Review: Lamentation by Ken Scholes

One of the things I want to do from time to time is review books by other authors which I have really enjoyed.

The first such entry is Lamentation, Book 1 in the Psalms of Isak, by my friend Ken Scholes.

A mix of fantasy and science fiction, Lamentation tells the story of the Named Lands, home to the survivors of a great destruction. When the great city of Windwir is suddenly destroyed, and the Named Lands’ library and repository of knowledge with it, the leaders of the provinces find themselves on the brink of war. Accusations fly about who caused the destruction. While some seek retribution, others seek restoration, and still others just want to make sense of what’s happened. Across the miles, they initiate their plots, each seeking to protect him or herself and her people and their lands.

This is epic fantasy at its finest but no sorcery or dwarves or elves. Scholes has created his own world and people, one that we’ve never seen before, and populated it with characters like us. They draw us in and capture our hearts, making us care deeply about what happens to them.

Scholes uses a variety of points of view throughout, with short, tight scenes that keep the pace compelling. I found his voice unique and his story compelling. His prose is haunting and captures you, pulling you along with it for the ride. His world building and characterization are also top notch. In fact, it was difficult to pick a favorite: Rudolfo, leader of the famed Gypsy Scouts from the Ninefold Forests; Petronus, the former pope who faked his own death and disappeared; Jae Lin Tam, faithful daughter who’s sacrificed her body and spirit in the service of her father’s political goals; Neb, illegitimate son of a monk, who watched Windwir explode and his father and whole world with it. Or perhaps it would be Isak, the metal man, keeper of the last remnant of knowledge, and possessor of a dark secret about the destruction of Windwir. Each have their own arc and history, compellingly brought together in conflict and friendship by the events which unfold.

The book has drawn impressive praise, too. New York Times bestselling speculative fiction author Orson Scott Card wrote: “This is the golden age of fantasy, with a dozen masters doing their best work. Then along comes Ken Scholes, with his amazing clarity, power, and invention, and shows us all how it’s done.” Card liked it so much, he participated in a reading of the book voicing characters.

Analog calls Scholes “one of the best writer’s you’ve never heard of,” and Editor/Publisher Jonathan Strahan said “it has the chance of standing as an important book in the evolution of the epic fantasy form…a delight…a book that readers are very likely to take to heart. it’s one of the best fantasies I’ve read in some time.”

Two of the books are out, and I’ve read them both, and I can’t wait until Antiphon comes out this fall. I wish they’d hurry up and get the others out. My only complaint is that Scholes needs to write faster or maybe just concentrate. I told Ken I am jealous of his first readers. But he’s not talking, I have to wait like everyone else lucky enough to have discovered Scholes’ saga with baited breath!

If you have tired of high fantasy or other forms you’ve seen done time and again, no matter how well, give Ken Scholes’ series a try. It’s fantastic and well worth the effort. I can’t recommend it enough.

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