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Book Name: Lamentation
Author: Ken Scholes
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: February 17, 2009 (US) March 2, 2009 (UK)

The world is built on tragedy. Every piece of civilization, from small village to sprawling city, is altered by the events that cause pain and suffering to its people. While there are countless tragedies that have happened throughout the Earth’s history, it is those that happen without any warning that can affect us the most profoundly. The destruction of the twin towers on September 11th can still feel like a fresh wound, and it seems as though Ken Scholes’s Lamentation is written with that surreal experience in mind. In place of two giant skyscrapers we have a city that holds vast amounts of knowledge, snuffed out in the blink of an eye by a rain of fire. Grief is heavy in the writing and if you are looking for a rich, poetic fantasy that will bring tears to your eyes, read on.

Light Extinguished

The Gypsy King rides with his men, enjoying freedom atop a galloping horse. A young man excitedly waits for his father to return in order to start the expedition he’s been dreaming of for years. An old fisherman wonders about the unease he feels in his heart. A fat lord rides toward the city of Windwir that, to all others, should still be standing. He smiles, for it is not. Fire has extinguished the light. Their lives, and all others, have been forever changed.

Lamentation is a brilliant debut novel from 2009 that is beautifully written and uses grief throughout the story exceptionally well. Windwir was a beacon of education, technology, civilisation, and peace to all in the Named Lands. When it is destroyed, it is as though the soul of the world was burned away. Rudolfo, Gypsy King and Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, openly weeps when he sees the desolation of Windwir with his own eyes. Neb, an excited member of the Androfrancine Order ready to go on an archaeological dig with his father, is made an orphan and can only speak scripture after witnessing his home being destroyed. The heartache and grief is so palpable in this book that I became glassy eyed far more than I have reading any other book. It is spectacular.

Grief is the central theme and it’s easy to understand why. Each character is affected by Windwir’s destruction in different ways, learning and growing because of what has transpired. This is an event that, like the attack on the twin towers, changes the world and the people in it. I do not mean to make light of such a terrible real world tragedy when comparing it to fiction, but I would be very surprised if the author was not pulling from his own feelings and how our world changed after 9/11. The fact that he is able to evoke such visceral emotion and create a deep connection in the reader towards a fictitious act of genocide is remarkable and I applaud Ken Scholes for doing it with such care and empathy.

You Will Never Be The Same

Lamentation is filled with charming, engaging characters who are fully three-dimensional. You watch them grow and change not solely because of Windwir’s desolation, but because of realizations and revealed secrets that force them to question their lives, their feelings, and their future. Every character has their own unique voice and I was particularly impressed that Scholes could convincingly write a secretive sixteen-year-old girl as well as he could write a tired old man.

It’s hard to say that there is a stand out character because everyone is given pretty equal time throughout. Your favorite will really depend on who you gravitate towards and connect with the most. I could say Rudulfo was my favorite as he is a roguish charmer who knows when to put frivolity aside and take on necessary responsibility, but I very much enjoyed Petronus and his struggle as well. When a novel is stuffed with such a plethora of amazing characters, there’s no bad choices to be made.

A World Without Light

The city of Windwir is the focus of Lamentation, the shining city a point of safety and assurance that all others could rely on. Seat of the Androfrancine Order, the members doled out technological wonders and magical miracles when they believed the world was mature enough to handle such things. Its vast libraries housed two-thousand-year-old wisdom, pages upon pages of ancient lore, science, history, and more. It was a light that all others basked in and in one brief moment it was snuffed out. How could you not grieve at such a tragedy?

Not much of the Named Lands is shown past Windwir and the Ninefold Forest Houses within this first book, which is completely understandable. The author wants you to feel like you to know this city, to feel like you knew its people and its place in the world and what it meant to all others before it was destroyed. Many other places are touched upon and beautifully described, but those descriptions are sparse and pale compared to the memories and stories about the Androfrancine City. In Lamentation, the setting is rich and ready to be explored, but for the moment, all eyes are on Windwir, including yours.


Ken Scholes is a poet masquerading as a novelist. His words are perfectly chosen and never fall close to purple prose. He is sparing in what he has to say and describe, making it all the more powerful. Lamentation has a soul, a very human one, and that is hard to find in countless novels, let alone a debut. This is a flawless work of fantasy. I will grieve for you if you do not go and pick this book up. Hurry and go. The light may not linger for long.


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