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The Straits of Galahesh: Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya

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  • Posted April 10, 2013

    When I read the first book of the Lays of Anuskaya, The Winds of

    When I read the first book of the Lays of Anuskaya, The Winds of Khalakovo, I was struck by the authors world-building skills, first and foremost. The influences taken from our world were not the typical medieval European flare, but were more fitting for the Silk Road trade route during the time of the Great Game in the late nineteenth century. I loved the blend of Russian and Islamic cultural influences as well as the use of gunpowder technology. I enjoyed that Mr. Beaulieu could use such a technology and not have the whole story leave the realm of Fantasy and become a steampunk novel. I like the characters he gave to his readers but at the time I didn’t become overly attached to them, except perhaps Rehada. My biggest compliant was a lack of full disclosure. I felt that so much of this lush world was being held back by a story that wasn’t fleshing out as it should be. As if there were blinders on the side of my head keeping out the rest of the world. Due to the gracious nature of Mr. Beaulieu I was able to read his second book, The Straits of Galahesh. My earlier complaints have been dealt with. I stated that the characters, while likable, had never given me much to become attached to them. That changed with this publication. Nikandr, who was kind of wishy-washy before, has become a hard man of principle. He possesses his own moral compass and becomes a bridge, unwanted at times, between the Maharraht and the Landed (people from Anuskaya) they despise so much. His captain skills are well tested in this novel, giving him the more heroic air of master and commander of his vessel. Atiana, who before was only head strong, actually became strong. Her skills at taking the dark, a sort of out body technique that allows one to manipulate worldly events, becomes as great as Nikandr’s mother, Saphia. Her willingness to put herself in danger gives her a self sacrificing nobility. She thinks fast and charges faster. She becomes a true threat to her enemies and asset to her allies, which explains why devious powers within the story try to use her to their advantage. Nasim, who was a disturbed untalkative boy and therefore was more of a prop in the first installment, has become a young man exploring his power and destiny. Nasim wages a long and complicated intellectual and spiritual battle with the two remaining Al-Aqim, Muqallad and Sariya, who are semi-immortal beings attempting to force upon the world enlightenment, this is actually not a good thing. Nasim also drives himself to find answers to his connection to Khamal, the third Al-Aqim, which in part is found within a group of cursed children turned into demon like creatures. Doing this while trying to stop the other Al-Aqim paints him as an intellectual hero, who pits his life as well as his sanity against the powers of the Al-Aqim. In this second volume the world of Anuskaya is expanded, it covers a much larger territory and introduces more players for the stage Mr. Beaulieu has created. There is a large empire, Yrstanla, that lies to the west of the Islands of the Grand Duchy. Imagine a Russian culture on multiple small islands similar to Iceland having to face down an Ottoman Turk like empire based on the mainland. Yrstanla mirrors such a Turkic Empire, in that it is organized well and has great technology at it’s disposal. It possesses Janissaries, which like the Ottoman version, are highly organized and of one mind, as opposed to the Grand Duchy whose troops come from the different houses of the islands. It possesses more windships, more guns and more people then Anuskaya does. They pose a great threat to Nikandr and Atiana’s homeland. There is also more information given concerning the Maharraht, what their motivations are beside a hate for the Landed, as well as identifying different factions with in their ranks. The Aramahn people, whom make up the members of the terrorist group the Maharraht, believe that people are capable of attaining a state of enlightenment they call indaraqiram. Most peace loving Aramahn believe that this is an individual journey, while others, like the members of the Maharraht believe that all of the world could undergo this transformation, even if forced. Members of the Maharraht are forced to choose between supporting the Al-Aqim, who are/were Aramahn, or taking the sides against them. Helping them reach a decision is one of Nikandr’s most trying tasks. The Al-Aqim are really a new aspect to consider. While they were introduced in The Winds of Khalakovo, their importance to the story was not clear. In The Straits of Galahesh they become the main enemy of all things living. The Al-Aqim, including Khamal, are responsible for the state of the world. The rifts that are identified in the first book which are causing disease and famine are a botched attempt at an experimental religious ritual they initiated centuries ago. This ritual was to bring the whole world into the state of indaraqiram. Muqallad and Sariya, newly escaped from the island prison Khamal left them in, insist on finishing what they started, which will destroy everything.  The main focus of this second installment is to stop the Al-Aqim from finishing their experiment. Muqallad and Sariya manipulate the kingdoms to achieve their goals and it falls to Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim to stop them from doing so. The way they can do this it to keep the last piece of a powerful stone, called Atalayina, out of the Al-Aqim’s hands, but they have to do this in the middle of a war that has started between Anuskaya and Yrstanla. Amidst air battles with cannons and elemental magic these three separated heros must find a way to end up at the same place and time as Muqallad and Sariya. In The Winds of Khalakovo there were plenty of blood pumping battles taking place, between airships and musketeers. I found this style of combat refreshing for the fantasy genre, and was very pleased to see that Mr. Beaulieu added even more in The Straits of Galahesh. This time the battles are bigger, more encompassing, and more exciting. One of the main reasons for this is not just the windships and the descriptive nature of Beaulieu’s writing, but the fact that all of his characters are vulnerable. Each of these heros could die, each has fears and weaknesses, they are not the perfect warriors. Atiana tends to be too smart for her own good, over thinking some things. This leads to her falling for traps set by Sariya. Nikandr is always too trusting, putting himself and many of his crew in the hands of potential enemies. Granted, Nikandr does all this in the name of peace, but the risks still seem foolish. Nasim struggles with his confidence. He doubts himself when faced with questions posed by Muqallad. He second guesses his closest allies and places rifts between himself and them at the worst possible times. With each conflict I began to wonder if these scattered heros would survive. Not to mention that the elemental magic featured in the first book is used once again with great effect, giving many of the characters an almost Last Airbender feel and upping the danger factor. The ability Mr. Beaulieu has to convince you that he might kill off his leading roles helps make for good reading. The Winds of Khalakovo kept the reader on the Islands of the Grand Duchy, never letting you see beyond the sea that surrounds them. The Straits of Galahesh open up that closed door to reveal a more detailed world. Mr. Beaulieu planned this world unveiling well by wetting your appetite with the first book and then providing a much bigger sequel, for the gravity of the conflict becomes greater with a larger world on the line. I am very pleased to have continued reading this imaginative new series and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good rich fantasy world. I think a few steampunk fans might like it as well. Also, like any good fantasy series, you can’t start with the second book. So, If you have n

