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It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. But his struggle ended in the loss It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. But his struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved and condemnation from his own people. Exiled, he was taken as a slave by powerful mages ruling an underground kingdom. Wiser and more bitter, he found more subtle ways to earn his freedom. This is the story of his rise to power, his vengeance, his unlikely redemption and marriage, and his maturation into a loving father—as well as a lord and commander of demon armies.


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It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. But his struggle ended in the loss It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. But his struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved and condemnation from his own people. Exiled, he was taken as a slave by powerful mages ruling an underground kingdom. Wiser and more bitter, he found more subtle ways to earn his freedom. This is the story of his rise to power, his vengeance, his unlikely redemption and marriage, and his maturation into a loving father—as well as a lord and commander of demon armies.

30 review for The House of the Stag

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Kage Baker’s The House of the Stag is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as The Anvil of the World and The Bird of the River. In this story, the pacifist Yendri tribe has been enslaved by cruel invaders, and the half-demon foundling named Gard is the only one who will fight back. When he’s exiled from the tribe, Gard is captured by mages who live underground and set to work with their bound demon slaves. With some advice from his fellow slaves, he r ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. Kage Baker’s The House of the Stag is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as The Anvil of the World and The Bird of the River. In this story, the pacifist Yendri tribe has been enslaved by cruel invaders, and the half-demon foundling named Gard is the only one who will fight back. When he’s exiled from the tribe, Gard is captured by mages who live underground and set to work with their bound demon slaves. With some advice from his fellow slaves, he remakes his own image and ends up styling himself as “The Dark Lord.” Meanwhile, back in the tribe, a prophet arises who promises the coming of a Saint who will lead the Yendri to a promised land. The separate plotlines are eventually united when The Saint meets The Dark Lord. My summary of The House of the Stag doesn’t do justice to the novel — it explains, ostensibly, what the novel is about, but I don’t pick up one of Kage Baker’s books or stories because I think the plot sounds interesting. I pick it up because it was written by Kage Baker. There is much more to her work than the “plot” — she knows how to tell a story. What I like best about Baker’s stories is her creative world-building and her sense of humor. Her stories are unique, peculiar, smart, and often very funny in that dry deadpan way that I love. Her style is similar to Jack Vance’s, though without the elaborate use of language that is part of his humor. Despite some serious subject matter (slavery, racism, colonialism) and plenty of darkness, violence and gore, The House of the Stag is delightfully humorous. On his way to becoming The Dark Lord, Gard becomes a gladiator, a gardener, and an actor. He collects fashion and personality advice as he goes, keeping his thoughts mostly to himself and often limiting his speech to epigrammatic replies of “Yes,” “Oh,” and “Thank you.” (Somehow, this is very funny.) Along the way, he meets many colorful characters such as the werewolf butler who collects celadon porcelain dishes and the female theater groupies who wait outside the Dark Lord’s dressing room. Baker never overdoes these bits of humor — their subtlety is what makes them so funny. Too little of Kage Baker’s work has been produced on audio, so when I saw that Audible Frontiers had recently released The House of the Stag, I snatched it up. It’s read by Sean Crisden, whose voices are perfect for Baker’s dry humor. He’s absolutely hilarious in the scene where the theater manager is explaining the stock characters of epics to Gard. I didn’t need the plotline about the promised child, even though it eventually joined Gard’s story. Gard’s adventures were so fascinating that I was always disappointed when the POV switched, but these interludes didn’t last long, fortunately. It’s rare that I say this, but I was sad when The House of the Stag was finished. I wanted more and I felt again the loss of such a brilliant writer.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amaha

