Read Arcanum by Simon Morden Online


A thousand years after Alaric the Goth crossed the Alps with his rough alliance of northern tribes and wild, spell-wielding shamans to crush the Roman empire, Europe has become an almost civilised place.Despite the wars that wash across the continent, the little mountain kingdom of Carinthia remains untroubled and untouchable. Rich through trade and centuries of peace, itA thousand years after Alaric the Goth crossed the Alps with his rough alliance of northern tribes and wild, spell-wielding shamans to crush the Roman empire, Europe has become an almost civilised place.Despite the wars that wash across the continent, the little mountain kingdom of Carinthia remains untroubled and untouchable. Rich through trade and centuries of peace, it owes its success to being the home of the Order of the White Robe, whose legendary hexmasters can destroy whole armies by turning the field of battle into a glittering lake of lava.Magic is Carinthia’s wealth, its protection and its way of life. So what does a magic kingdom do when it runs out of magic?...

Title : Arcanum
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780316220101
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 744 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Arcanum Reviews

  • Sarah
    2019-06-19 05:59

    Arcanum is the kind of historical fantasy that makes me love historical fantasy. While I loved the book overall, the even blend of positives and negatives made it incredibly palatable. The small world contains an epic story that shows how a small group of people can make a huge impact. Morden deals with a lot of uncomfortable situations with poise and ease. He really brings this dark time period to life, and makes me wish that I could climb up a mountain and find a unicorn. No matter what a book suffers from, that’s the best compliment I could give it. Arcanum makes me want to live in that enchanted world. Arcanum made me hungry. I want more.Read my full review here:

  • Fuzzleton
    2019-06-26 06:49

    Arcanum doesn't start out as a painful read, but it becomes one.The book is set in Carinthia, a country isolated and wealthy from the strength of it's magical Order of the White Robe, who remove any of the Kingdom's problems with unparreleled magical aptitude.The setting of Carinthia is initially rich and full of interesting concepts - Vanishing unicorns, Giants marauding passing merchant caravans, wagons that travel on magical wheels with no need for horse or driver. The world is creative and quite alive.On to the characters:Nikoleta is fascinating. She is an adept of the Order, with the lifelong aim of becoming the first female of the order's highest rank, a hexmaster, even as she doubts the Order's virtue and true purposePrince Gerhard is busy trying to raise his son to embrace German culture in a world that wont stop changing. He calls the Order to aid him in fending off the invaders, and when they do not answer, dares to challenge them and question an age old and mutually beneficial power dynamic. He is an interesting character - unapologetically assigning his enemies to death by torture, while seeming otherwise light-hearted. He wonders if he grew to love his wife during their arranged marriage and plays "Hide the sausage" with her merrily.These events and characters are all principal early in the book, but the story suddenly shifts focus.It is no longer about an invasion, a troubled prince, a magician struggling against her orders hierarchy and age old mysteries.As the setting loses it's magic, the story becomes long-winded and tough to get through. It's almost impressive, on a meta level, but still difficult to read.A few hundred pages are spent on fixing underground plumbing, cataloging the library and inventing the scientific principle, introducing characters with no traits to replace the myriad characters with no traits that were lost - (with the exception of 'brave' and 'smart', which are characteristics shared by every named character)My greatest pet peeve that made this story a chore was Allegretti, the Italian swordmaster and nemesis of the early story. He has hundreds of pages establishing his mysterious motivations and influence over Gerhard's son Felix - an influence over which he is universally despised - and yet his entire arc has a miserable payoff.Ah, but from an unexpected source - the same betrayal! Another trusted character from early in the book befriends the prince, and begins to challenge the German way to benefit their own agenda and change the Prince's mind constantly to meet their standards.This second villain is not a villain at all - she is soon bethrothed to the the 12 year old Felix, and none of the characters who hated the swordmaster Allegretti - a man with martial and politucal expertise - hold the same aspersions against the untrained and inexperienced Sophia Morgernstern, despite committing the same crime with less cause. She is adored by every character universally, and is a Mary Sue of constant positive traits and wisdom.Every character with depth leaves the story, and the magic is dead in more ways than one. I identified with each bland character learning to move on in a dull world, because after long soon I too was struggling through the slog and trying to make it to the end.This book ends at around page 370, and can be considered mediocre. Pleasant, even.The rest is a challenge, and reads like writer's block. Most of the cast read like a name generator padding out tvtropes' article on "informed ability".Mostly, I just miss the wit and humour from early in the story.I congratulate Simon Morden on the early half of his book, which was thorougly fun and made me laugh and think.I congratulate Simon Morden on the second half of his book, for finishing it. It reads like that was difficult.