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  • Posted June 2, 2012

    Epic, rich, riveting novel with top-notch worldbuilding

    I just finished reading The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu for the second time. Wow, I love this book. It's the second novel in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy and is epic fantasy at its finest. The Winds of Khalakovo, book one, was awesome, and this one (set five years later) is even better.

    This series is a cross between George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (you know HBO's Game of Thrones, right?), and Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series, but with a Czarist Russian flavor.

    I really enjoyed the sword fights, ship-to-ship canon battles, and all the gunfire--with muskets of course. There is also a Persian influence (The Aramahn) and in this book we get a Turkish-like culture, led by the Kamarisi (the emperor), who is the most powerful man in the world, and is the overlord of the freezing, windswept islands where the Anuskayan (Russian) culture lives.

    The Kamarisi is going to crush the islanders and take over, unless the heroes are able to find a way to prevent war. There is also the problem of the wasting disease and the rifts that are opening all over the world, slowing destroying it and threatening the ley line trade routes that the windships use to navigate from island to island.

    The worldbuilding is top-notch, and the strength of the setting really anchors the book and makes it feel real. The characterization seals the deal, and I was swept up in the turbulent winds that blast through this novel leading to an epic conclusion that left me wide-mouthed and in awe.

    Few finales are as remarkable as in Straits. Beaulieu (pronounced: bowl-yer) writes three character threads and they come together brilliantly and go in unexpected directions. There is a serious body count in this book, and no one is safe. The large cast of secondary characters is painted expertly, making you care, then they are . . . well, killed off with gusto. Sigh.

    All the action keeps you riveted to the rich, detailed, and unfolding storyline, and the fascinating world. As the book goes forward the confrontation between the Kamarisi, the Anuskayan islanders and their windships, the powerful Sariya and Muqallad who are trying to tear open the rifts, and our protagonists, Nikandr, Atiana, and
    Nasim build and build until the mystery of the rifts and the antagonists plans are slowly revealed.

    This is an expansive story told through the eyes of three main characters. Nikandr Khalakovo, heir to the Duchy of Khalakovo is one. Atiana Vostromo, a strong woman and princess who will do anything to save her people, even if it means sacrificing her love for Nikandr, and Nasim, a teenage boy who is the reincarnation of a man who once wanted to bring about the destruction of the world.

    Paul Genesse
    Author of the Iron Dragon Series and editor of the Crimson Pact series

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  • Posted April 23, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    I liked Winds of Khalakovo (book one of this series), but it had

    I liked Winds of Khalakovo (book one of this series), but it had its blemishes. I was very pleased that Beaulieu learned from them, and that the Straits of Galahesh shows his growth as an author. I could find only a minor quibble to complain about with book two.

    I really liked the Straits of Galahesh (I bought additional copies to give to friends). I think it is one of the most enjoyable epic fantasy I have read in a while, and that is saying something.

    The book has wonderfully developed characters that I became invested in. It has an interesting and detailed world full of interesting lands, people, and a well developed magic system. I found the dialogue to be very well written.

    And did I mention there is a LOT of action in the book? Once things get going, Beaulieu really keeps you on the edge of your seat with political intrigue, danger, and a lot of battles and encounters. It kept me up late reading even though I needed to get up the next morning.

    He also really keeps you guessing. I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns, and there were a lot of times I never saw things coming. How many times have you read an epic fantasy lately and have been able to say that? This alone really makes this book worth reading.

    Another thing this book gets right is giving us sufficient information about the politics and the people involved so you understand who they are, and their motivation. And the motivations are grey, not black and white. You get to see the various points of view and how the different sides believe they are in the right. A think the behaviour of some of the characters may surprise you.

    One thing I really like about this book is the freshness and originality. Instead of being set in a western European inspired world, Beaulieu has based his world on an Russian inspired culture. Rather than arrows and sailing ships, he has ships that sail through the air as well as flintlock rifles and cannons. And this is just the starting point. I think you will find the magic system and how the battles play out very original as well.


    If you are a fan of George R. R. Martin's a Game of Thrones, you might like this series. You have an epic story, detailed world full of magic and complex people, multiple points of view (3 of them), politics, and lots of action. Also, no character in the novel is safe. Personally, I think this series has the strengths of the Song of Ice and Fire series, but not the weaknesses.


    I believe if the large book chains displayed the Straits of Galahesh prominently and promoted it, it could be a huge success. The book deserves it and will be so if people would just give it a try.

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    Posted May 7, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012

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