    It's always an event when I buy a new book in hardcover; there are only a handful of authors that merit this honor, especially since I became a broke-ass student. Kage Baker deserves it. House of the Stag is the best fantasy novel I've read since Swanwick's Dragons of Babel. It takes place in the same setting as Baker’s Anvil of the World, though it's been so long since I read AOTW that I couldn't tell you how they overlap and diverge. Like AOTW, HOTS is considerably less plot-driven than the bo It's always an event when I buy a new book in hardcover; there are only a handful of authors that merit this honor, especially since I became a broke-ass student. Kage Baker deserves it. House of the Stag is the best fantasy novel I've read since Swanwick's Dragons of Babel. It takes place in the same setting as Baker’s Anvil of the World, though it's been so long since I read AOTW that I couldn't tell you how they overlap and diverge. Like AOTW, HOTS is considerably less plot-driven than the books in Baker's Company series, with a more intimate focus on character and conflicts. HOTS is about how difficult it is to be a Bad Guy or a Good Guy, a Dark Lord or a Messiah, when really all you want to be is a person. It's about the conflict between social progress and tradition, and whether it's better to meet repression and enslavement with nonviolent resistance, or with armed force. It asks whether it's possible to respond to a malign society by remaining aloof from it, or if one is obligated to engage, accommodate, and master the system. It's a feminist subversion of mythic tropes like the Hero's Journey and the Chosen One. It's a love story, and really pretty funny, too. And yes, there are swords and magic and monsters and all the other set pieces. The strangest thing is that it starts off as a tragedy, and ends as a comedy. I suspect that Baker deliberately inverted the structure of Anvil, but starting dark and ending light is much harder to pull off than the inverse. She pulls it off. I won’t waste time reciting plot points, I’ll just say to the fantasy fans: read it. If you don’t want to splurge on hardcover, go to the library, or borrow my copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    I thought this was a sequel to 'Anvil of the World', but it's actually a prequel, telling the story of the parents of 'Anvil''s protagonist. My first thought, starting the book, was that it was much too earnest. The tale of an innocent agrarian society living in Edenic peace until attacked by violent slavers wasn't bad, but also wasn't what I was expecting. 'Anvil'' was just much funnier. But as the book progressed, I was caught up by the story of Gard, a foundling raised by the peaceful Yendri wh I thought this was a sequel to 'Anvil of the World', but it's actually a prequel, telling the story of the parents of 'Anvil''s protagonist. My first thought, starting the book, was that it was much too earnest. The tale of an innocent agrarian society living in Edenic peace until attacked by violent slavers wasn't bad, but also wasn't what I was expecting. 'Anvil'' was just much funnier. But as the book progressed, I was caught up by the story of Gard, a foundling raised by the peaceful Yendri who, regardless of their nurture, grows to be a fighter, insistent on pursuing retribution against the oppressors of his people. His journey takes him through a variety of scenarios, from slave to gladiator to laborer to actor to Demonic Dark Lord. Around the time when he becomes an actor, it begins to get funny again. By the time the story ends, I was like, "yep, this book is awesome." It also prominently features Balnshik, the demoness from 'Anvil,' who is just a great character. So sad that there won't be any more books set in this world... the loss of Kage Baker is such a tragedy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    MB (What she read)

    10/1/08 First Read: I loved it! Why? Because it was witty, with a wry but kind humor to it. Because I couldn't guess where it was going in anyway shape or form and the ending was a complete surprise to me. (For me, this is unusual.) Because it incorporated all sorts of strong interesting characters and points-of-view and a unique "world". Because it was such an interesting take--almost a gentle send-up--poking fun at the typical male-oriented fantasy novel! Because I loved the give and take betw 10/1/08 First Read: I loved it! Why? Because it was witty, with a wry but kind humor to it. Because I couldn't guess where it was going in anyway shape or form and the ending was a complete surprise to me. (For me, this is unusual.) Because it incorporated all sorts of strong interesting characters and points-of-view and a unique "world". Because it was such an interesting take--almost a gentle send-up--poking fun at the typical male-oriented fantasy novel! Because I loved the give and take between the strong male character and the equally strong female character! This is the way I like my books! Yay Kage! I'm looking forward to the next one. Readers, if you like Lois McMaster Bujold or Sharon Shinn, try Kage's books. Don't miss The Company series as well. 6/28/11 2nd read: I do love this book! I smiled throughout.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    Don't let the cheesy cover and the stupid title fool you. This book is AWESOME. I put off reading this book for so long. (Yes, yes, I know. Don't judge a book by its cover and whatnot. Well, I did. Fie on my stupidity. Don't let me idiocy be yours!) Fantastic world and story. Utterly engrossing and satisfyingly self-contained. Plus, if you are accustomed to high-fantasy tropes, you will be delighted by the humor and in-jokes. I am sad because Baker has passed away so there will be no more new st Don't let the cheesy cover and the stupid title fool you. This book is AWESOME. I put off reading this book for so long. (Yes, yes, I know. Don't judge a book by its cover and whatnot. Well, I did. Fie on my stupidity. Don't let me idiocy be yours!) Fantastic world and story. Utterly engrossing and satisfyingly self-contained. Plus, if you are accustomed to high-fantasy tropes, you will be delighted by the humor and in-jokes. I am sad because Baker has passed away so there will be no more new stories from her. However, I am pleased because now, there is a new author (to me, anyway) that I can now enjoy. EXCELLENT!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phoenixfalls

