The Castle Omnibus : The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time, The Modern World, Paperback Book

The Castle Omnibus : The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time, The Modern World Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


50 immortals, chosen by the emperor lead humanity in an endless war against hordes of ginant insects.

Their immortality, conferred on them by the emperror can be taken away if they lose a challange to be part of the circle of 50.Jant, the emperor's drug-addicted messanger, the only man who can fly, tells the story of mankinds savage fight for survival in a uniquely imagined, beautiful fantasy world.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Fantasy
  • ISBN: 9780575091252

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Ah, the omnibus. Many trilogies I would never had read if they'd not been released in omnibus form. It's three books for the price of one and a bit! Frankly, you'd be losing money if you didn't buy it! (Or so I tell I tell my boyfriend when yet another parcel of books appears on the doorstep...) If I'd had to have purchased the three books in the Castle trilogy, The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time and The Modern World, I know I never would have.I mean, the plot sounded intriguing enough. An emperor dude has the power to make people immortal, but he grants the gift only to the man or woman that proves themselves to be the indisputable best at something. But you can't, like, be the best at ribbon curling, your skill has to be relevant to the centuries long war the emporer's been waging against an invading swarm of bugs. Jant is the best messenger at the world, because he's pretty good at learning new languages and diplomacy, but mostly its because he can fly and no one else can. Which seems a bit like an unfair advantage to me but there you go.Sounds pretty cool, yes? But there were several things that turned me off. Firstly, Jant is a drug addict, hooked on a hallucinogenic called Cat. Man, I hate reading about drug addiction. Partly because I find books (and movies too) that deal with addiction tend to be too dark for my liking but mostly, having never been a drug addicit myself and therefor having no understanding of what it feels like, I get really frustrated. 'Hey, character x, have you tried just, you know, not taking drugs?' Also, the trilogy has garnered some pretty average reviews, the most troubling being that the characters are shallow and boring.But, omnibus! So I bought, I read and, friends, I loved it. Loved it like my niece loves pink. (And believe me, the kid loves pink). Are the secondary characters somewhat 2d? Well, yes, but, but, I think that's the point. Because Jant, our erstwhile first POV narrator, is just a wee bit self centered. If the people around him seem to lack depth its because he's too busy checking out his reflection in the mirror to notice their depths. It obvious that Swainston is capable of writing fleshed out and complex character because that's exactly what Jant is.There are three races in the book, humans and "Awains" (who are pretty much people with wings (who can't fly)) are the two who co-exsist quite happily and who we see the most of. But then there are the Rhydainne, (I may be getting the spelling wrong here, my book is out of arms reach), an odd race who live way up in the snowy mountains. They are extemely fast and insanely self serving. Their language doesn't actually have a word for "we," but it does have over fifty for drunk. (Jant says this is because it gets too cold they need to drink to stop their blood from freezing, but Jant says a lot of things...) Humans and Awains are very distrustful of Rhydainne, and so Jant often gets treated with suspicion or fear, on account of he's half Rhydainne half Awain. (This is how he can fly, super light Rhydainne bones combined with Awain wings).Jant is a fascinating mix of both cultures. He craves acceptance and love, but at the same time his solitary Rhydainne nature shines through. He has a wife, for instance, but the only time he seems to think about her when she's not with him is when she's having an affair. And then it's only about how Jant feels, and not at all about her. He constantly twists situations around to serve himself, and has a constant stream of excuses ready to explain why he's never wrong, especially when he's taking drugs, and he's kinda always taking drugs. Dugs which, I haven't yet mentiond, teleport him to another world which reads like something China Mieville wrote and then decided was too weierd. The drug taking didn't bore as much as I expected it too, or even at all. I think Jants wicked sense of humour played a huge part in it, he kept taking drugs and screwng up and I just kept on forgiving him. Plus, Swainstone's descriptions of flying make it sound like just the coolest thing ever. There's something vicariously enjoyable about the constant envy Jant receives because he can fly.The plot? Hmmm,well, ok. A lot seems to happen, but then you stop and think and realise that actually, nothing has happned. It also gets a little confusing at times, and story elements are set up to be important and then kind of go no where. But I can gaurantee that it will be different from any fantasy you've read before. And honestly, he plot could have been Jant goes to the market to by fruit but buys socks instead and I'd read it, solely because of Jant's voice. He made the whole trilogy for me, and is the reason I can't wait to get my hands of the prequel and I'm hoping like crazy that Swainston writes a sequel.

