Ok, here is the deal. We know the hype, and boy did ‘The Grim Company’ manage to generate some hype. And yes, we know that Joe Abercrombie references are out there and plaguing the author wherever on the internet he tries to go. So I will do everything I can to NOT mention that other author for the rest of the review. I will admit the comparisons are very apt, and fans of one will probably like the other, and leave it at that. Feel free to slap me for any other mention of that OTHER author, and let us deal with the book at hand.
Awesome set up. Start by meeting a man who at first you want to feel a bit sorry for, but learn a bit more about him and realize he is a real piece of work that you want nothing to do with. Get just a bit of his backstory then watch the world quite literally fall on him. Yes he dies, and yes it is that type of book. You know, GRIMDARK? But while some people shy away from the label I am a reader who has no problem with it when done right, and Scull knows what he is doing.
The gods of the world are dead, slaughtered by the most powerful wizards of the land. Whatever they were killed for, unknown. What brought the godslayers together is similarly unknown, but it appears their peace was short lived. They each have their own little corner of the land. Our story starts, after the death of a city in the prologue, in a city under the iron rule of Salazar. The population lives in fear, mind reading hawks search for sedition, and there are only a few pockets of opposition. The background is introduced with perfect pacing, without infodumps or those awkward conversations where people spout random info about the world. In fact pacing is a major plus throughout, I love the easy flow writing style employed by the author; not once was I bored or lost, never needing to turn back a few pages.
*SLAP* – Sorry, I was about to compare characters from The Grim Company with characters from another series. There really is no need, the characters stand on their own. Yes some of them will seem similar, they fit within some well know tropes. A pair of aging barbarians, perhaps with a little more heart than was to be expected. Of course an old barbarian warrior is one who has managed to stay alive, and one of them may be the greatest fighter of the age. They were great, Brodar Kayne is a character to watch out for, I can’t wait to see more of him. Again, similar to stuff I had seen before, but worth watching anyway.
A young, out of his league, rebel named Davarus Cole provides some comic relief to our proceedings, though not from the typical sidekick role; he is actually one of the most important catalysts for the whole book. A young man who thinks himself a hero, despite all evidence to the contrary. Not sure I was supposed to laugh when he threw his knife and it hit his opponent hilt first, but laugh I did. His fellow rebel and only female protagonist Sasha continues an unfortunate but common tradition of this type of book; her contribution is negligible. The main cast is rounded out by a crippled smart ass minor magic user, with his manservant acting as the compulsorily enigma with hidden depths.
The story itself involved a war between the mage lords; specifically Salazar and a mysterious White Lady who seems to be a more benevolent ruler. Of course things are not always what they seem, and one should always be careful who they hitch their boat to. All the characters are caught up in the struggle in one way or another, and best of all, I was digging each of their individual storylines. While not as deep as some in the genre (the politics especially were fairly simple) the fast pace the book held is worth some small sacrifices. No bloat, in an epic fantasy novel, who knew that was even possible? And for so much to happen in that quick pace, and so much back story added in, it makes for an impressive work.
Self-contained but still obviously the first of something bigger (Google says a trilogy, who could have saw that coming?). We still don’t know what started the God’s war, we know the godslayers are the best defense against some truly nasty monsters coming from a world fractured by the deaths of gods (one cool tidbit comes from the way the god’s corpses are still radiating magical power five hundred years later). And there are hints that something even nastier is getting ready to come into the picture in the near future.
I liked it. A lot. This is a book that shows I still have a soft spot for hard tales. It won’t be for everyone. The Grim Company didn’t do a whole lot that was new or revolutionary and but I still enjoyed almost every second of it. One of the nicest things I can say about a book is that I know for sure I will be rereading it, and that holds true with this one. Can’t wait for the second book.
Review copy received from the publisher.