    I think this is the first Kage Baker novel I've read whose jacket description properly captures its feel (though the description for The Anvil of the World comes close). The first paragraph (and the first section of the second paragraph) sound exactly like at least half of the heroic fantasy novels being written today, and in broad strokes, this novel follows that very popular story arc. But throughout the story, and coming to the fore at the end, is the sort of wry humanism that is so at odds w I think this is the first Kage Baker novel I've read whose jacket description properly captures its feel (though the description for The Anvil of the World comes close). The first paragraph (and the first section of the second paragraph) sound exactly like at least half of the heroic fantasy novels being written today, and in broad strokes, this novel follows that very popular story arc. But throughout the story, and coming to the fore at the end, is the sort of wry humanism that is so at odds with most of heroic fantasy, and so trademark to Kage Baker's (and Connie Willis' and Lois McMaster Bujold's) style. This is the story of how the Master of the Mountain and the Green Saint came to be who they were in The Anvil of the World, making it a prequel of sorts, though both books stand equally well on their own. As in The Anvil of the World, Baker doesn't confine herself to even-length chapters, nor does she stick with one viewpoint; some sections are first-person narrative, one is second-person, and one is third-person with a first-person frame -- though while it isn't always clear who is speaking at first (because they are characters that haven't been introduced yet) Baker is always in control, and the reader is immediately aware that the perspective has shifted and where in the world it has shifted to. Most of the story revolves around Gard, who will become the Master of the Mountain; the Green Saint isn't born until halfway through the book. Gard is a wonderful character -- despite all the baggage handed him by heroic fantasy convention, he retains a wonderful clarity of purpose: all he wants is the chance to live and be happy, and he will do what seems necessary to make that as likely as possible. He encounters several mentor figures (another fantasy trope) including Balnshik, who we met in The Anvil of the World; he attracts a ragtag bunch of followers, outcasts in the world at large, through his strength of character; and he forges himself (with the help of those mentioned above) into the sort of tool so very common in heroic fantasy: impossibly skilled at everything he sets his hand to, be it conventional fighting (with any weapon) or magic. But just as his journey appears to be veering too far into teen boy wish-fulfillment, Baker grounds it yet again in his simple desire for happiness. He bests his enemies not to make the world a better place, but simply to get himself and those he loves out of harms way; that accomplished, he takes whatever jobs come to hand (I particularly enjoyed his turn as an actor) to keep food on the table and a roof over his head. If I have one quibble, it's that the Green Saint was not given as much depth as Gard, and their romance was of the "love at first sight" variety. But while that quibble was strong enough that I couldn't love this volume quite as much as The Anvil of the World, The House of the Stag is still one of the best heroic fantasy novels I've read in a long time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Duke

    Every once in a while you come across a book that raises the bar, that blows the competition out of the water. Some years back, that book was Harry Potter (or books, to be more accurate); now, Kage Baker’s The House of the Stag has done what few books can ever do. The House of the Stag is a modern fairytale that chronicles the struggle of a young man after his people, the Yendri, are invaded by a barbaric, horseback-riding people called the Riders. As his people are rounded up and killed or turne Every once in a while you come across a book that raises the bar, that blows the competition out of the water. Some years back, that book was Harry Potter (or books, to be more accurate); now, Kage Baker’s The House of the Stag has done what few books can ever do. The House of the Stag is a modern fairytale that chronicles the struggle of a young man after his people, the Yendri, are invaded by a barbaric, horseback-riding people called the Riders. As his people are rounded up and killed or turned into slaves, a strange figure appears called the Star, who takes on the role of a prophet. But Gard refuses to accept the “sit and do nothing” stance of the Star and takes matters into his own hands. When his actions get him accused as a murderer by his own people, he finds himself exiled and flung out into the wider, more dangerous world beyond. There he discovers new cultures and customs, and important information about his past, all while vowing to gain the power and influence he needs to destroy the Riders once and for all and free his people forever. Baker’s novel is an astonishing fantasy tale, with rich detail, fantastic world building, enjoyable, complex characters, and a unique postmodern structure that is as readily aware of its fairytale roots as it is of its emotionally impacted literary attention to issues of (post)colonialism, slavery, and racism. That’s a mouthful, for sure, but The House of the Stag deserves such long-winded praise. This book influenced me so much that I actually used it for a second senior thesis during my final quarter at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I now regret having never read anything else by Ms. Baker, because her writing is impeccable, her characters are realistically flawed, and her world is stunning in its design. You can’t ask for much more in a stand alone fantasy novel. The most difficult thing about reviewing this book is trying to find the cons of Baker’s story. I loved the book from start to finish, which leaves me with only one complaint: the chapters are too long. A pointless complaint? Yes, but to say that any book is perfect is to tell a lie. The House of the Stag is not a perfect novel, but it is certainly close. The House of the Stag is the kind of novel for anyone who wants something more in their fantasy. This is not your typical tale of elves and magic, talking animals. It’s a modernized fairytale replete with the escapist power of epic fantasy. As such, lovers of virtually any kind of fantasy should enjoy The House of the Stag. Baker’s book is, in my opinion, a one of a kind fantasy treat.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Johne

    I was saddened to read about the passing of Kage Baker, and when I read that she wrote two more novels in the universe she created with Anvil of the World, I immediately bought both those novels without any further research. I was astonished by this work. I expected more of the black humor of The Anvil of the World, but this was a straight-up Fantasy, which tells perhaps the coolest, strangest love story in recent memory. I love how she mines the richness of Fantasy without any Tolkienesque overt I was saddened to read about the passing of Kage Baker, and when I read that she wrote two more novels in the universe she created with Anvil of the World, I immediately bought both those novels without any further research. I was astonished by this work. I expected more of the black humor of The Anvil of the World, but this was a straight-up Fantasy, which tells perhaps the coolest, strangest love story in recent memory. I love how she mines the richness of Fantasy without any Tolkienesque overtones. It helps to have read The Anvil of the World first, although this story takes place before that one. This was far more than Gard and the Saint's origin story, this is the origin story of their world, and it is very personal for being so very different from typical Fantasy fare. Kage Baker was brilliant, and now she's gone. The world is a poorer place after her passing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tasula

