Anuskaya is built on a foundation of Russian and Slavic culture, rather than the typical Western European, so there are going to be differences for those used to typical epic fantasy. I have no idea how “authentic” any of this is; Beaulieu could write about magical pandas gamboling across the taiga, call it Russian, and I would just nod my head wisely and keep reading.
Here’s an astute paragraph.
The heart of Khalakovo is the world building. (The other heart, because this is a multi-hearted creature, is the swashbuckling, but that is a discussion for later.) Beaulieu’s creation has to rate near the top of recent fantasy, because Anuskaya is such a unique, intriguing world. The relationship between Khalakovo and the other duchies, each of them windswept, mountainous islands, is politically convincing. The windships are a tad extravagant, but well worth the extra magic and suspension of disbelief required to appreciate them. The conflict between the Landed and the Aramahn is also fascinating, mirroring more familiar colonial-aboriginal relations in our world. Finally, I wonder if the Maharraht, a fanatical, terrorist offshoot of the Aramahn, are purposely modeled on the PLO, or if those associations just come naturally because the Middle East is so prevalent in the news.
I had not intentionally modeled Lays off of the PLO, but certainly the modern conflicts in the Middle East have heavily influenced this series.
And here’s the wrap-up:
Khalakovo is some of the best fantasy I have read this year. Regular readers will know that I appreciate my books to be off-kilter, political, and rational, so it’s no surprise that Khalakovo meets with my approval. It won’t be too long before I mow down the second and third books in the series; my biggest hope after that is that Beaulieu takes another stab at science fiction. That would make me a happy camper.
Rating: The 2008 Russian National Team. Led by Andrei Arshavin, the Russians smashed their way to the semi-finals of the Euro, humbling the highly fancied Dutch along the way (boo), before finally going down in glorious defeat to ascendant Spain. Khalakovo doesn’t go down in defeat to anything, but does dazzle unexpectedly and involve vodka.