  • Argus
    2019-06-20 04:51

    Okay, let's get this out of the way. Is the book good? Yeah, it's pretty good. Go read it. There. Now, something oddly specific and spoiler packed.So, the point of this book is that it's normal Earth history, but with magic. And a lot of it is the Nordic/Germanic styled stuff, like dwarves and giants and their weird version of unicorns. There's also Jews, who are not magic.Now, the Jewish population actually plays a huge part in the story, but I just want to question some of their logic here. I get that most religious followers don't ever really take a critical look at their own faith, but COME ON. They live in a world where there are literal gods and literal actual magic, but they still worship a monotheistic Abrahamic deity. One that has never been proven to actually exist.Now, I get that most religious people deal with this every day, but those people don't have the disadvantage of living in a world where it's implied that Thor himself just passed through town last month. This is just the weirdest little quirk, and I wanted to draw some attention to it.Aside from that, the book is fine. There's a lot else for me to say about it, but most of that would just be me going "hey, isn't it interesting how you can never tell who the main character is because so many people DIE?!"And then just a list of names, and despair.And we don't want that.

  • Stefan
    2019-06-15 03:51

    What happens when the magic goes away? More specifically, what happens when a small but strategically located region that has relied on its hexmasters for centuries is forced to deal with the sudden disappearance of its all-powerful magic? Simon Morden explores the answer to these questions in his new fantasy novel Arcanum.So far, Simon Morden is best known for his neo-cyberpunk trilogy-plus-one starring Samuil Petrovich. The original trilogy won the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award. I bounced off its first book Equations of Life (my review) and never went back, but decided to give Arcanum a try anyway, mainly to see how the author would handle this very different genre. Despite some reservations, I’m glad I did.Read the entire review on my site Far Beyond Reality!

  • Michelle Morrell
    2019-06-08 01:55

    Set in an alternate earth where magic has long been the substitute for technology, this novel deals with what happens when the magic is gone. It is structured like a typical high fantasy novel - rulers and serfs, magicians and mundanes - with a tinge of post-apocalyptic ferver. It started out quite strongly, but really faltered in the middle, the pacing and characterizations stopped working. I persevered, but the characters stopped feeling true (especially the 12-year-old boy with decades of sudden wisdom) and there are too many books in the sea.I don't normally count unfinished books towards my yearly total, but by God, I spent 10 days and 450 pages on giving this a try. It counts.

  • Kthaeh
    2019-06-04 04:05

    I got a few hundred pages into - more than halfway through - Arcanum before I gave it up as a lost cause. What started out as a promising high fantasy/counter factual history tale petered out into utter boredom and I just couldn't make myself continue.The basic setup is that one princedom in a quasi-medieval Europe has access to powerful magic that supports the economy and provides for absolute security without the need for a functional military - two big advantages, in other words. Additionally, the powerful magicians provide for amenities such as public waterworks and sewers, as well as clean, safe indoor lighting, freely available to everyone. All they ask is the lion's share of tax monies, absolute obedience to their dictates, privacy, and not to be bothered by any administrative burdens. A prince is left to deal with mundane concerns.The setup of course is that the magic gives out. And the prince who has never had to do much to ensure prosperity, public health, or the security of the state proves utterly incapable of leading in a crisis. Unsurprisingly, he's an incompetent with an inflated sense of his abilities and acumen. In short order he dies in battle, leaving a twelve-year-old heir to govern in that crisis. That's where the insurmountable difficulties start with this novel. No twelve-year-old, let alone a newly orphaned one with little experience of even the small amount of governance his father had to manage, is going to lead effectively through a national crisis. So yes, this is one of those stories in which the reader is expected to believe that a barely adolescent child behaves with the wisdom of a seasoned adult.And not just in matters of judgment, courage, and diplomacy. No, we're to believe that the pre-pubescent prince is romantically inclined towards a bookish woman twice his age whom he's known for only a few days. What's more, she returns his interest! And not only does he trust her with matters of state, but she's entirely worthy of such trust. Now, a twelve-year-old interested in a 24-year-old I can almost believe. A 24-year-old woman interested in a twelve-year-old boy is either utterly ridiculous or beyond creepy, and Morden obviously wasn't aiming for the latter.The story flirts with many interesting concepts, but ultimately fails to give them enough lift to make up for the plodding story line. The most interesting character in the story was (seemingly) killed off early on. Character motivations don't stand up to close examination, and the middle of the book provided no real impetus to keep reading.