    Kage Baker is one of my favorite fantasy authors- especially for the Company series. House of the Stag is part of a different series, which includes the Bird of the River and the Anvil of the World. This world is populated with Children of the Sun (reddish skinned human types), Yendri (greenish skinned human types), demons, mages, and others. Anvil is my favorite of the series- it is more light hearted and has some hilarious parts- it occurs much later in time than Stag. Stag tells the story of Kage Baker is one of my favorite fantasy authors- especially for the Company series. House of the Stag is part of a different series, which includes the Bird of the River and the Anvil of the World. This world is populated with Children of the Sun (reddish skinned human types), Yendri (greenish skinned human types), demons, mages, and others. Anvil is my favorite of the series- it is more light hearted and has some hilarious parts- it occurs much later in time than Stag. Stag tells the story of a baby found in the woods, adopted by a Yendri family, how he is torn from his home, taken captive by evil mages, becomes an actor, soldier and leader of demons, and how his dark path intersects with that of "the Child"- a baby promised to bring hope and healing to the Yendri. It's entertaining, sometimes brutal, but ultimately fairly gentle and optimistic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    pie

    i am enjoying this series; lots of capers, plots, clever dialogue, humor, some magic, traces of darkness. some sex but it's not ridiculous or overly-descriptive. if you enjoyed the Locke Lamora series, you'd probably enjoy this. i am enjoying this series; lots of capers, plots, clever dialogue, humor, some magic, traces of darkness. some sex but it's not ridiculous or overly-descriptive. if you enjoyed the Locke Lamora series, you'd probably enjoy this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    YouKneeK

    This book was a prequel to the first book in the trilogy, The Anvil of the World. Whenever I hear that a series has a prequel, my first question is always: Should I read the prequel first or should I read the books in the order they were published? In this case, I don’t think it matters too much, because the stories are only loosely related. However, I would lean toward reading this book, the prequel, first. The prequel centers around two characters who aren't seen much in The Anvil of the World This book was a prequel to the first book in the trilogy, The Anvil of the World. Whenever I hear that a series has a prequel, my first question is always: Should I read the prequel first or should I read the books in the order they were published? In this case, I don’t think it matters too much, because the stories are only loosely related. However, I would lean toward reading this book, the prequel, first. The prequel centers around two characters who aren't seen much in The Anvil of the World, but who have a major underlying influence on some of the characters in that story. I think their relevance in The Anvil of the World could be better appreciated with the knowledge about them gathered from this book, The House of the Stag, and I can't think of anything that would be spoiled by reading the prequel first. Whereas the first book was funny but occasionally a little too silly, this book didn’t have that much humor. As a result, it never crossed the line into being too silly, so I think that’s one reason I enjoyed this book better than the first. I also just found the story in general to be more entertaining. The story is about two different orphans. One orphan, an abandoned half-demon, is raised by the Yendri (the sort-of elf-like race) but is cast out when he gets older and becomes enslaved to demons and mages. The other orphan, a Yendri whose parentage is never really explained for certain, is the “promised child” of the Yendri. She is very gifted and wise, but her people are not very good at understanding her or following her directions even while they revere her. The girl is born after the boy is cast out, but the stories of the two characters merge closer to the end. The half-demon orphan is perhaps a bit of a cliché – a young boy with uncertain parentage has latent powers, doesn’t fit in with his people, endures hardships, etc. However, I found him interesting in spite of that. I don’t mind clichés too much as long as they’re done well and don’t feel too much like other things I’ve read. There was a point near the climax where he seemed curiously incapable of mounting a proper defense given the powers he had exhibited previously. This wasn’t explained at all, so it felt like a cheat in order to build drama. The young girl, in her role of promised child, may be a little bit of a cliché as well. However, her interaction with her people was interesting to me. There she is, living among her people, known for who she is, clearly capable of fulfilling the role she’s expected to fulfil, and speaking as plainly as she possibly can so her people know and understand what she wants them to do. And yet the very people who say they want to follow her continuously go astray in major ways. I would have liked it if the author had taken us inside the mind of one of the characters who most often rejected her teachings so we could better understand his perspective. So overall I enjoyed the book, although it wasn’t perfect. The ending was good, without any of the oddness that accompanied the end of the first book, and it ended with things nicely set up for the subsequent events that take place in the first book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brownbetty

