I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Book and the Sword #1
Published by Gollancz in 2013
Source: the publisher
Buy the Book • Goodreads
The Path of Anger, by French author Antoine Rouaud, is set in the aftermath of a fallen empire. A young historian named Viola finds Dun-Cadal, a former knight and staunch defender of the late emperor, wasting away his life at a bar. Viola listens to his drunken tale hoping to uncover the secret of the emperor’s sword, which vanished during the last days of the empire. Viola knows that although the war is over, there are those who would stop at nothing to grasp for power.
Dun-Cadal’s tale focuses on his relationship with his apprentice Frog, a boy who saved his life after a battle in the Saltmarsh. Dun-Cadal takes Frog under his wing, teaching him to be the greatest knight who has ever lived, and although he doesn’t always express it, he loves Frog like a son. This section of the story is written largely in flashbacks interspersed with Dun-Cadal’s presence at the bar, and he has a tendency to wax philosophical as he imbibes. This writing style makes sense, and Rouaud handles the alternation between the past and the present extremely well.
Rouaud’s story is unique because the main character’s side lost. Readers listen to his explanations of the past and even sympathize with Dun-Cadal while knowing that he is on the wrong side of history, and that after the fall of the empire, a more democratic republic has been established. After seeing an alternate perspective, we realize that although Dun-Cadal had good intentions, he was naive about the abuses going on in the emperor’s name.
The second half of the novel completely switches point of view to that of a young boy named Laerte whose family was brutally executed at the emperor’s command. Laerte becomes strong and bides his time, hoping for an opportunity to seek revenge and to create a better world. The narrative in Laerte’s section of the book is much more linear than with Dun-Cadal, and sheds an entirely different light on the same events. Both Dun-Cadal and Laerte think that they are doing the right thing, and we see the strain that war can put on interpersonal relationships.
In The Path of Anger, each of the main characters is fleshed out and has both strengths and fatal flaws. Dun-Cadal is loyal and determined, but he’s naive and far too trusting. Laerte is a great warrior, and his biggest strength is his stubborn determination, but he is blinded by his pain and by his need to avenge his family. Viola’s more of a secondary character, a young historian whose study of the past gets her caught up in the problems of the present. While I wish that we could have seen more of her, I think that she’ll play a bigger role in books to come.
Tom Clegg did an excellent job translating The Path of Anger. One of the hard things about translation is keeping the pacing and the over flow of the original text, and I felt like this one really worked. There wasn’t any awkwardness to it, and it read as if it had originally been written in English.
I enjoyed The Path of Anger tremendously, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.