  • Susan Harp
    2019-05-26 02:03

    Well-written. But I expected something amazing to justify reading 735 pages,

  • Stewart Tame
    2019-06-08 02:53

    Nice! Where most fantasy novels would have ended, this one is just hitting its stride. A tagline for this book would probably go something like, "How far would you go to preserve your way of life?" One day in Carinthia, the magic stops working. Self-powered carts and barges no longer transport goods. Lights in street lamps and buildings cease to function. The prince must raise an army and fend off invaders as hexmasters are no longer capable of destroying them at a glance. I know what you're thinking: "A society that bases its entire way of life around a nonrenewable resource? That's absurd!" This is fantasy though. Obviously this couldn't happen in real life. Anyway, it turns out that the magic can be renewed, but only at a terrible price. Most books would stop after the whole Should We Bring Back The Magic question gets resolved, but Arcanum has set its sights higher, and what happens after that point is even more interesting than what came before. This book is full of wonderful characters who have to deal with some tough questions. It's really less about the magic and the fantasy and more about nation-building. Best of all, it's one volume. Not a trilogy. Not a sprawling multi-volume epic. One book. That's it. Now how often do you see that in fantasy literature? Check it out. You'll be glad you did.

  • Marcin
    2019-05-26 00:49

    Alpine passes surrounding Carinthia's palatinate from the southern Italian warring city-states, northern hills and plains and river borders hosts of Bavarian and Vien Germanic common powers, all kept at bay by a magical shroud of invincibility offered by the Order over the people residing in Carinthia. But what happens when magic that dissuades enemies from thinking of crossing into the palatinate's lands and palatinate citizens from changing the effortless established order of business burns out? What happens when arcane element that the people depend on for daily tasks, functioning of nigh-on everything around them and their protection simply disappears. From unicorns to magic lights, the arcane gives way for the mundane. A "new" old way of life the citizens have not been following for centuries... Chaos happens, and shit... Suddenly inviolable country may fall prey to all the neighbouring more mundane-experienced countries. It can also break from inside out as the people start to realise how crippled they have become. So what happens when a daring ambitious prince gets a chance to show a big host going south that the now-faltering previously-indomitable power of Carinthia is still there and is enough to repel any attacker? You might have guessed it all shatters Carinthian reality. The help comes from book-lurking Librarians and ostracised Jewish communities in the form of both young & bold and old & wise protagonists that start to help the citizens adapt to new reality. There are obstacles of grievous, grim, in-your-face and shadowy natures, but still the good people must remain strong for the Carinthia to prevail.What makes this book interesting is the way the arcane addicted and conditioned humans are suddenly thrust into the mundane world, where one needs to work the land for food with own hands and farm animals, pull the carts, ride the horses and row the boats to transport themselves and their goods where they are needed, wield the swords and hold the shields themselves to defend against danger, use their wits to manage everything. Fortunately, there are some protagonists that answer the call for help and support during the transitions, from inner revolts, through social and economic challenges, to full scale wars. These heroes are interesting, rich and characterful, almost endearing, the setting is understandable and pretty encompassing, the plot, though somewhat linear and presumably predictable, is actually quite gripping and offers a few sudden twists that break the established schemas of epic adventures. Sure, the fate of universe, Earth or even only Europe is not actually at stake, being limited to just a small area smacked in the middle of convenient trade routes and ambitious, powerful or rich kingdoms thriving on the import/export economics, but the way that the characters see it, this small piece of continental Europe used in ancient Roman times as a hub between Italians and Germans is their whole universe and as the story unravels it is depicted as such, slowly developing with the people's common sense to show how miniscule in the grand scheme of things this actually is. The way the palatinate deals with the troubles coming from within and outside its borders shows the evolution the inhabitants still need to go through in a limited stretch of time to prevail and not be destroyed. All the ingredients of the great book recipe are there then.So what are the issues I found that led me to not give it 5 stars? There are some threads in the plot that seem almost too obvious. Then, all the neighbouring countries having something against the Carinthia are not that interested in testing the mettle of the now magic-deprived people so ripe for conquest. Surely, when others lived without magic, they must have had spies or other sources of knowledge that could easily unveil any problems the Carinthians are facing and thus making them easy target for the taking. Furthermore, when librarians slowly uncover technological advances previously forgotten or deliberately hidden by the edict of the Order on the lands of the palatinate, it seems many of the recipes, components or instrumentalities have already been known and used one way or another around, eg black powder/gunpowder used by mining specialists does not seem to have been tested as an offensive incendiary and explosive solution. While others had been restricted to knowledge in books and standard civilisation's advances that took centuries, it takes a short time for the magically conditioned backward country to not only reach their neighbours' level but leap ahead of many of them almost over night. These are, however, small plot devices that I find a bit too twisted just to suit the story development. As for technical issues of the book/writing style itself, there are quite many sentences with either modal or regular verbs lost, leaving eg. subject and past participle and reader's idea which word to use to make sense of a sentence in the context of the paragraph. Other cases are when some verbs seem to be repeated when negatives are used, eg. predominantly something like "can't he can do", "he can't can do", "he can can't do" etc. In some cases this can be almost lost between the words, but when this is a part of a character's thinking process described by Morden to explain the actions they take, plan for, or have already taken, the small differences between "after all he can't understand that" and "after all he can understand that" paint drastically distinct personas of the characters described in the book at certain key moments.So, if you can overlook such matters, this is a really good, though sometimes simplistic for heroic purposes, book that just cries for ever more depth and plot twists. There is, however, quite a potential to show more of the universe depicted therein through the eyes of the lost hexmasters and voyages of huntmasters, possibly forming other books placed in the fantasy to real history universe of Europe of Middle Ages.