    I'm not entirely sure to what extent this is a good book, and to what extent I just really enjoyed it. It ought to have annoyed me, but it didn't. Prequel to the The Anvil of the World, (which, btw, I think we can agree is a pretty awesome title, roughly as hardcore as Jesus riding a T-Rex) this book gives the origin story of the that story's villain. Well, not truly the villain, and even in the The Anvil of the World it is obvious that Baker has plenty of back-story for him, waiting off-stage. Sp I'm not entirely sure to what extent this is a good book, and to what extent I just really enjoyed it. It ought to have annoyed me, but it didn't. Prequel to the The Anvil of the World, (which, btw, I think we can agree is a pretty awesome title, roughly as hardcore as Jesus riding a T-Rex) this book gives the origin story of the that story's villain. Well, not truly the villain, and even in the The Anvil of the World it is obvious that Baker has plenty of back-story for him, waiting off-stage. Specific things that ought to have interfered with my enjoyment: 1. Why is everyone in this book straight? There is enough sex, and openness about sex, that all the heterosexuality looks pretty odd. At one point, I thought there were a pair of male ex-lovers, but it turned out I'd mistaken the gender of one of them. That means the only hint of non-heterosexual expression is a vague hint of paedophilia in an early chapter, and an implied offer of money for favours which the protagonist does not take up. 2. A religious leader, called "the Beloved," doesn't want to deprive any of the young ladies of the awesomeness that is him. The book seems to treat this sincerely. I'm sorry, religious leaders who have sex with multiple followers are always skeezy. That is the rule. 3. Rape is treated as, like, very annoying sex. Paraphrase of actual conversation: "... and then the raping happened." "But was anybody hurt?" "No, everyone's fine." Okay! Baker's a woman, which just goes to show my prejudices are not reliable. The saving grace, if you could call it that, is that both men and women are subjected to coerced sex about equally, and that Baker is not interested in eroticizing rape at all. 4. Fantasy race syndrome! The earth-landers are nature-loving! The fire-landers are hot-tempered! The sun-landers are mercantile! I actually thought it was fairly well done, but I am aware the trope is problematic. 5. The book is all about how Gard, the protagonist, rose to the position of Dark Lord. (Amusingly, in one chapter, Gard basically reads The Dark Lord of Derkholme and uses it as a cheat-sheet.) Young-man's-rise-to-ridiculous-superpowers isn't really that intrinsically interesting. So with all these, why did I actually enjoy it? Well, Baker is really good at a Clarke's law ("sufficiently advanced technology...") and although this is fantasy, so it really is magic, the difference between Gard's uninformed and informed views of magic are very interesting. I think part of my enjoyment too came from reading The Anvil of the World first, since there were so many things unexplained there that were explained here. And part of it was just the sheer coolness factor: he blew up a mountain! Come on! He commands an army of demons! He uses skulls in all of his decorating! But er. I am aware none of these is terribly objective.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bryn (Plus Others)

    This was about 75% delicious trope-filled fun 70s-inspired fantasy and 25% cringing oh please no fantasy, and while the 75% won out in the overall reading experience, I am left with complicated feelings that make me think this will not be going into my comfort read rotation. So about that cringing -- (view spoiler)[why, why, why did Baker have Gard rape the Saint? Why? We have never seen him actually rape anyone before, ever, and we have seen plenty of him being disgusted by the notion. Yes, I k This was about 75% delicious trope-filled fun 70s-inspired fantasy and 25% cringing oh please no fantasy, and while the 75% won out in the overall reading experience, I am left with complicated feelings that make me think this will not be going into my comfort read rotation. So about that cringing -- (view spoiler)[why, why, why did Baker have Gard rape the Saint? Why? We have never seen him actually rape anyone before, ever, and we have seen plenty of him being disgusted by the notion. Yes, I know there are the rumours around that he and his demons go to town and rape all the women, but everything else in the story suggests that in fact either they are paying sex workers or finding one of the plethora of bored aristocratic women who will happily take demons to bed as a change of pace. Baker is dead now, I cannot ask her what she was thinking, but all the conclusions I can draw from this narrative choice make me really sad -- either she doesn't think rape really matters, so having her protagonist rape someone is no big deal, or she thinks men are inevitably rapists so despite the fact that it is hugely out of character, he does it becaue men do, or... what? I don't know, I can't come to terms with it and it annoys me. After that, having the Saint immediately forgive him and marry him was gross and sad -- and annoying because it could have been such a good story if he just kidnapped her and fell in love with her and then wooed her and it's already been set up that she can't find a lover in her own community because she's everyone's mother/daughter/sister. So it was all set up for this really delicious satisfying romance and instead it's 'marry your rapist' and argh. The other thing that made me uncomfortable about this is the Yendri-as-Jews thing, with the Saint as Yendri Moses, except Baker leaned in pretty hard on John the Baptist/Jesus vibes, so then it gets doubly weird; I can't figure out what it is she thinks she's saying, or if she thinks she's saying anything at all.(view spoiler)[ The thing is, I did like the entire sequence under the mountain, it was not realistic about trauma or anything, but it was fun watching (view spoiler)[Gard build up his power and figure out how to take it all down and the whole thing with Silverpoint helping him become a weapon and all that was great, and yes, the rape in that was awful too, but it was portrayed as an awful thing he was enduring so that he could eventually escape, so -- if you're going to have a character who is a slave, it is hard to avoid the fact that slaves were taken advantage of sexually by the people who had power over them; I sort of feel like it would have been weirder if she had not included that. (hide spoiler)] Sigh, humans. I am not sorry I read it but I am not sure I will be able to go back to it. (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    3-1/2 stars. One the one hand, Kage Baker strings together words beautifully. The book was very well written and kept me engaged all the way through. On the other hand, the story itself and especially as a prequel was decidedly lacking. and most of the characters weren't in and of themselves engaging. But worst of all . . . You know the incredibly wicked Dark Lord we were promised? (view spoiler)[He’s basically just a bandit. He steals things and hurts people, but doesn't do any actual invading o 3-1/2 stars. One the one hand, Kage Baker strings together words beautifully. The book was very well written and kept me engaged all the way through. On the other hand, the story itself and especially as a prequel was decidedly lacking. and most of the characters weren't in and of themselves engaging. But worst of all . . . You know the incredibly wicked Dark Lord we were promised? (view spoiler)[He’s basically just a bandit. He steals things and hurts people, but doesn't do any actual invading or ruling. (hide spoiler)] You know the awesome Saint who purposefully went to him, to save her people? (view spoiler)[Actually, she was just randomly passing by and he saw she was pretty and kidnapped and raped her. Then he felt sorry about it because she was so pretty, and proposed. Romantic? (hide spoiler)] In general, the characters weren't great. Gard's story did really keep me interested, but as soon as the Saint comes along, things start to disintegrate. And, as a side note . . . am I the only one who thinks Kage Baker just really wants to live in a promiscuous cult with a charismatic leader? Because that's what it's beginning to feel like. But she sure can write.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Clay Kallam

