Genre: (High) Fantasy
Warnings: Quality Snark, Mutilation, Death
"Eye of the North Wind" is the story of several entertaining characters living in the land of Immortal Linberry. You start off following Sir Boors, the steward of the kingdom, who seems to stumble from one scheme to the next while always just barely keeping his head above water. However the bulk of the action takes place while you follow Sangor, a canny sword-for-hire past his prime who is making his last attempt to enter the elite Yulin Hundred by going on a quest of great import.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about this novel is that it's broken into two pieces stylistically. The first portion, in which Sir Boors is the primary character, is about the surprisingly competent administrator, despite him being outwitted by several other characters. He is a charming combination of weaknesses to bribes, pomp and an unapologetic acceptance of his limitations. I didn't laugh out loud while reading this portion of the book, but I alternated between a grin and a smirk almost the entire time, a little like "A Confederacy of Dunces".
The second portion followed Sangor, wherein we made the transition from moderately sardonic social commentary on bureaucracy to a fairly standard medieval romance. Which means, of course, that there is a Quest, a Fair Maid and no small amount of Villainy to Defeat. This section I also enjoyed as its own story, because does a good job hitting the traditional elements for medieval romance classics. Again I found myself amused by the schemes of the nominal hero of our story, and how well Sangor managed to keep said hero from getting his butt kicked.
My gripe with this book is not when but how the transition between styles happens. I was settling down to a pleasing book within the city of Immortal Linberry when suddenly I found the novel following a different character introduced in passing while Sir Boors was in charge. It wasn't jarring so much as I was sent a little adrift while the switch happened, which took some time to recover from. In addition some of the characters that wind up being very important are thrown in at the end when they could have been introduced more fully into the Boors-led introductory portion.
Overall I liked this story, but I'm sure it's for everyone. I loved that Yan skillfully tells a story and lets his readers in on the joke; that is, the absurdity of medieval romances. He clearly loves these types of stories but also knows how silly they look from the outside. However not everyone likes this deliciously tongue-in-cheek tone, and the less skillful combination of genres will frustrate some readers.