  • Eric Smith
    2019-06-17 00:59

    Heroes, fools, madmen and betrayers this story has them all. Set in an alternate Europe of the past where magic was real and was part of daily life this novel tells the story of what happens when a fundamental piece of civilization collapses and leaves ordinary people to pick up the pieces. While there are some parts that feel a bit slow at times near the start they provide for good character development and serve to make it so the stakes feel more real as the story continues. The consequences for decisions for both characters both liked and hated feel real and the danger to all players on the stage is legitimate.I thought I might have only given this novel three stars but about half way through the momentum picks up and things begin to get moving pushing everything towards a well written and fairly epic conclusion so four stars it is. It is a good stand alone read despite feeling at times like it may be the start of a series and while some readers may get slowed down in the beginning it is worth the read.

  • Peter Grimbeek
    2019-05-30 07:44

    This book went along very well up to point where the author kills off the last two practitioners of magic, magic oozes out of the world, and the story line becomes a cross between a tale of scientific endeavour, a political thriller complete with spies, and an historical romance.To my mind, magic is at centre of every fantasy story, and minus the magic, this story was no longer of that genre.I was very disappointed and stopped reading not long afterwards.I've read almost everything else Simon has written (and published) and he excels in creating dystopic near and far futures. Perhaps his scientific training got in the way of the fantasising, though I would have thought stories that include highly functional AIs and highly advanced aliens (see his other work) were also fine fantasies, albeit of the scientific kind.

  • Jim Kahn
    2019-06-07 06:05

    At first this was a very compelling and enjoyable book set in a strangely realistic, gritty alternative historical setting in medieval Europe. As the book progressed however, the author abandoned all pretense of being realistic and instead detailed a series of completely implausible battle scenes, including one where a 13 year old boy with a broken collar bone and an old hunter somehow fight off a mob of hundreds. Maybe it is a personal issue, but I require a certain amount of realism in my fantasy in order to suspend belief. This book started channeling GRR Martin, and ended up thoroughly Terry Brooks. I was very disappointed, having become emotionally involved at first and then feeling obligated to slog through a completely uninspiring 400 pages to see it through.

  • Jonet
    2019-06-19 08:11

    I enjoyed this. It's a really long book, and proceeds at a much more leisurely pace than the Petrovitch series, but the story remains compelling from beginning to end. There are a few minor pacing issues, but the battle scenes are very well done and the characters are very believable.It's more alternate history than high fantasy, and it's a great change of pace from the standard "merry band of heroes get together and go on a quest to save the world".

  • Mark Kearney
    2019-06-04 04:53

    Really grew on me this book, would give it 4 1/2 stars if I could, not quite unputdownable but a really good read