    Now that the long Company saga has ended, Kage Baker turns from the paradoxes of time travel to the familiar tropes of fantasy -- and for the most part, switches gears smoothly. "The House of the Stag" (Tor, $24.95, 350 pages), however, shifts the ground of the traditional outline, though Baker still opts for the pre-industrial, magical society with demons and half-breeds thrown in for extra spice. To talk much about the plot would spoil the fun of the book, which tweaks the fantasy formula, but Now that the long Company saga has ended, Kage Baker turns from the paradoxes of time travel to the familiar tropes of fantasy -- and for the most part, switches gears smoothly. "The House of the Stag" (Tor, $24.95, 350 pages), however, shifts the ground of the traditional outline, though Baker still opts for the pre-industrial, magical society with demons and half-breeds thrown in for extra spice. To talk much about the plot would spoil the fun of the book, which tweaks the fantasy formula, but the real key is Baker's masterful writing. She creates interesting characters with the simplest of descriptions (an obsessive-compulsive werewolf with a jones for porcelain, for example) and understands how to develop a narrative. That said, "The House of the Stag" bogs down a little at the end, as Baker can't figure out how to avoid the usual final scene, and as a result, lost interest in the last 50 pages or so. Still, this is a great read and a fun book, and even those who don't particularly care for fantasy should give it a try. Baker, after all, is a proven commodity, and she doesn't disappoint in this non-Company offering.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mcclanahan

    I've read all the "Company" novels and liked them a great deal. I also read The Anvil of the World and was not quite as impressed. So it took me a while to get to this one. It turns out to be a prequel to "Anvil". But what a wonderfully crafted tale it is. From the saga of the half demon child, Gard, to the emergence of the female Yendri Saint, Ms. Baker's unfailing literary instincts and background make this prose often appear as poetry. And, after a rather grim set of opening events, her usual I've read all the "Company" novels and liked them a great deal. I also read The Anvil of the World and was not quite as impressed. So it took me a while to get to this one. It turns out to be a prequel to "Anvil". But what a wonderfully crafted tale it is. From the saga of the half demon child, Gard, to the emergence of the female Yendri Saint, Ms. Baker's unfailing literary instincts and background make this prose often appear as poetry. And, after a rather grim set of opening events, her usual sense of tongue-in-cheek humor emerges as well. Beset with trials and opposition, both Gard and the Saint deal with numerous challenges until they happen upon each other and form a sometimes uneasy alliance. At that point, however, their troubles seem to have just begun. Filled with fascinating characters and crackling dialogue, this book should be considered a classic. Three years after the author's death, I am still saddened to face the reality that there will be no more from her.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meredith Sessions

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This story kept evolving into new phases, shifting tone, stakes, constraints, goals and protagonists. As a section reaches resolution, it pops out the next incarnation. Some were just ok, many were thrilling. The sections are organized roughly from innocent hunter gatherers to more organized societies and economies, but all within a couple generations. The male protagonist starts each section powerless and by the end has grudgingly mastered the situation. That he is so powerless again in the nex This story kept evolving into new phases, shifting tone, stakes, constraints, goals and protagonists. As a section reaches resolution, it pops out the next incarnation. Some were just ok, many were thrilling. The sections are organized roughly from innocent hunter gatherers to more organized societies and economies, but all within a couple generations. The male protagonist starts each section powerless and by the end has grudgingly mastered the situation. That he is so powerless again in the next section is perhaps the most jarring aspect of the books. Near the end (and yet just at the beginning of the most important section) there's an oddly old fashioned plot line of happy marriage after rape that I am still choking on a bit. The female protagonist is otherwise a paragon of peaceful simple virtue, amusingly sex positive at the heart of a developing cult of purity, to her chagrin.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Hmm a strange book in the end , it starts off serious with the mc becoming a captive to wizards under a mountain and overcoming them eventually when he becomes wiser and stronger then them which I enjoyed but then round at the time where the mc escapes from the mountain the book totally changes it's tone from serious to lightness in a blink which I found jarring it was still enjoyable but for me the author should have stuck with just one tone. What I didn't like the mc committed rape out of nowh Hmm a strange book in the end , it starts off serious with the mc becoming a captive to wizards under a mountain and overcoming them eventually when he becomes wiser and stronger then them which I enjoyed but then round at the time where the mc escapes from the mountain the book totally changes it's tone from serious to lightness in a blink which I found jarring it was still enjoyable but for me the author should have stuck with just one tone. What I didn't like the mc committed rape out of nowhere this didn't fit his character from earlier in the book and then proposed marriage to her and got married and the victim fall in love with him and had children together There was also a very strange scene where an evil wooden puppet villian made one of her slaves to have sex with her which was cringing to read To be honest I'm confused with this book I still not know what to make off it all.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    The prequel (though best if read after) to the excellent The Anvil of the World. Gard is a foundling raised by the remnants of a pacifistic enslaved race. When the race's Messiah comes to save them, Gard rejects his pacifism and is exiled. Dread mages trapped under a mountain for generations catch him, and he begins to realize he has gifts beyond those of his adopted people. Meanwhile, the Messiah and his successor are not having an easy time themselves. This is the second of Kage Baker's series The prequel (though best if read after) to the excellent The Anvil of the World. Gard is a foundling raised by the remnants of a pacifistic enslaved race. When the race's Messiah comes to save them, Gard rejects his pacifism and is exiled. Dread mages trapped under a mountain for generations catch him, and he begins to realize he has gifts beyond those of his adopted people. Meanwhile, the Messiah and his successor are not having an easy time themselves. This is the second of Kage Baker's series, and possibly better than her first, the Company. Good, evil, compassion, nature v nurture--they are all in here, floating in a complex world with believable characters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    John

