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Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

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Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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REVIEW | Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

If it is gritty Fantasy you've been dying for than Tome of the Undergates will certainly be the answer for you as Sykes has made the name Adventurers out to be a vile thing with his debut effort. Tome of the Undergates drops you in the middle of a vicious battle from the first page and only gets bloodier from there. Although not nearly as bloody as I thought it would be though at first glance.

Tome of the Undergates is a breath of fresh air tinged with a pang of dank water. Refreshing in the sense that it was fun to read an action packed Fantasy quest not mired in some underground dragon den nor traipsing through mountains. Sykes embraced the water like no other author before.  He has taken to the high seas with a rough-born lot featuring the most unlikely grouping of characters you can think of who all loathe one another. Lenk and his gang remind me of Jason and the Argonauts on crank. Clocking in at little more than 600 pages it is a breezy read that feels two thirds that length once the story gets going.

It takes a few chapters to get over the fact that none of the main characters like each other and can't stop acting like a rove of 5th graders always hitting and spitting on the girls they like, but after that it is clear sailing into an Epic Fantasy with teeth. I do get the feeling Sykes has played some snarky, bitter, venomous games of D & D, which led him to create the world and characters of Tome of the Undergates. Sykes has made the career choice of Adventurer into something more loathsome than being a mercenary.

The leader of this brooding gang of Adventurers is a human named Lenk. He is a bit on the small size, but is quite a fierce warrior when the chips are down and is the easiest character to connect with. He is usually follow closely by Kataria, who is a Shict. Think of an elf that is rough around the edges who thinks of humanity as a plague. Also, in the band of unmerry travelers is a Wizard still finding his feet in the craft, a cut-throat ne'er-do-well, and a blood-thirsty Dragon man. You read that right. An honest to badness Dragon man. They fight for their lives on a severely screwed up world just for money. They know little of honor and their back stories are only lightly covered so their motivations take sometime to get a grasp on. They are survivors and fighters to their core, but aren't adverse to a knife to the back.

While on the job protecting an important passenger they get tossed into a quest that will test their mettle in every possible way facing frog men and giant proselytizing sea monsters from the deep. The world building is quite interesting with a deep secret history of god and demon off shoots, but only some broad strokes are revealed. There is enough to whet your appetite, but you'll be wanting more which will hopefully be fulfilled in future volumes.

The dialogue was very reminiscent of Scott Lynch at times and the action close to that of Abercrombie. Still Sykes has created his own distinctive style and voice that is wholly different and much more visceral. He clearly has quite a flair for action sequences and monster creation. Sykes is holding out on us a bit as I think his biggest battles are still to come in future volumes. I give Tome of the Undergates 8 out of 10 hats. If Abercrombie was too much or rode the line too harshly for you at times than Tome may be the right where you want it to be. Tome is set for an April release in the UK from Gollancz with a US date from Pyr to still be announced update: in September. And where are the swears Mr. Sam Sykes Swears? Where are they?

You Might Also Like:
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REVIEW | The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
REVIEW | Fall of Thanes by Brian Ruckley
LOOKING FORWARD | Fantasy Books to Watch for in 2010


Bryce L. said...

I'm dying to read this now. Anything close to Lynch and Abercrombie has got my name all over it. :)

Great review, thanks.

Lou Anders said...


Mad Hatter Review said...

@Lou - Thanks. That's not very far away at all.