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Quick Review: The Cold Commands

After The Steel Remains, I expected to struggle through The Cold Commands, but I’m glad to say that it’s so much better. It’s still harsh, uncompromising, pulling no punches, but the author is no longer trying too hard, neither to shock nor to go through some third grade creative writing checklist. The characters are much more developed and no longer striving to be crass, unlikable and hard to support. The world is more fleshed out, making more sense, little by little, if you snatch the pieces when they appear. The thrilling combat scenes remain, but the graphic brutality is used more sparingly and skillfully. And that may be even more true for the sex scenes, which this time around are meaningful and convey emotion. As for the walks through the Grey Places, while the following ones make much more sense, something like that disjointed plague fever dream that is chapter 19 definitely takes skill to pull off.
There is still plenty of room for improvement, however. The fact that many names remain too strange or complicated for me to be able to properly keep track of who’s who is probably my problem more than the author’s, but I wouldn’t say that the same holds true for still feeling like I’m grasping at smoke too often for this point in the story, that in certain cases no, or at least no better, explanations will be provided. On the other hand, while this takes the story to what I gather is much more familiar territory for the author, and I must admit that the much greater magnitude and impact of the fantasy elements compensates for it, I’m still not keen on the increased amount of science fiction elements that are introduced. And, albeit as a far less important aspect, there are still moments, and probably one in particular, when that overuse of f-words remains grating.

Rating: 4/5


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