  • Benjamin Kahn
    2019-06-19 04:55

    Gee - a great book up to when the last two hexmasters die. I was really enjoying it. Then it kind of lost its way. A lot of boring debates between characters. The whole meeting of Buber and the dwarf king made no sense to me, nor did the dwarves suddenly rising up and deciding to invade other lands basically because they were growing and were suddenly uncomfortable under the mountains. The characters became a little too much - Buber became unstoppable, Sophia goes from being a sheltered daughter to a great warrior, tactician and leader, Felix becomes a man of the people - I was actually rooting for his death at one point. And the tacked-on romance between Sophia and Buber at the end seemed very contrived. And they can't seem to find anybody to complete any of the tasks but the handful of characters we already know. Who should build the fortifications to repel an attack? Should we get a builder liked we mentioned in a previous chapter? No, let's just get Buber, the old woodsman. Surely he knows a lot about building! Based on his resume of fighting magical creatures in the woods, who would know better? Who better than the princess consort to walk into a waterfront bar to recruit a crew of sailors? And when those sailors who have worked on a barge their whole lives can't operate it without magic, who but a former apprentice librarian would you choose to take charge of the boat?Are there no other qualified people in the whole country?Morden quickly abandons several plot lines that looked promising - Nikoleta and Buber are banished ... Wait! They're forgiven! Nikoleta is the only one still able to practice magic. Will she be a threat to Felix and the kingdom? I don't know, let's just kill her. Allegretti is manipulating the young prince? No, he quickly comes out as a traitor and is killed as collateral damage in the battle between the two magicians. All these twists that look like they could be interesting are summarily dismissed.The second half of the book also is a little too chock-a-block with serendipitous outcomes. City's water doesn't flow? Hey, we just happen to have a fully-functioning old Roman water system buried under the city. Badly outnumbered by huge dwarven armies? The dwarves gave us gunpowder! And we just happen to have an ex-sorcerer who knows how to make more! And a smith who's looking for a challenge!The whole dwarf army is ridiculous. Their decision to attack, all the time they spend building vehicles which are eventually useless and more of a hindrance than anything, the fact that despite their superior numbers, they can't even make a dent in the Carinthian ranks. The vehicles themselves - here is a race of people who have spend their whole life underground working with stone and metal. They've started growing and now they are clumsier and their vision is noticeably weaker - but all of a sudden, they are master carpenters and woodworkers? It just didn't make any sense. I didn't buy it. And the clumsy trap that they tried to spring on Felix with the box was ridiculous.I also found it strange that for all the talk but the regular Carinthian citizens about how strange the Jews are for only having one god, there is almost no talk about the Carinthians engaging in any kind of religious observance. No priests at the prince's funeral, no pre-battle prayer - the Carinthians may find the Jews strange, but they don't really see to follow any strong beliefs of their own. All that said, I did find the first half of the book very enjoyable. I liked the characters initially. I thought the battle with the Teutons was great. I loved the opening scene with the giants - too bad this wasn't really developed at all. I liked the idea of one sorceress with magic still - and very powerful magic. I would have loved it if Morden had built on these instead of just letting them drop. Why does she still have magic? What will she do with it? These were more interesting questions then where he eventually ends up going. And the "the bridge exists because people believe in it" might have been interesting if hehad continued with that instead of letting it go by the wayside.Ultimately, half a great book, half an annoying one. So I give it a 3/5 - straight down the middle.

  • Agnes Conway
    2019-06-15 06:10

    The writing was good, but the story itself didn't work for me. (view spoiler)[I thought the female sorcerer would be a main character, then she's killed by someone who'd shown no sign of being a killer beforehand, an usher in the library. And how did he get into the White Tower? There was a battle raging between two sorcerers and he suddenly appears, unscathed, through all the fireballs? (hide spoiler)]The action takes place in Austria, and one set of characters is Jewish, which leads to a lot of unhappy mental foreshadowing - here they are saving everyone, and in the back of your mind a little voice is saying "it's all pointless, all their descendants will die in the Holocaust". It would have worked better IMO if there'd been an imaginary tribe who didn't use magic.(view spoiler)[The character of Sophia was very irritating - one day she's an unmarried 24-year-year-old housewife, the next she's running the whole country, with absolutely no explanation for how she got there, beyond someone happening to mention in the pub that princes aren't like us, they can marry whoever they like and she's now the (12-year-old) prince's consort. She can do everything, it turns out - brilliant strategist, manages the treasury, is a natural with a sword, inspires people to fight, can manipulate people, can read ten languages, and this all transpires over the course of four or five days. Is there no end to her talents? Evidently not.(hide spoiler)]The general population turn from ordinary hard-working peasants and craftspeople to savages willing to have their neighbours eaten within the space of a few days. Unable to suspend my disbelief any longer, I abandoned the book at 75%

  • John
    2019-06-08 05:51

    I feel terrible giving this author a 1 star .. god it was a tedious read. I literally skipped at least 1/4 of the pages, possibly a lot more. I finished it only due to author loyalty. No chance in hell will I go for a second book if a series develops. Magic fails and people discover gravity and many other tedious sciencie things, in long boring, not much relevant to the story tediousness. Book was VERY boring with short bits of interest. You also have to skip over the fact 12 yr old kids can be super swordsmen and have the wisdom of experienced world leaders. pros - I did like the way main characters were casually killed without drama .. very pulp fiction-esk :)

  • William Dains
    2019-06-12 05:04

    Like many of the reviews before me, I absolutely loved the beginning of this book. It looked as if it was going to be an epic book about unicorns, and magic, and war. but pretty abruptly in the middle, it goes from an epic story, to a boring monologue. I'm all for Fantasy books that stray into other genres, like science fiction. but this story goes from fantasy, to a boring attempt at a nonfiction.

