WARNING: THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
On paper, everything about ‘The Steel Remains’ screamed out at me as a must read and potential new favourite book. Graphic violence and sex, dark gritty characters who fall outside of the regular ‘hero’ slot, and epic world-building brimming with potential lore. However, I was massively disappointed, so much so that I didn’t even manage to finish.
I’ve been trying to work out what it is that just didn’t click with me for ‘The Steel Remains’ because there was a lot in the book I actually really liked. I love the character of Ringil, a cynical world-weary, former solider, sarcastic, and insightful and most importantly, flawed. He also happens to be gay, by which I mean unlike so many other characters who are homosexual, his orientation, whilst obviously being a key part of his character, doesn’t dominate his character. It’s so refreshing to have a character like that who, like I said, happens to be gay, rather than just IS gay.
Likewise, for most of the book, I enjoyed following Ringil as he returned home after many years away, having to deal with the conflicts and such which arise as a result. Unfortunately, the other characters and their stories where nowhere near as engaging. I really didn’t care about either of the other two parallel stories or the protagonists in them until late into the book. They just didn’t interest me at all, and even when it returned back to Ringil’s story, that wasn’t enough to help it.
I did push through this however, and those complaints started to fade away a little, until Ringil was taken by the Dwenda (a sort of evolved being almost like a demi-god). I was giving ‘The Steel Remains’ a lot of the benefit of the doubt and assuming that it was just a slow burn, that all the stories would start to pick up pace as the stakes were revealed and heightened. However, once Ringil was abducted, the pace of the book just got slower and slower, becoming really difficult to stay engaged with. In the end, I just put it down and haven’t picked it up since.
Overall, there is a lot to like in the book in term of the well-rounded range of characters, and I can fully see why a lot of people enjoy it. I will probably attempt to come back to it and try reading it again in the future, but for the time being I came away feeling very disappointed.