have very similar tastes. Oh well, it happens.

  7. And it couldn't have happened to a better book... or a worse one!

    But next time it's war, alright? ;)