This comes out in January, according to the title page, and man, are you guys jealous of me.
This is the long-awaited sequel to The Iron Dragon's Daughter, which I haven't read since it came out, and now really feel I must reread.
This is an award-quality novel, in my not so humble opinion, and reading it was really interesting because I wasn't sure of that until the very end. Because Swanwick has absolutely mastered something, in this book, that he's been working at for a long time. Which is to say, it's an apparent picaresque, a seemingly random series of events--at one point, I was shaking my head and going "Sure, this is lovely, and amusing, and the cool shit quotient here is incredibly high--but does any of this have a point?"
And in short? Yes, it does. It pays off in social commentary, character development, and a thematic argument that I'm going to be thinking about for a while. Also, it's a total pillorying of some of the standardest of standard fantasy tropes, the quest fantasy and the farmboy-makes-good tale, with a couple of codwhallops for good measure, and a little painful examination of class and political issues.
In addition, it's fun. And it's got a cryptic caper plot. Man, am I glad Undertow has a four-month lead on this sucker. And that's all I'm saying about that.
My only real complaint is: sometimes he loses me on the transitions--people appear and disappear in scenes , and sometimes I was like "Whoa, where did X leave the building?" and there's a lack of female characters, except in roles that center on the male protagonist: daughter, lover, mentor, etc. But since I know something about the end of The Iron Dragon's Daughter that I won't spoil here, and this book takes place in the same mileau, I'll just leave it as making perfect sense on a meta-level that everything and everyone in the book revolves around the protagonist in an odd iterative fashion, and sometimes things are a tad disjointed.
But yes, for those of you who know the spoiler, it's that same kind of patterning, though the outcome is completely different from that in the first book.
Also, there are short random appearances by characters with rather familiar names, including a sardonic swordfighting instructor. Whose identity I will not reveal here, because when I saw the name on the page, I blinked, read it twice, and then crowed aloud and fired off three delighted emails. *g*
Swanwick's Iron Dragons are still in the five best dragons anywhere, and my only wish is that they were in the book more in person, and less as a metaphor. (I also love Diane Duane's dragons in The Door into Shadow. I love good dragons, and dragons are so very rarely done well.)
I am going to be recommending this one to skzbrust and truepenny, especially as the plotting style reminds me very much of the sort of thing they do so well.
Also? jaylake? I thought you should know: Unca Mike has just totally raised the coolness bar on all of us.
In short, I wasn't sure I loved this book until I read the last page, and now I am sure. I love it a lot.