  • David O'Brien
    2019-06-25 02:06

    The perfect read for anybody who wants to read themselves into a coma. I managed to get a little more than half-way before I gave up with an enormous yawn and moved on to something that might actually engage me. No issues with the writing, structure, quality - it was just so bloody boring.

  • Terri Lyons
    2019-06-11 06:11

    So much possibility, such a waste!

  • Donald
    2019-06-12 02:06

    2.5 stars on this one, have enjoyed his other stuff more than this one.

  • Charlotte
    2019-05-27 03:50

    Morden’s Arcanum is a story of magic, power, and politics set in a fictional version of Carinthia. In this Carinthia, there is not only magic – hello epic fantasy – but also hexmasters, who wield said magic while aggressively dominating the political and martial landscape. (They also dominate the ‘creepiness’ category, but that’s a different story for a different day and, arguably, a different blog. I am, after all, a professional, and would not presume to comment on such a disreputable category).It’s a story of power plays and intrigue, with a well-defined, well-established setting that has all the hallmarks of a fantasy novel – including but not limited to the occasional wayward unicorn, usually dead – and is a worthy contribution to the genre. It’s also well-structured, a very interesting read, and, last but not least, plays host to a number of impressively varied heroes, from a young Jewish girl to a scarred, jaded huntsman, without ever drawing seriously upon the bog-standard ‘tough guy’ persona.There’s a lot of it – Arcanum is a large text – but at no point does it feel tedious, even if holding it up did make my wrist ache, and I don’t have weak wrists.(Generally)Plot:At the beginning of Arcanum, a bunch of things happen. Most importantly, however – or, at least, most importantly from the perspective of the snappy little summary I’m about to provide you with, you lucky thing – magic vanishes, and, slowly but surely, it becomes obvious just how dependent Carinthia is on magic, as the entire Kingdom essentially grinds to a halt (including the library, which becomes the most significant problem, an aspect of the novel that pleased me greatly). The rest of the novel is then concerned with ‘what happens next, and the equally slow return to order, as orchestrated by the three aforementioned heroes (okay, so it’s not as snappy as it could be, but I think it works).This isn’t a fast-paced novel, but that is to its benefit. Each scene is given just enough time for it to seem significant to the story and to the characters, and the action scenes, which are, arguably, extremely well-structured, are not prioritised over the equally important emotional scenes that are often pivotal in regards to character development, which can be rare when one is dealing with epic fantasy. Additionally, those scenes are varied in nature, structure, and length, and the level of detail applied to each ensures that they never grow tedious.In fact, the same can be said for the novel in entirety, as it is a long read, but is a long, intriguing read comprised of several interlocking plot threads, all of which operate independently, but with clear links to the central narrative. It keeps the reader interested, keeps the story moving, and ensures that instead of one main character dominating, well, everything, there are many (who take turns. Perhaps they need a rota).Characters:This is undoubtedly an epic fantasy novel – well, Amazon agrees with me, and I’m inclined to agree with Amazon, the source of all knowledge when I was purchasing the books I needed for university – but one of the main characters is female, Jewish, and – now here’s the real shocker, so brace yourself – mortal. To generalise hugely – sorry – the female characters that turn up in epic fantasy novels are often magical or otherwise unusual, and are usually singularly attractive. But Sophia is human, completely involved in the human world around her, and is respected not for any alleged beauty, but because of her strength, intelligence, and bravery.(If there’s a fan club, count me in).Alongside Sophia stars Peter Büber, the scarred huntsman who has lost several fingers, and who exhibits, on several occasions, insecurities in regards to his appearance and himself in general, and Thaler, a librarian with an eye for inventiveness and who prefers books to, well, everything. At first glance, this is a markedly unusual group, and given that the novel doesn’t involve Thaler magically developing the ability to use a sword, or Büber excelling at anything and everything – his illiteracy is an important plot point on more than one occasion – alongside obtaining the interest of every woman in a fifty mile radius – even more so.Final thoughts:I was surprised by Arcanum. I hadn’t heard of Simon Morden before I read it – and I purchased it pretty much on a whim, because I tend to make somewhat erratic decisions when books of the new variety are involved – and I discovered about ten pages in, that I had definitely been missing out. Now that I’ve finished Arcanum, I’m looking into getting my (greedy) hands on several more of Morden’s books.To conclude: I highly recommend Arcanum for any and every fan of epic fantasy and/or anything featuring a Kingdom and unicorns.

