Friday, March 23, 2012

Range of Ghosts - Elizabeth Bear

About the book

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

336 pages (hardcover)
Published on: March 27, 2012
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

Thanks to Tor for sending me a copy of this book to review.


Occasionally I get a book in the mail that puts all of my reading plans on halt and consumes all of my extra attention. I dream about these books. I live these books in my mind. I love these books. They completely derail me and I can never find it in myself to apologize for being derailed by such attention worthy books. Range of Ghosts is one of these.

Range of Ghosts takes place in a world very reminiscent of the Far East. The fact that it does remind me so strongly of the Far East both in landscape and culture is actually a positive. First, the setting is unique enough to feel refreshing to the reader and secondly, it’s not so unique that the reader will have to spend half of the day figuring out what is what. In fact, Bear draws her world so vividly that the unique aspects of it, combined with the parts of our world it will remind us of makes the setting of Range of Ghosts nearly as real as the world around us.

The realism is helped, in no small measure, by Bear’s stunning writing. Her lyrical, descriptive prose really bring the story and world to life and makes Range of Ghosts shine, even without all the plot elements that I enjoyed. In fact, out of the (far too) few books of Bear’s that I’ve read, the writing in Range of Ghosts outshines the others by far. The prose fairly leap off the page, making Range of Ghosts a far too quick read.

The characters are multifaceted and believable within the situations Bear places them in. Temur, the grandson of the Great Khan and Once-Princess Samarkar are almost tragically realistic characters and fascinating in their tragedy. Bear doesn’t shirk from showing the reader all the characters had to give up, and the reasons why they were driven to these decisions. That’s one thing that I have always loved about Bear. She doesn’t shy away from showing the readers the negative and positive of characters and situations.

The magic in Range of Ghosts is a bit vague, and while it might bother some to not have all the details on how the magic system works, the lack of details adds a haunting quality to the book. I actually found very atmospheric for the work as a whole. 

Range of Ghosts isn’t incredibly bloody or violent, and while there is violence, it’s rather clean and tidies up quickly. The violence is inserted at important points where tension has mounted and never for frivolous reasons. For this reason, fans of uber violent and bloody books might not enjoy Range of Ghosts quite as much as they might expect. The plot is smooth and steady and, while events happen at a rapid clip, they are never in your face or over-the-top.

It’s no surprise that I loved Range of Ghosts, and I have touted it on Twitter as my favorite book of 2012 so far. So it might come as a surprise that I want to end my review with a rather tongue-in-cheek letter directed toward the author and publisher.

Dear Elizabeth Bear and Tor,

I’m suffering from an epic bout of nerd rage, at the moment, and I feel as though the responsible parties should know what a torment I am going through. You see, Range of Ghosts was an absolutely stunning read in ever aspect. It’s easily my favorite book of 2012 so far and now it’s over.

It’s OVER and I have NOTHING to turn to because it’s the FIRST BOOK in a TRILOGY and the next books haven’t been released yet! Oh, the tragedy!

That’s the cause of my nerd rage. I need more from this series to quench my thirst to find out what happens next and there’s nothing for me to turn to! So, this small letter is my plea for the release of book two as soon as possible. I’m going crazy over here. You can’t write a book THAT GOOD and not expect readers to want more now.

Oh, and before I forget, thank you for the cover art. It is absolutely beautiful. 


Your nerd-raging fan/book reviewer,


5/5 stars


  1. I believe I heard someone say that BONE & JEWEL CREATURES, one of Bear's Subterranean Press novellas, is set in the same world as RANGE OF GHOSTS. If that is indeed the case, maybe the novella could help your withdrawal symptoms?

    1. Yes, they are set in the same universe. I haven't read BONE & JEWEL CREATURES, yet, the Subterranean edition is sold out. Pity that.

  2. Nice review! this sounds like one I need to add to my list, as it sounds like something I would like.
    (love the new look, too!)

  3. wow! looks like I know what my first Elizabeth Bear novel is going to be!

  4. I completely agree with your review, Sarah. The only thing I have to say against it is the lack of a proper ending for this volume. That's really all I can ding this book for.

  5. Hah - loved the "Dear Tor" thing at the end. Going to have to seek this book out. :)
    I've never read anything by Bear - always seem to find middle volumes but never the first in series. :s