“If I had to compare Robert Hood’s [Fragments of a Broken Land:] Valarl Undead to another novel I guess I would go with Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer; there’s the same elusiveness to the prose that requires careful reading and interpretation.”
“Robert Hood seems well aware of the genre he is working in but chooses a path less travelled and takes the Fantasy novel up a notch in the process. This is not a novel aimed at dreamy tween chicks with sparkling vampire posters on their walls, this is a blood and guts tale aimed at the adult reader. Was I ready to read something like that? Oh hell yeah, Robert Hood had me at page two and I was reading like a banshee till the final paragraph, assuming here banshees read real fast, of course.”
Jeff Ritchie celebrates the “adult” and darker aspects of Fragments in his review on the Scary Minds website — a site that focuses on the darker shades of fantasy.
But he also give due acknowledgement to a side of the novel that remains important for me — its metaphysical underpinings:
“But just when you think Robert Hood may be simply dwelling on the human plan[e] the novel takes a sort of metaphysical journey into other more surreal realms. There’s a rich texture to the novel that will keep you engrossed in the differing worlds the Author expertly and apparently effortlessly creates. While it can be an achievement to create a single alien environment and culture to set your novel in, it’s a real achievement when you create multiple worlds, as Robert Hood does here. Now I’m not going to say this will appeal to every Fantasy fan, but serious fans and gosh darn it readers with Adult levels of interpretation are going to rock out to Robert Hood’s flights of fancy here.”
“Full recommendation, best Fantasy novel release this year for mine; you want a serious read then dial F for Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead.”
Read full review.
Fragments of a Broken Land is a rich, thought-provoking fantasy read with elements of horror.
Sean Wright’s review of Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead on the review site Adventures of a Bookonaut, emphasises several important issues relating to the novel, including the richness of the world and its history, the fact that there are two interwoven plot threads (a “fairly straightforward fantasy quest” and another that deals with “the metaphysics, the unseen forces that impact on the first”) and the use of “poetry and song” (successfully, he argues). He also discusses the fact that the novel makes considerable demands on a reader’s attention (as have other reviewers — all positively, I’m happy to say).
It’s the mystery that pulls you through the book, the desire to know how Hood can pull the story, the world, together.
His conclusion on this point suggests that, in order to enjoy the book fully, a reader needs to take a “mature” approach to reading and he suggests that such readers “…don’t get annoyed when things aren’t handed to [them] on a plate.”Read the full review here.
Kyla Ward has reviewed Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead on Tabula Rasa, displaying a wonderfully lyrical turn in describing the book — as we might have expected from a poet of her calibre. Take this, for example:
There are incredible depths to this world, depths that the novel’s plot skims like a pebble across a lake’s surface, gaining momentum with each skip.
The paragraph continues:
This is thanks to Hood’s skill at transmuting back story into exciting narrative vignettes: story-telling, reportage, bardic performance (with snarky commentary from Tashnark), memory, dream and hallucination induced by demon poison: all interwoven seamlessly with present events. The pace is truly frenetic, with running battles, storms and a ship-board zombie-wrestling sequence that can only be read, not described. If things ever slow, Tashnark can be relied upon to get them going again — he’s a gem of character, and the principal observer of how artificial all this heroism is.
I love this introductory summation:
This is a tale of heroes. It includes all sorts — born of the gods, descended from ancient, magical bloodline, member of a legendary order, reincarnated, last of their tribe and way too intimate with their own sentient weapon — cycling through various degrees of reluctant and unlikely. There is a villain, of course, although he’s thoroughly sick of the whole business; dark gods, giant monsters and an ancient magical artefact. But principally it is a tale of heroes, heroism and what it means to be in such an uncomfortable position.
As an interrogation of the assumptions of high fantasy rather than a parody, this book is a highly refreshing change. With its distinctive and not inaccurate Bob Eggleton cover, and solid production from Borgo Press, it makes a fine addition to Hood’s bibliography and the Australian fantasy canon.
But be sure read the full review here. Then, if you haven’t done so already, go and buy the novel.
“….a ship-board zombie-wrestling sequence that can only be read, not described.”
How can you resist?
Andrew J. McKiernan’s review of Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead on the review website Thirteen O’Clock not only gives the novel a big tick, but makes some pretty insightful observations about its strengths in the process.
I have absolutely no objection to being mentioned in the same ball-park as the likes of Fritz Leiber, William Hope Hodgson, M. John Harrison and H.P. Lovecraft!
The reviewer’s conclusion:
Overall, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is a brilliant fantasy novel of the type we seldom get to read these days. Dense and exotic and full of ideas. It’s also full of sword & sorcery action too, and the type of cosmic horror that leaves you paranoid about your own reality. Really, what more could you ask for in a book?
Read the full review here.
First review of Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is out — from Alan Baxter on Goodreads:
This deep dark fantasy novel is really quite an achievement by the author. It’s a narrative that is complex and fascinating and demands the reader’s attention. That’s not to say it’s hard to read, but the complexity of ideas is quite staggering and the writing fluid and powerful. Hood has managed something very different with this book and I highly recommend it.