  • Eric
    2019-06-22 03:47

    3.25 starsShort version: Pretty good book, interesting setting, diverse set of characters that the author is not afraid of killing off a la George R.R. Martin style. Decent action, although it did drag a fair bit. Which is really my biggest complaint about this whole book. It should have been split into two, or perhaps three. 735 large sized pages and it really feels like it. Not a bad choice of book to pick up if pacing isn't a pet peeve, but if it is then you'll likely hate it. There will be unavoidable spoilers in the long version. Fair warningLong Version: I really enjoyed the setting of a kind of Middle Ages European timeframe, but one in which magic, mythological beasts, and races like elves and dwarves existed. Not necessarily a new idea, but one which hasn't been over saturated in the way urban fantasy has. Unfortunately the beasts and fantasy races sort of fall by the wayside. Giants make two brief appearances, we hear about unicorns and dragons but never see them, and we see only one elf(changeling?). Mages, or hexmasters as they're called here, are important for the first part of the book, but are later ignored albeit for perfectly valid reasons. This brings me to one of my two major gripes about the book. The world of Arcanum, especially our host country of Carinthia, relies of magic for important things like water circulation, plumbing, lighting, food, moving of goods, etc. Or so we are told at any rate. We see very little of this ourselves. The magic fails early on and and so it never feels like it has the impact that we're constantly told it does. I would have loved to see this expanded as it becomes a reason for why this little corner of the world suddenly goes to hell(or should I say Hel?) in a handbasket, but it gets lost in the background noise almost immediately and is only brought out to remind everyone why what's happening is happening.On the flip side I really enjoyed the characters and their development, of whom Thaler is my favorite. They all develop realistically throughout the story and is one of the high points of the entire book. Not many authors can make me truly care about characters, but Simon Modern has done just that.Now back to one of the things that bothered me. Arcanum should have been a series split into or 3 books, not one long book. And it is a long book, make me no mistake. While it is 735 pages, which is not unheard of in fantasy, those pages arelarge with normal sized text. This makes for a long story, which feels long and drawn out rather than simply epic in scale. There are a lot of times where the book just drags on while you wait for the next interesting thing to happen, of which there were admittedly many. Thaler and Morganstern figuring out that Aristotle was wrong. The moment that they realize the last hexmaster has truly gone and lost his marbles and wants to sacrifice everybody. Just everybody. The discovery of the Roman/dwarven machinery beneath Carinthia's fortress. Buber's meeting with the king of the dwarves. These are all awesome. Unfortunately they are also few and far between. The pacing just feels like it should have been three separate books worked on apart from one another to fine tune the story. Book 1: The world has magic, but tensions with the Hexmasters still exist. Expand upon the world as everyone is used to it rather than rushing towards the cataclysm. Put that at the end of book 1. Book 2: Carinthia must learn to survive without magic while its neighbors eye it like a juicy morsel to be snapped up. Book 3: The damn dwarves.I know I've nitpicked the hell out of this book, but only because I see the potential greatness in it. There are a lot of things that this book does right. The characters are fantastic and the setting fits it to a T. There are also some things I did not enjoy. The book drags a lot in parts while rushing over aspects that could have been, pardon the pun, magical. With some proper pacing and sufficient background information (show, don't tell) this easily could have been a simply fantastic book. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of Simon Morden's work in the future.

  • Brian Palmer
    2019-06-25 03:49

    I read this in paper, a surprisingly dauntingly thick book, which could easily have been split into multiple volumes. After I read the first section, I thought the book was going to be great; but in the end, the collection was less than the sum of its parts. But, on the other hand, I didn't finish all the parts, so it might have been brought around. (I was borrowing the book, and simply ran out of time, in the wake of losing my enthusiasm for it).It's set in a world magic has failed or is failing; the kingdom had managed to, in the past, be in a position of unassailable privilege, due to its impossibly powerful mages who not-so-secretly control the entire country and deal violently with external threats, while providing the infrastructure for a rich internal economy. Without them, the society and the royal households are forced to take responsibility and struggle in a much darker world. On the other hand, the low were raised high; the Jewish ghetto -- which had built a society using much less magic than the privileged goyim about them -- became leaders and had the chance to demonstrate their worth to their countrymen.In other hands, this could easily be read as a French revolution style inversion of power, but this felt influenced by the dark-and-gritty that's in fashion in fantasy, as it turned into a spy thriller of people doing unpleasant things. Unfortunately, the unpleasant things caused me to put the book aside and read it only sporadically.

