The Tangled Lands, Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

A 4*

“Magic has a price.”

The Tangled Lands is a recollection of four different novellas The Executioness, The Alchemist, The Children of Khaim and The Blacksmith’s Daughter. Two of them are written by Tobias S. Buckell, the other two by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Each of the four novellas is unique, telling its own tale. But all of them are a part of a bigger story. The world where magic is available to all but has its dark consequences as the world is engulfed by the bramble that feeds on magic. We see the same character pass in all the tales, The Jolly Mayor, Majister Scacz, etc., but each of the novellas could be a stand-alone tale.

The writing styles vary from tale to tale and from author to author. P.Bacgigalupi’s novellas are slowly-build, while T.S.Buckell’s ones have more action in them.

But each one of them has incredible characters, heroes in Khaim constructed from ordinary men and women, thrown into a difficult life from which they rise up to the challenge. They are not your usual heroes who get everything they want, but people who suffer and manage to keep doing what they see right.

T.S.Buckell uses strong female characters. Women from everyday life. A daughter of an executioner and a daughter of a blacksmith. Molded by suffering and loss. Rising to the challenge to set things right even if it kills them, even if it means killing those who stand in their way.

The world we are thrown into is dark, with people suffering under the tyranny of The Jolly Mayor and Majister Scacz and living in constant fear of the paralyzing sleep induced by any sting from the bramble. It is somber and hopeless, full of people’s suffering. But it is easy to understand and relate to, while every person fends for him/herself.

The story is slow-paced, dragging over the pages. T.S.Buckell and P.Bacgigalupi do not develop the world to its extent, not giving us closure to these tales. It feels more of a prequel to another book (or series) and maybe it will be.

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