It took me a long while to really get into this book. It's the first of a trilogy (the final book is out November 20, 2014) which might be why there was so much setting up. So much info dump. So much "back during the war". At times it was a bit of a slog - thank God Richard Morgan creates interesting characters and can write a nice turn of phrase or I'd have probably DNF'ed it.
But I didn't.
I was intrigued by all 3 of the main characters. The blurb from Richard Morgan's website describes them perfectly:
Ringil, the hero of the bloody slaughter at Gallows Gap is a legend to all who don’t know him and a twisted degenerate to those that do. A veteran of the wars against the lizards he makes a living from telling credulous travellers of his exploits. Until one day he is pulled away from his life and into the depths of the Empire’s slave trade. Where he will discover a secret infinitely more frightening than the trade in lives.
Archeth – pragmatist, cynic and engineer, the last of her race – is called from her work at the whim of the most powerful man in the Empire and sent to its farthest reaches to investigate a demonic incursion against the Empire’s borders.
Egar Dragonbane, steppe-nomad, one-time fighter for the Empire finds himself entangled in a small-town battle between common sense and religious fervour. But out in the wider world there is something on the move far more alien than any of his tribe’s petty gods.
Anti-social, anti-heroic, and decidedly irritated, all three of them are about to be sent unwillingly forth into a vicious, vigorous and thoroughly unsuspecting fantasy world. Called upon by an Empire that owes them everything and gave them nothing.
Thanks to these 3 I kept reading and for the last quarter of the book I could not put it down. Things finally began to hang together. There was far less telling of things and much more doing. Hopefully, all the meandering we did in the first 3/4s of the book will prove to be more important in Books 2 & 3, especially all the set-up of Ringil's family, his place in it, their society and more about the lizards and The War.
The last oh... 4 or 5 chapters were fascinating. Ringil especially blossomed as an intricate character for me. I love his darkness. Yeah, he was dark in the beginning, but by the end of The Steel Remains, he was positively MOONLESS MIDNIGHT.
A small but important thing that I never got an answer/explanation for was how Archeth's weapons came to be named and why. I do hope we learn more about her antecedents in the following 2 books.
So, while it didn't blow me away, The Steel Remains finished on a high note for me and I will pick up Book 2 at some point.