Review by

A collection of three books in the Castle series for which I'll include separate comments for each. There will probably be spoilers along the way.<i>Book 1: The Year of Our War</i>This was the debut novel of an author aiming to fit in the <i>New Weird</i> movement that is hitting the Fantasy world at the moment and my second exposure since reading China Mieville's Bas-Lag books. I think I'm going to enjoy exploring more of this sub-genre.The Year of Our War sets the action amidst a war of the human population against the invading insects of which there seems to be a never ending stream. 50 of these humans have been made immortal by the Emperor and to qualify as one of these you must be the best at what you do. Jant Shira is one of these immortals and is the Emperor's Messenger, being half Rhydanne makes him extremely quick and he's the only member of the winged races in the Fourlands that can actually fly which is an added benefit. We follow the story from Jant's viewpoint as the insects threaten to overwhelm the empire's forces and threaten them with imminent destruction. Can Jant and the rest of the immortals find out a way to stop them or will their own internal bickering and conflicts overtax an already dangerous situation?There's a lot going on in this book. Not only do you have the war within and without of the immortal's circle but there's also Jant's battle with drug addiction which also allows him to Shift to another world, usually a one way crossing. Jant (and subsequently the reader) is not sure if this other world is real or just a construct of his drug-addled imagination. No-one that he talks to about it knows of its existence and nobody else has ever returned to confirm or deny its validity. Does it really exist and if so does it interact with Jant's real world or not?<i>Book 2: No Present Like Time</i>Picking up 5 years after the events of the previous book we get to see the workings of The Circle and how it affects the goings on of the Empire as a whole. The story opens with a challenge to the Swordsman and he's not too pleased to lose his immortality when he is defeated. He vows to regain his place and will stop at nothing to do so. Meanwhile, the emperor has sent Jant and Wrenn, the new Swordsman, along with the Sailor to the newly discovered island of Tris to try and bring them back into the empire. Tris turns out to be an idyllic island paradise that was founded by the remnants of what was the fifth land of the empire who sailed across the sea escaping from a governmental system that they didn't believe in. Things don't go well for the emissary's attempts to induce the islanders into joining the empire as a captive insect brought along to sow fear into the peaceful community escapes and with the Trisians already predisposed into wanting nothing to do with the empire will this prove the final straw?How will the two conflicts resolve and will they cross over into one another? Can Jant see a way to overcome or will he be too distracted by marital problems and his (all to brief) trips into The Shift?<i>Book 3: The Modern World</i>Like the preceding two volumes, this story is once again related in the main by Jant but we do get to see others of the immortals come to the fore. The Architect thinks she has a way to inflict considerable damage to the insect population and has constructed a dam that will enable the flooding of the front lines and drown a great many of the hated enemy. A great war host is assembled by the emperor and he orders all of the immortals to be present for the campaign. When the bad things start happening, Jant is away from the scene looking for Lightning's daughter who has gone missing at an inopportune moment and the Messenger is the best equipped to find her. Can he locate the errant child and return to where he should be in time to be of use?The third book shows more of the characters and their back-stories with Lightning, the Doctor and the Architect along with Jant being heavily featured. There is only one brief, harrowing trip into the Shift in this story and it seems a shame that this multiverse is not explored more in this trilogy. Though there is now a prequel available it might not be unreasonable to expect other volumes to appear in the future.<i>Conclusion</i>A thoroughly enjoyable read that takes epic fantasy and plays with it a little to bring it into New Weird territory. Very descriptive and seemingly well researched (I believe that the author took up hand-gliding to gain a greater understanding of her main character). I look forward to returning to the Fourlands with the aforementioned prequel at some point.

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