    He's the half demon, ex-slave gladiator Dark Lord; she's the sheltered but immensely powerful essence of moral clarity and truth in the world. They're plainly made for each other, and are among the finest characters created by a writer who really had a gift for crafting characters. He's the half demon, ex-slave gladiator Dark Lord; she's the sheltered but immensely powerful essence of moral clarity and truth in the world. They're plainly made for each other, and are among the finest characters created by a writer who really had a gift for crafting characters.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chenoa

    I enjoy this series a lot and I would give the book 5 stars, but it annoys the shit out of me that not only is rape used as a plot device, it's treated as something of so little consequence that it doesn't even move the plot forward. It just makes the characters disgusting and unforgivable. I enjoy this series a lot and I would give the book 5 stars, but it annoys the shit out of me that not only is rape used as a plot device, it's treated as something of so little consequence that it doesn't even move the plot forward. It just makes the characters disgusting and unforgivable.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Viva

    Following some other reviewers' recommendation, I read this #2 book first. It was a mistake. I should have read #1 first. Book 2 basically throws you into the series and many things are explained in book 1 (which I'm reading now). Overall, I would say Baker is a good writer, the writing is easy to read and follow, though this book falls afoul of some of my pet peeves and I dnf'd it. Spoilers ahead: The first of my pet peeves is the prologue. Usually it's the author trying to be clever. 99% of the t Following some other reviewers' recommendation, I read this #2 book first. It was a mistake. I should have read #1 first. Book 2 basically throws you into the series and many things are explained in book 1 (which I'm reading now). Overall, I would say Baker is a good writer, the writing is easy to read and follow, though this book falls afoul of some of my pet peeves and I dnf'd it. Spoilers ahead: The first of my pet peeves is the prologue. Usually it's the author trying to be clever. 99% of the time it's irrelevant to the main story and ties in only at the end and by that time I will have forgotten about it. I chose to skip this one. My next pet peeve is alternating POV's. You settle in with the main story, then comes another POV. At worst it's like reading another bo0k and you have to change mental gears and reset, and keep resetting. Only at the very best do you get a book that does it well and this one isn't it. I chose to skip the other POV. In fact the last chapter was a 3rd POV and I just decided to quit right there as I had no wish to read another story. Spoilers really. Don't read this if you don't want the summary: But the main story was quite good. It started with Gard waking up in the mountain as a slave. He worked up from a laborer to a skilled gladiator and then the master class. And then the best mage, at which time he detonated a spell and freed everyone so they could leave the mountain. He escaped to live elsewhere as a free man. He soon found out that he was being chased by people from the mountain and he escaped again. He finally settled in a free city under a fake name. At first he worked as a laborer (again why?). Then he became a gardener, then an actor, then a soldier. When the free city got invaded and his army got defeated he left with the group of demon/halfling soldiers under him and created his mountain stronghold. Then he married a healer from the Yendri race and she cooled him down. I stopped reading when the next chapter began with a different POV. This book is supposed to give the background to book 1, which is why people recommended reading it first but I felt it was quite disjointed and you didn't need to know this to read book 1. And book 1 explains the setting better.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sinuhe

