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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)

Character Interviews

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 | Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Jeff Salyards is another new kid on the Fantasy block brought to us by Night Shade Books. His debut - also series starter - Scourge of the Betrayer isn't Epic Fantasy (at least not yet though it is building), but it is a very personal Fantasy with plenty of blood and realistic fights. The labels Low or Military Fantasy might apply. Either way it is one of the most grim and feral Fantasies I've read in some time. There is a stark honesty about battle, the consequences of it, and what killing someone means to those who do the deed.

The story probably won't sate those after Abercrombie yet a grim "falling around in the mud while trying to wildly stab someone in the back" story does unfold told through the eyes of a chronicler just trying not to die every two seconds. But when you sign up with the Syldoon Empire paying up your rent for the next month is probably not a very good investment. Arkamondos or Arki as he is affectionately called by the Syldoon's Captain Braylar Killcoin leads us through the world as the Syldoon work their clandestine missions. Many of the characters are cold and distant as befits their upbringing as warriors from an early age, but as they get to know Arki they become fully formed in their own fashion. This doesn't stop them from all being brutal monsters. Arki is of course thrown into the fish-out-of-water role that he plays quite well and works to keep you vested in his fate.

None of the characters get away unscathed and injuries aren't things that they just shrug off. They are slowed and need to recover, if they are lucky enough to survive. This is a medieval world with very scant magic. People aren't slinging spells at one another, but there are remnants of a bygone era that do still have mysterious power and a much alluded to group still yet to be seen that have a strong hold on people. Braylar's mysterious flail is quite a good play on the magical weapon ala Elric's Stormbringer. The action sequences are planned out very realistically, but it was the dialogues between Arki and Braylar and Ariki and the only female warrior Lloi that kept the black humor going.

An infuriating part of the structure is just when you think there will be a big reveal things pull back, which just makes you want it more. Scourge of the Betrayer is a book that doesn't give up its secrets easily. It makes you work for them. There are shades of much bigger machinations at work. Groups alluded to with very dark power and those bent on nothing more than causing chaos.

Scourge of the Betrayer isn't a book I can say I loved outright, but it does pull you along and leave you wanting more. I did grow a strong sense of comradeship with the crew by the end even with an ending that wasn't wholly satisfying as the final reveal isn't as big as I was expecting.  I give Scourge of the Betrayer 3 out 5 hats. Jeff Salyards and Arki are the closest thing to Glen Cook and Croaker that I've ever found. Bottom line is if you like the Black Company then the Bloodsounders Arc is a series that you should seek out and it is building to something. What that something is has yet to be firmly established, but judging by Scourge it will hopefully be just as morally grey and bloody.

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REVIEW | The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu
REVIEW | Control Point by Myke Cole


Paul Weimer said...

Yes, I agree, there was a whole lot unanswered by this volume,deliberately, which annoyed me.

I did like the concept, and the unusual protagonist for bloody fantasy.

Bibliotropic said...

The unanswered questions didn't bother me in the slightest. Normally it bugs me when it gets really obvious that the author is just committing trilogy, so to speak, and so leaving deliberate things for the next volume, but I found that the plot of this one, plus Salyards's writing style, pulled me along in such a way that the unaddressed issues didn't concern me as much as they normally would.

Jeff Salyards said...

Mr. Mad Hatter:

Thanks for taking the time to read and review the book. As Paul said, I did hold back intentionally to make the narrator struggle to figure things out, being an outsider, and I knew that was a little risky as it forced the readers to struggle as well. Some folks didn't mind this, but to those annoyed by the tactic, I can tell you that the second volume won't be as coy. ;)