  • Lushr
    2019-06-11 07:57

    I don't read fantasy. But I do read Simon Morden, hes a master of storytelling of creating fascinating characters in amazing situations. It is always compelling reading. Take Thaler the under librarian who suddenly finds himself having to get a whole city on it's feet. Or Sophia, who tries to look out for her Jewish kin and ends up the most sensible, most practical and most brave person in the entire city and therefore just about in charge of everything.The world is one where the Romans were defeated around Caesars time? This is about a thousand years later and the Bavarians and a bunch of other little kingdoms spread across Europe. And there is magic, and the magic is disappearing. I don't know anything about European history and didn't need to to understand and enjoy the book, from the intro I thought I'd get lots of characters mixed up but it's actually quite clearly written and you know exactly where you are with each scene.This thousand page long title came along just as I was about to travel overseas and needed something to sink my teeth into. Simon does not plan a plot and does not need to, he creates a very realistic world with people of realistic sensibilities and lets things run their course in very interesting times. This book is actually better than the Petrovich series because all the characters are so well rounded, so interesting.This is also very easy to read, very easy to get into. While frequently thrilling and fascinating.

  • Ruth
    2019-06-09 04:44

    c2014 FWFTB: magic, dying, chaos, hexmasters, battlefields. Reading this book reminded me of teenagers trying on various personality styles until they reach their 'own' selves. I felt that the story could not quite make up its mind about what it actually was. We have a bit of alternate history, some epic fantasy tropes and then almost an alternative dystopian section. There are magicians, dwarves, giants and then Jews. There were some garbled examinations of racism, apartheid, genocide - all while our heroes careered from one disaster to another. Despite the wordiness of the novel, I did not actually like or understand any of the characters other then Buber. And then we have Felix who is 12 with a consort who is in her late twenties...not so sure about that bit either. The Guardian stated that it is 'a plot that keeps the reader guessing' and I think that this could be interpreted in two ways. I certainly was left guessing and for that reason, sadly, I am unable to recommend to the normal crew. "This is no place for, well, anyone. As you say, here we all are, but some of us are not here by choice. You should really go home, Miss Morgenstern.

  • Pavlo Tverdokhlib
    2019-06-18 07:58

    It's a very slow-burning book. The genre is alternative history. The premise is: Christianity never happened, and Earth had magic. The Roman Empire was destroyed by Germans wielding powerful magic. Then Feudal Europe happened, and most of the world's magic ended up concentrated in a small German mountainous state of Carinthia, which for several centuries prospered in peace due to its wondrous magitech and the powerful sorcerers it could cal upon to defend itself. And then the magic suddenly goes away. "Arcanum" is less about the fantasy than it is about change. It's about how living at a time of momentous changes allows all kinds of misfits to achieve greatness. When all of a sudden it no longer matter where you come from anyone with merit can achieve great things. The story is properly more tragedy than anything else, it certainly isn't a happy tale. Morden portrays human virtues and human vices, all driven to the extreme by changing circumstances. It's not a great literary work, but it certainly is an interesting one.

  • Rachel
    2019-06-23 03:10

    I wish I could give this book 5-stars.The characters are well developed and layered. Arcanum contains some wholly original plot devices and unfolds with a number of masterfully crafted turns.Unfortunately, the book has issues with pacing. As other reviewers have discussed, the uneven pacing and sometimes distracted tangents make Arcadium a challenging book to sink right into.Ideally, the editing team should take another look at Arcanum because there is a lot that’s really good with this book. However, the reading experience would be more comfortable to digest with some tighter editing and also separating the story into two different installations. Since there are some major plot developments in Arcanum that happen off-page as it were, I would also recommend a novella devoted to the Peter and Nicoletta’s time in the wild.

  • Dave Russell
    2019-06-25 06:00

    I really like this author. I discovered him by reading the Samuil Petrovich triliogy which is cyberpunk writ large. Arcanum is a swords and sorcery fantasy set on an alternate history Earth. The geography is familiar as is much of the history up until the time that Rome invaded Germania when everything thing began to change. If you're a fantasy fan, you'll "recognize" the characters. However, Simon Morden does a great job with his character development with a bit of humor and some real surprises along the way. This appears to be a stand alone novel which to my mind in this day of never ending sequels is kind of refreshing. That having been said, one can never tell what the future holds. Give this book a try and you'll be hooked on Simon Morden.

  • Fainne J. Firmin
    2019-06-11 07:14

    This book started out fantastic. I loved the first half of it - the plot and the character dynamics were gripping. I could hardly put the book down.And then I hit the middle. The main conflict was, technically, done. I didn't see why the book kept going. It was followed by a second conflict that made it seem like the author just didn't want the book to end. There were deaths that didn't need to happen, and technology advanced way to quickly. They were relying on magic - within a few months they were not about to have super powerful telescopes and running water and cannons. So while it was well written, and I loved the world built, it went on to long. I'm a big fan of alternate history, but this book fell short of expectations halfway through.