The Qwillery | category: Epic Fantasy


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Trinitytwo's View: The Grim Company by Luke Scull

The Grim Company
Author:  Luke Scull
Series:  Grim Company 1
Publisher:  Roc, September 3, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $26.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425264843 (print)
US Debut

Trinitytwo's View: The Grim Company by Luke Scull
The Gods are dead. The Magelord Salazar and his magically enhanced troops, the Augmentors, crush any dissent they find in the minds of the populace. On the other side of the Broken Sea, the White Lady plots the liberation of Dorminia, with her spymistresses, the Pale Women. Demons and abominations plague the Highlands.

The world is desperately in need of heroes. But what they get instead are a ragtag band of old warriors, a crippled Halfmage, two orphans and an oddly capable manservant: the Grim Company.

The Grim Company is a dark and brutal epic fantasy set in a landscape where over 500 years ago the gods were destroyed by an alliance of Magelords. The Magelords are no longer united, because one source of their powers is the corpses of the dead gods and the “raw magic” they collect is running low. The story opens with Salazar, the Magelord and Ruler of Dorminia exacting revenge on a neighboring kingdom by magically dumping enough water to fill a small ocean upon its city, resulting in its utter obliteration. Salazar rules his own country by oppression and fear. His magically enhanced army mercilessly seeks out dissenters who can expect torture, enslavement, or death. Enter Davarus Cole, a hero in his own mind, and wielder of the enchanted blade, Magebane. Cole’s impetuous actions land him in trouble with Salazar’s heavy handed Red Guard. It takes world-weary warrior, Brodar Kayne, to save him from himself and the Guards. With the help of Jerek, Kayne’s sidekick, Sasha a compatriot of Cole, and Isaac the mysterious manservant of the Halfmage, Emerul, the roster of The Grim Company is complete,and so begins the exciting events in their quest to destroy Salazar.

Trinitytwo’s Point of View:

The first book in a trilogy, The Grim Company is decidedly grim. Luke Scull has created a world that seems without hope. Magelords killed the gods and now rule their world with iron fists. How does one stand up to all powerful, practically immortal, beings that are able to destroy gods? It’s really a rhetorical question, as one doesn’t or at least not very well. I really wasn’t surprised to learn that Mr. Scull is a video-game designer. His description of disembowelments, death, and mass destruction are flawlessly grisly and remind me of the mayhem I have witnessed unfold in various violent video-games. The language is foul, the tortures are highly descriptive, and maiming, killings and carnage abound. I have to admit that I cringed from time to time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but this adventure is definitely not for the weak of stomach. (Also, just a heads up, there are excessive references made to hemorrhoids.) I felt that the first half of the book was too depressing to keep me fully engaged. The Grim Company’s quest seems to be an exercise in futility and for the most part the members of the company are off on their own, which belies the title. I was slightly disappointed with the massive amounts of setups that lead to ultimately unanswered questions. Undoubtedly, they will be answered in Book 2 or 3, but a little more closure in Book 1 would have been nice. I also didn’t connect to most of the members of the Grim Company. There really wasn’t a definitive bad guy or good guy, just many different perspectives. Davarus Cole was written to be obnoxious and although I liked the fact that he wasn’t a traditional hero, it was hard to root for him. Brodar Kayne, the grizzled veteran with a tragic past and a volatile best friend was easier to like. Sasha, the sole female in the Grim Company, was a disappointment, as her character did not seem very fleshed out. By the second half of the book, however, I realized I had grown to care for more of the characters. It became increasingly harder to put the book down and I was sorry when I reached the last page. I am very curious to find out where the tangled web that Luke Scull has woven is going and who will remain to see it through. This isn’t a book that I would recommend to the meek. If you like your fantasy dark, with a pinch of twisted humor, you will ultimately find The Grim Company compelling, satisfying, and something to savor.

Read an interview with Luke here.

Review: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song
Series:  Raven's Shadow 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 2, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
Price:  $27.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425267691 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony Ryan
From “a new master storyteller” comes the beginning of an epic fantasy saga of blood, honor, and destiny…

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.

Trinitytwo’s Point of View:

Vaelin is left at the gates of the Brotherhood of the Sixth Order by his father when he is just 10 years old. Before his father rides away he whispers "Loyalty" to his young son. Vaelin begins training the day of his arrival and, with other boys in his group, must endure strict regimens and even stricter punishments to survive. They are taught that The Brotherhood is now their only family and they must pass various survival tests to prove themselves worthy of remaining behind the relative safety of its gates. During his first test, Vaelin, kills an assassin sent to murder him. A mysterious wolf comes to his aid when, while fleeing, he stumbles upon the assassin's companions. During the next trial, Vaelin hears voices outside his shelter during a blizzard. He comes to the aid of two travelers, a mute girl and a warrior. He finds that they are the Dernier, non-believers of the Way, and are being hunted by Brothers of the Order. An inner voice persuades Vaelin to help aid the travelers and he returns to his Order more confused than before. Blood Song is Vaelin's journey to fulfill his destiny. What is this mysterious voice Vaelin hears, and how does the wolf fit in? There are many factions at work and Vaelin's journey is one of brotherhood, faith, unseen opposing forces, ruthlessness, love and ultimately truth.

