Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off #4: Another Five Fall

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The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan
Book Name: The Steel Remains
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Publisher(s): Gollancz
Formatt: Paperback
Genre(s): Fantasy / Dark Fantasy
Release Date: January 20, 2009

The Steel Remains is an interesting book to say the least…

It seems to be the results of renowned science fiction author Richard K. Morgan’s attempt to shake up the, at times, stale fantasy genre. In traditional fantasy, we tend to expect a hero who is loved and admired, merciful, with an honorable and triumphant past. Women to swoon over him and of course, he has a noteworthy quest he must complete.

Well, The Steel Remains gives us a character who is pretty much immoral, bloodthirsty, hated among his people, gay, and willing to cut to pieces anyone who pisses him off. He really isn’t the kind of person you’d like to meet down a dark alley – put it that way.

So, how on Earth does it work? Well, just because the main character is gay, doesn’t mean he isn’t rock solid and battle-ready. Ringil is about as tough as they come. Equipped with a Kiriath blade that cuts through flesh and bones like butter, Ringil is a war veteran and helped his people see off the dreaded half man/half reptile like species that threatened to take over his world years ago.

Should he not have been gay, perhaps people would have sung his songs and put him up on the pedestal he deserved. However, because Ringil is openly gay people treat him like dirt and as such he has become bitter and full of spite for the people he had previously saved. They in turn have tried to write him out of the history books and pretty much ignore him.

Laying low in a small village away from the people who know he is gay, Ringil makes a living telling stories about his war days (leaving out the parts where he sleeps with men) and people in this small village pretty much adore him. It isn’t until one day, when is cousin is kidnapped by slave drivers that he has to head back to the main cities and meet with the people who know about his sexuality. His mother who charges him with getting his cousin back seems to accept Ringil’s sexuality more than most, however his father and other family members would rather he stayed away.

Ringil has had a hard life so far, but the seemingly minor incident of a kidnapped cousin is quickly going to become his biggest struggle to date. When he finds out that the thought to be extinct Mages with almost Godlike powers are behind the kidnapped, he decides he should probably get to the bottom of things. The quest aspect of the story now begins and to tell you too much about it would spoil things for you. What I can say though is that the search for Ringil’s cousin is one full of blood, chaos, magic and above all treachery.


The writing style of Richard K. Morgan is as enjoyable and as fluent as ever. Author of Altered Carbon (a sci-fi book renowned among critics), he really is one of the most talented authors about. His experience of writing sci-fi is certainly noticeable throughout the book. For example, when he talks about races moving across time and space you can see a sci-fi like thought process there and when he talks about other races, you almost feel as if they are aliens. This isn’t a bad thing though, because it moves us away from that ‘elves have always existed over on that other country’ type narrative you get in many other fantasy novels.

The dialogue and inner-monologue is also very, very enjoyable. The characters are very sarcastic and ready to chip in the actual thoughts behind their politeness throughout conversations. I really liked the fact that although Ringil is the main character, we did get a number of viewpoints from other characters who end up being very important later on in the novel. This worked very well and really enhanced the world building.

Gay Sex! Yes, that is what people mention when they talk about this book. Firstly, it isn’t an erotic book written for gay people. It is a fantasy novel written for fantasy fans. Oh yeah, it has gay sex in it. Right, let us get over this aspect of it. Fantasy fans are more open than most anyway and I don’t think in 2011 it will shock too many people. In fact, I think the fact that Ringil isn’t a camp gay or a rugged male who has women chasing over him is an important development for the genre. Gay people can be heroes and gay people can be just as tough and as mean and as nasty as straight people.

Finally, the action scenes. I HATE fight scenes as a rule, however, I have to say that for a sci-fi author (who I would presume is more adapt to dealing with guns?) the fight scenes were unbelievable. I think Richard K. Morgan is very, very crafty with how he deals with fight scenes. He ensures that nothing is blow for blow and nothing ever remains in the same location. Something is always happening, people are moving, arguing, the plot is developing. It really works well when you have a ten page fight scene, which leaves you feeling better aware with where the characters stand in regards to the story, and also where we are going next and generally that the plot has developed as opposed to ‘x’ is dead, ‘x’ is alive.

Is it completely unique you may ask? Well, I’d say it is difficult to think of a book like it. The closest I could possibly come is Joe Abercrombie’s works – The Heroes especially – feels quite similar in places. However, this has a completely different theme, it is more fantastical in regards to its races, has sci-fi elements and much more sexual scenes. Abercrombie fans will still feel at home though!

So, all that remains left to say is that any fantasy fan who likes to experience something new should pick up The Steel Remains.



  1. Banotti says:

    I have read something very interesting in your review: that you hate fight scenes. When I usually read reviews, lot of fight scenes come as a plus. For me, they are almost always blury, I have hard time imagining what is going on, sometimes a few pages pass and I have only feeling that someone is kicking somebody else. Like going through the mud. Could you tell me your reasons?
    Btw. great reviews, I dig your taste in books.

    • Overlord says:

      Well, I think fight scenes only really have one purpose: to move the plot on.

      One of three things will happen:
      A) Hero Wins
      B) Hero Loses
      C) Both escape

      We pretty much know this and therefore a long / drawn out fight scene just has me thinking ‘hurry up and tell me whether A, B or C happens!!!’. I do understand that a good fight scene can be suspenseful, however – I think that is more the case when it comes to Sci-Fi (i.e. guns and ships at longer range). Let us be honest, at close range, a gun fight and even more so a sword fight will not last very long.

      What I liked about Morgan’s approach was that the fight scenes moved around a lot and during the fight scenes things were revealed. I.e. where a technique was learnt, the extent of someones powers, what that person expected to happen next and such 🙂

  2. Shanothaine says:

    Hey Overlord,

    Thanks for the great review. I’m busy with The Steel Remains, and I’m absolutely loving it thus far. It’s a complete breath of fresh air in a genre that (in my humble opinion) has become very much the ‘shepherd’s son becoming king’.

    Ringil and his antics provide for great entertainment, and as a gay guy, I find it refreshing to find a relatable (does that make me crazy) character as a lead. Can’t wait to finish this bad boy!

  3. I’ve heard good things – your review seems to back them up. I should read me some Morgan.

  4. Khaldun says:

    I love Joe Abercrombie but I could barely finish this book. I’m not even 100% sure what it was that I didn’t like, but something just felt off about the whole thing. I couldn’t care less about the sex in the book, but I never was able to get into it. Strange how opinions can differ with regards to specific books when typically our likes/dislikes are similar.

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