Book Review: Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky Trilogy #1) by Elizabeth Bear

Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky Trilogy #1) by Elizabeth Bear

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: March 27, 2012

Edition: Hardcover, 334 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Silk Road

Rating: 2/5

This one just wasn’t for me.


Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

I didn’t think was a bad book, but nothing was working for me. I wasn’t a fan of the prose; I didn’t connect to the characters; neither the plot and not even the setting grabbed me. It felt like the story just drifted by. Sometimes you read a book that you wouldn’t describe as bad, but just isn’t your type.

I picked up this novel because it was a silk road fantasy, and based on history of Genghis Kahn. I had never read a book in that setting before, so a fantasy series in that time-period sounded like the coolest things ever! I think Bear succeeded in bringing to life the world in that era, but I wasn’t as interested in it as I originally thought I would be.

To start with – and the source of all my problems to come – I couldn’t get into Bear’s prose. They are not bad – some of them are actually quite lovely – but it took me a while to adjust to them. The novels start with Temur walking through the field of the aftermath of this civil war, and when I should have been taking in the setting and the first meeting with one of our main protagonist, instead I was too preoccupied trying to get adjusted with the writing. Then because I couldn’t get adjusted to the prose, I started to have issued with the writing style too. I kept thinking there was too much narration and not enough dialog? I’m not sure though. Some of my favorite authors write pages and pages with no dialog in sight – but then again, I love their prose.

All of my adjustments to the writing, and missing out on connecting to story in the start, defiantly hurt the enjoyment of the novel for me. Once I did get adjusted these issues, the plot and (sadly) the setting didn’t do anything for me. I’ll say this again, I think Bear did a great job building this world. Most things seems pretty authentic to the era, and I felt like I was back in that world. Bear has fairly interesting magic, and there is this awesome thing she does with moons and different skies depending on where you are and whose lands it is – I really loved those moons. But overall, I didn’t like it as much as I had expected.

This wasn’t bad; I just didn’t want to read the prose so I caught myself just sort of skimming over the narration sections to get to some dialog. Sadly, I feel like I most obviously missed something somewhere.

We do do meet some fantastic creatures and beings though. One of the such was a Cho-tse – an anthro-morph She was probably my favorite character.

I don’t really want to or feel it would be fair for me to comment on the characters. Again, that bad I start and the issues I developed from it, naturally led to a disinterest with the characters. I think they were all developed fairly well? But I’m not sure. There are some heart-felt moments, and few good moments of humor. Personally, I felt no connection or sympathy for them.

In the end, it was this unfortunate start that ruined the book for me. Had I adjust better with the start, maybe I would have built more of a connection to the characters, got wrapped up in the world, and then the plot would appeal to me more? All speculation though.

I think I still may still to try to read book 2 – though not anytime soon though. While I am not the biggest fan of Bear’s writing, I had no issues with it after a little bit. By then end I was reading it fine, but because of all my skimming earlier, I didn’t care or have interest in what was going on. I blame everything due to that adjustment period – missing out on something certainly, looking back now – and never getting into a groove. I’ll probably go back and read a synopsis somewhere and see if book 2 is any better.

(I have since read and reviewed Uncanny Magazine #4, and in that issue is Elizabeth Bear’s short story In Libres. I loved everything – I mean EVERYTHING – about that story and it’s one my favorite of the year! I heard on a podcast – I want to say Rocket Talk? – that Bear changes her prose style a lot? Is that true, anyone? Regardless, ss I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder why I loved this short story, but couldn’t get into Range of Ghosts?)

I DO NOT think this was a bad book – I personally, just didn’t like it. I can understand why someone would like it. If you are interested this time-period and setting, maybe give it a shot.

2/5 Rating


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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Range of Ghosts (Eternal Sky Trilogy #1) by Elizabeth Bear

  1. I loved her book Karen Memory, which was the first book I’ve ever read by Bear. Interesting review, it’s given me lots to think about, especially since I was planning on picking up this whole trilogy from Book Outlet or something on account of how much I loved KM. Sounds like it’s very different in style.


    • I still haven’t read book 2 yet, but based on how much I loved that short story, I really want to say I was just in one of those reading funks. Have you heard she writes in different styles too? Either way, I would take my review as a recommendation to read other reviews about the series.
      I am going to be buying Karen Memory next month at either Readercon or one of her signings.
      I actually picked these up from Book Outlet last year when they had that insanely awesome 2 for 1 deal.


  2. I have this one, but *sigh*, yeah, not sure when I’ll get to it. I know I had seen some mixed reviews before and this one may not help. But, I completely understand well written prose that you just can’t get into. I’ve had that happen a number of times.


  3. Interesting take. I loved the beginning, even if I was a little lost. The prose was beautiful and I connected on the hero’s journey and the scene where he meets the love interest. Other than that, though, the plot did drift and I found my favorite parts were the enemy’s pov simply because of the magic system and (it’s been awhile), but a kind of will she overcome type of fight.

    The last battle was cool, but the sense of being lost so often in the plot left me able to leave Book Two on my shelf for awhile.


    • I have a feeling book two could be sitting on myself shelf for a while too, but we’ll see. I’m going to pick up Karen Memory later this month at one of her signings. Hopefully I will like it, and if I do, I think that will be a good time to give that next book a shot.


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