The Year of Our War (2004)
Author: Steph Swainston
Genre (and subgenre): Fantasy
The world - not our world - was created by god, who set an emperor in charge to rule over the three species until god's return. To help him, the emperor is able to choose 50 Immortals to help guide the species. Each Immortal is chosen based on his or her ability to be the most skilled at something and is known by that title, ie, the Sailor, the Messenger, the Archer, etc. The world is under attack, however, by Insects that are quickly killing off the humans and destroying everything in their path. Jant Shira, the Immortal Messanger, is the narrator of the story, and travels between the Castle of the Emperor to the battlefield on the power of his wings. He is a very flawed hero with a severe drug addiction. Whenever he gets high, he experiences the Shift, which allows him to travel to another world. Although destructive for his 'real' body, this ability may offer a (future) solution for the world ravaged by Insects. In the midst of the war, we follow Jant through political intrigues at court, power plays among the Immortals, and Jant's personal problems with his wife and the woman with whom he is obsessed. As the world is destroyed around him, Jant's addiction causes him to Shift more and more. Each Shift causes his personal life to fall apart a little bit more. As the book closes, Jant is realizing that he has the ability to save this world, but the reader is left in doubt as to whether he will be able to pull it together enough to accomplish the task.
Geographical Setting: a different world (I honestly don't remember if he ever names this world), with parallel worlds around it
Time Period: the time scale used is the same that we use, so the story is actually told in the 1990s, although it's clear the two worlds have no relationship
Series: it definitely looks like this is the start of a series
The book is rich in character detail, rather than the 'place' description that seems to be more typical of this genre. The book is extremely fast-paced and plunges straight into the plot, rather than slowly starting with a lot of details. This may be confusing for some, as the reader is forced to figure out what the world is, who the characters are, etc., in the midst of all the action. The characters are also called by four to six names each, with no explanation, which can be confusing.
Oh, there are so many - 1) language, lots of it, 2) violence - the writer's talent for description makes the tortures and killings both inventive and vivid, 3) drugs - a huge part of the narrator's character and his use is described in great detail, 4) spousal abuse, 5) sex - some sexual scenes, nothing too graphic although it gets a little strange between some of the more bizarre species, EXCEPT there is a rape scene that takes place between the narrator and a half mutant creature. The scene is especially disturbing as it comes from the perpetrator's view, which makes it a pleasurable