Blood Song is the type of book I always search for, but so seldom find. It’s the tale of a well fleshed out hero whose journey to manhood, quest for knowledge and pursuit of destiny are fraught with peril. Anthony Ryan's world building skill is flawless. It takes little effort to imagine yourself in Vaelin's Unified Realm and see people and places through his eyes. It is hard to believe that Ryan is a debut author. This story reads like a masterpiece of sights and sounds; battles and blood; longing and honor. After the first chapter, I tried to savor each page because I knew this was the kind of book that you don't want to end. There are 575 pages, but I found myself wishing for 500 more. The journey was magical, but magic combined with harsh realism. I could almost hear the creak of leather, the grunt of men, the crackling of fire. I could almost smell smoke, horse and soldier's sweat, the perfume of flowers in a secret garden. The sensations were tangible and each page sprang to life. Reading the last page filled me with elation and sadness, excitement and impatience for the next book. Blood Song is epic fantasy at its brightest and best. I absolutely loved everything about this novel.

Blood Song is a remarkable and wonderful book, and frankly, the best fantasy I have read all year.

Read our interview with Anthony Ryan here.

Review The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh - May 31, 2013

The Scrivener's Tale
Author:  Fiona McIntosh
Publisher:  Harper Voyager, March, 26 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 528 pages
Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780062237309 (print)
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh - May 31, 2013
Gabe Figaret, an ex-psychologist turned writer, now works in a bookshop in Paris. He lives a quiet life as he attempts to rehabilitate his psyche from the ravages of his past. While he'd prefer to probe his own mind rather than a stranger's, he cannot refuse when Reynard, a doctor and one of his regular customers, asks Gabe to mentor a patient, a mysterious young woman named Angelina.

Angelina is shy. She is mute and delusional. At first, she appears to be terrified of Reynard. But Gabe quickly discovers that Angelina is not quite what she seems. As his relationship with the enigmatic Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching, lurking, following his every move.

When Angelina tells Gabe that he must kill her, and then flee to a fantastical realm she calls Morgravia, he is aghast. But Angelina gives him proof that Morgravia is not a delusion; it is real. Soon, Gabe's world will be turned upside down, and he will learn shocking truths about his past, and the perilous trials in his future.

Melanie's Thoughts:

The Scrivener’s Tale starts in modern day Paris with Gabe, a former psychologist, seeking refuge in the great city following the tragic death of his family. Life is pretty normal for Gabe who spends his time working in a bookshop and wandering the streets of Paris until he meets a damaged young girl, Angelina, who is in the care of one of his loyal customers, Reynard. They did not meet by chance, forever changing Gabe’s life.

The story is split between Gabe in Paris and the other lead character, Cassien. Cassien has led a harsh and lonely life, fighting for survival in a great forest in Morgravia, which is in an alternative universe. Cassien is probably the most empathetic character in the book and the most interesting. Abandoned as a baby, Cassien spends his childhood with the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood turn him into a warrior mostly through neglect and a brutal regime of torture and punishment. It is evident quite early on that Cassien is the hero of the tale.

A rather confusing chain of events brings the grieving widower, Gabe, to the Pearlis, the alternate Paris where he embarks on the adventure of his life….an adventure that might just end it. Predictably, Cassien has his own mission to fulfill that leads him into the path of the unsuspecting Gabe. The pair ends up in a battle to save Morgravia against a demon that has been waiting centuries to enact its revenge. Will they be successful? Will they survive? I won’t tell and you will have to read it to find out.

Although The Quickening series by McIntosh is set in Morgravia, The Scrivener’s Tale is a stand alone story. Currently it’s pretty unusual for an author to write just one book, but I am glad that McIntosh resisted the temptation to drag this story out over multiple books.

Normally I really like epic fantasy. Some of my all time favourite books are from this genre, so I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t enjoy The Scrivener’s Tale as much as I thought I would. The story started out quite engaging and it seemed that the plot was going to be complex. I was concerned at first that I would miss a plot point if I wasn’t paying 110% attention. I even took much longer than I normally would to read it so that I was in the right frame of mind to take everything in. Imagine my disappointment when I guessed every secret, intrigue and mystery. McIntosh spells everything out in long dialogue sequences rather than letting the readers figure it out themselves. I think that this tendency was one of the most disappointing aspects of the book. It all seemed very much like it had been done before.

McIntosh has a great imagination and is obviously adept at creating unique worlds, especially with Morgravia. I think that this story would have benefited from a little more mystery and a little less wrapping the plot up with a bow.

Interview with Mark Smylie, author of The Barrow - March 2, 2014Interview with Anna Redmond, author of The Golden Arrow - and Giveaway - February 22, 2014Interview with Anne Leonard, author of Moth and Spark - February 19, 2014Trinitytwo's View: The Grim Company by Luke ScullReview: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony RyanReview The Scrivener's Tale by Fiona McIntosh - May 31, 2013

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