    Quite an epic scope for a novel, and at the same time there's such a cozy domestic feel to it. The bulk of the story is about Gard, half-demon and half-yendri, from his innocent boyhood in the peaceful forests to oppression by the Riders, enslavement in a mountain, life in the city, and finally his role as self-professed Dark Lord, the Master of the Mountain (different mountain); the rest is about the Saint, the mystical/religious savior of the yendri, a young woman with great powers. Of course, Quite an epic scope for a novel, and at the same time there's such a cozy domestic feel to it. The bulk of the story is about Gard, half-demon and half-yendri, from his innocent boyhood in the peaceful forests to oppression by the Riders, enslavement in a mountain, life in the city, and finally his role as self-professed Dark Lord, the Master of the Mountain (different mountain); the rest is about the Saint, the mystical/religious savior of the yendri, a young woman with great powers. Of course, they get married. What I like best is that it's an amazing story, of course, with each setting and group of characters finely-wrought by the author (who frequently manages a Pratchettian feel in the way high fantasy concepts rub shoulders with normalcy) - but also, a lot of aspects relating to sex and gender feel exceptionally well handled. Gard is a person, not an avatar for a fantasy of being degraded and then powerful or for toxically masculine fantasies of sex and revenge. There are a few references to ambiguously consensual demon/yendri couplings, and Gard and the Saint's initial offscreen encounter is somewhat less ambiguously non-consensual - but he is ashamed of this, and he makes amends. Still, this is something you may want to know going in. (At the same time, I would normally run like hell from a plot point like that, but in context, perhaps because of the Saint's saintliness, it does work.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian Rogers

    This was quite a bit of fun. Like Anvil of the World, it is a very Jack Vance tale, where one of our two threads feels like nothing so much as a Cudgel the Clever sequence or, more accurately, the sort of insane backstory you can get from Greg Stolze's _Reign_'s character lifepath generator. And that's a big complement in both comparisons. Gard's tale is classic pulp fantasy. The other thread of the story, that of the Yendri people from which he descends, is much more mythic, more serious, and p This was quite a bit of fun. Like Anvil of the World, it is a very Jack Vance tale, where one of our two threads feels like nothing so much as a Cudgel the Clever sequence or, more accurately, the sort of insane backstory you can get from Greg Stolze's _Reign_'s character lifepath generator. And that's a big complement in both comparisons. Gard's tale is classic pulp fantasy. The other thread of the story, that of the Yendri people from which he descends, is much more mythic, more serious, and packed with the social observation that Baker was so good at. It's hard to see how the two threads are going to interconnect until they do, and once they're together it is by turns happy, depressing, harrowing and for the scenes with one of the domestic staff, laugh out loud funny. There are reasons why this won the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for best fantasy novel, as the back third of the book is suddenly the tale of reformed rakes making the best husbands. As with Anvil of the World some parts are stronger than others, and the woven nature of the tales this time makes it harder to segment the brilliant parts from the merely good, but it's an easy recommend if you like fantasy that's treading different, if not unfamiliar, ground.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kes

    This is a prequel to the first book. It focuses more on Yendri history and on demons. The characters are sympathetic, and it has the potential to be a lot darker than it actually was ((view spoiler)[the initial coupling of Gard and the Saint, for example, could have been quite dark (hide spoiler)] ). However, the book easily moves over that. It's a easy read; slightly longer than the first book. I would say the first book was better, though. 2.5 stars This is a prequel to the first book. It focuses more on Yendri history and on demons. The characters are sympathetic, and it has the potential to be a lot darker than it actually was ((view spoiler)[the initial coupling of Gard and the Saint, for example, could have been quite dark (hide spoiler)] ). However, the book easily moves over that. It's a easy read; slightly longer than the first book. I would say the first book was better, though. 2.5 stars

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    https://wordnerdy.blogspot.com/2021/0... The second book in this series is actually a prequel, primarily telling the story of the Master of the Mountain, and briefly telling the story of the Saint, and how they got together. While there is still a bit of humor here, this is a grimmer story by far, full of slavery and torture and a fair amount of implied rape. So definitely not as fun as the first one, but I'm hoping the third will be less dark. B/B+. https://wordnerdy.blogspot.com/2021/0... The second book in this series is actually a prequel, primarily telling the story of the Master of the Mountain, and briefly telling the story of the Saint, and how they got together. While there is still a bit of humor here, this is a grimmer story by far, full of slavery and torture and a fair amount of implied rape. So definitely not as fun as the first one, but I'm hoping the third will be less dark. B/B+.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

    Loved this up until about two thirds of the way through when something deeply puzzling and out of character happened. Then I got back to enjoying it again, but that one thing still sticks out as anomalous. Kind of spoiled it for me, to be honest. Other than that it's a fantastic fantasy story! But it's a big 'other.' Damn. Loved this up until about two thirds of the way through when something deeply puzzling and out of character happened. Then I got back to enjoying it again, but that one thing still sticks out as anomalous. Kind of spoiled it for me, to be honest. Other than that it's a fantastic fantasy story! But it's a big 'other.' Damn.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    I got this thinking, 'ok, i've liked her previous stuff, i'll just read a few pages and see how it goes'. And then I couldn't put it down. Or rather I could, but I kept coming back to 'just read a few more pages'. I got this thinking, 'ok, i've liked her previous stuff, i'll just read a few pages and see how it goes'. And then I couldn't put it down. Or rather I could, but I kept coming back to 'just read a few more pages'.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Just didn't do what i wanted it to do or go where i would've liked and it was too slow doing anything and so i can't go on. I'm sorry cruel world... goodb-*BANG* Just didn't do what i wanted it to do or go where i would've liked and it was too slow doing anything and so i can't go on. I'm sorry cruel world... goodb-*BANG*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Custer

    This book is actually about Ermenwyr's parents. How they grew up, lived, met and fell in love. This book is actually about Ermenwyr's parents. How they grew up, lived, met and fell in love.

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