The Cold Commands

By Richard Morgan

Published by Gollanz

RRP £12.99 – Hardback

The old order is rotted through. Old enemies are stirring, and the dark gods are watching. Time to stop running. Ringil Eskiath, scarred wielder of the Kiriath forged sword Ravensfriend is on the run – from his past, his family and from the slave trade magnates of Trelayne – with no-where else to turn he heads south in the hope old war comrades will give him the shelter he needs. In Yhelteth Kiriath half-breed Archeth is caught in the middle of the growing tension between the Burnished Throne and Citadel, tensions that are not helped by her house guest cum bodyguard Egar the Dragonbane.

As Yhelteth simmers under the blistering southern sun old friends re-unite unaware the city is about to explode.

Before I start on this review I will state that The Cold Commands is a great read, yes it’s a slog in places, and I got lost along the way. But it’s a good read.

If there is one thing Richard Morgan does well it’s angry men. None come much angrier than Ringil Eskiath. If you thought he had an axe to grind in The Steel Remains – the first book in the trilogy titled Land Fit For Heroes – then you ain’t seen nothing yet. From the opening raid on a slave caravan, through encounters with mercenaries, ghosts, demons and other denizens of the grey places Ringil broods, glowers and intimidates beyond anything seen before.

But unfortunately throughout the book he does little else. Most of the action, and intrigue, is spread throughout the chapters covering Archeth and Egar. In fact reading Ringil’s travel through the grey places I was reminded of Ozzie Isaacs, from Peter F Hamilton’s Commonwealth series, and his wanderings along the Silfen paths. And unfortunately I found those chapters as pointless and boring.

I feel that as good as this book is, it is pretty much 90% filler, and we are being set up for the big finale in the third book. Now there is a lot of background covered, a lot more world building than we got with Steel Remains. But I did feel slightly let down come the end when  I realised a lot has been left hanging.

I suppose after the Kovacs trilogy I had expected something along those lines, three separate standalone novels set in the same universe. Kudos to Morgan for moving away from that, and for feeding in an overall arc building towards an endgame. For me though there was something missing from this second outing, and I may need a re-read of both books back to back to find what it was.