the Little Red Reviewer

The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker

Posted on: May 10, 2012

The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker

published in 2010

Where I got it: library

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I’ve been unbeliveably lucky lately. Nearly everything I’ve read these last few months has been smack dab incredible. When I do get to some mediocre book, books like this one are going to make that poor blameless book even more of a let down.

Fantasy should be fun, it should be fantastical and magical, it should make you smile and laugh and think a little and maybe get a little choked up at the end. If that’s the kind of fantasy you’re looking for, The Anvil of The World is the book for you.  A little big farcical, a lot of fantastic, The Anvil of The World was pure joy to read.

Having retired from his profession of assassin, and possibly trying to escape a blood feud, our main character Smith gets a job as a caravan leader. Smith isn’t his real name, but he really  is part of the increasingly large Smith clan of the race of the Children of the Sun. Smith’s people have always followed their God, The Smith, and traveled the world building cities and creating things and generally smithing about. However  not every race on the planet is all about the smithing.

The caravan that Smith is leading includes a Mrs Smith (not his wife, just another member of the Children of the Sun), a few other Smiths, some Keymasters, a bad-guy,  a half-demon in disguise who is traveling with his nurse, someone’s mother, and someone’s daughter.

Much of the beginning of the story revolves around secrets untold and orphans of unknown parentage. Baker very, very slowly lets us in on what’s going on, so if you find yourself confused in the first 50 pages, you are not alone. Keep reading.

Because pretty soon you’ll be laughing your butt off.  The Anvil of the World isn’t slapstick, but at times it gets close. The physical comedy leaps off the page, and the dry prose is just hilarious. Baker has taken all the traditional fantasy tropes and expectations and done a barefoot happy dance all over them. In the hands of a less skilled writer, the book would just be a forgettable goofy fantasy adventure with oddly contemporary dialog that probably shouldn’t work.  But in the hands of Kage Baker, the characters climb out of the book to shake your hand in friendship or ignorantly insult your religion, the demons are shockingly human and vulnerable, the magic is simple yet effective, the contemporary themes and jokes are just right, and the end may just bring a tear to your eye.

Heavy on the quality story telling, light on the action, and buckets of fun, this is exactly how I want my fantasy served up. There are laughs and insults and one of the best dueling scenes I’ve ever read, but there is also something darker and edgier here as well that makes for truly compulsive reading. As The Children of the Sun have travelled the world, they have also ravaged it, mining, clear cutting, disregarding ecological systems, and pushing other people out of their lands. An aggressively dominant group, the Children of the Sun are completely ignorant to how other races and groups perceive them.  Some biting social commentary perhaps? I sure hope so.

Known for her time travel science fiction Company novels, The Anvil of the World was Kage Baker’s first foray into fantasy, and other than the hokey cover art it is a gem of a book that shouldn’t be missed. She was a gem of an author. Talented, funny, modest, and gone too soon.

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14 Responses to "The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker"

I haven’t read this one, but have read many of Baker’s books and have liked them all, especially her last novel, The Bird of the River, which was outstanding. It’s a standalone, not one of her Company novels. I just got The Best of Kage Baker from Subterranean Press a couple of days ago. I’m eager to read it!

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that is a subterranean treat!!

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I solved it on my WordPress blog and told Randy Johnson how to do it on his. Email me and I’ll send you the instructions.

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I haven’t read Baker yet, but I must get around to her at some point.

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You are on a roll. I’ll have to pick this up. It sounds just what I need. Mind you, it will be months before I get to it… by which time I’ll be just gagging for a good laughing romp.

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Don’t you just love when all the books you read remind you of why you love to read. This one sounds good. I’ve written the title down to keep an eye out for it. Thanks!

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Redhead: damn it, I forgot to uncheck the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” below the comment box and my email box is filling with copies of every comment. May I suggest you either leave this option unchecked as the default, or eliminate it altogether?

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apparently new WordPress default is having the notify boxes checked. I call that bullshit “pulling a facebook”. I’m working on it. In the meantime, tag all those annoying e-mails as junk, and UNCLICK every stupid box you see.

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Okay, looks like what you did solves it, though it takes an extra step. I removed the damn thing completely on mine and told Randy Johnson how to do it on his, if you email me I’ll send the instructions, then you can decide.

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thanks, I just e-mailed you. :D

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Great Review! I’ve loved Kage Baker’s work, this novel included. She was so skilled with humor, but her stories had that dark edge to them as well, like you mention. I was trying to think of specific parts of “Anvil of the World” that made me laugh uncontrollably, but there are just too many!

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I read Anvil ages ago as a random pick-up from a second-hand bookshop. I found it absolutely delightful (in fact I wrote a wikipedia entry for it [that was subsequently deleted due its perceived lack of importance]), but was convinced that it was of such little substance that I would forget about it shortly thereafter.

Instead, though, fond memories of it have stayed with me, and I was extremely happy when I later discovered that there is a prequel. It’s my touchstone for what what gentle comedic fantasy should be.

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I discovered Baker by way of her short stories, most all of which are fantastic. Lord Ermenwyr, and the world he inhabits, are the focus of many of her short stories and I believe one other novel (but I’m not certain on that last bit.) This book has been on the list for a while. I love Ermenwyr, and his parents, siblings and bizarre family. Looks like I need to hit up my library…

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Ermenwyr is a riot! so happy to hear he shows up again!

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