May 4, 2016

Sword of the North by Luke Scull

Blurb: As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions—leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.
Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.

Format: Sword of the North is the second book in The Grim Company series. I am reviewing the mass market paperback version of the novel which was 480 pages in length. The U.S. version was originally published in May of 2015 by ROC Penguin Group books. The story is told in limited third person between the five primary characters plus one thread of flashbacks.

Setting: There are three primary settings in the novel. Dorminia in the aftermath of Magelord Salazar's fall and the new rule of the White Lady. A small mining colony that a certain character wakes up in and finds it to be a hellish mine where condemned enemies of the White Lady work off their crimes in servitude to her. Thelessa, the seemingly perfect functioning city of the White Lady, her creepy servants and peoples. And finally, much of the locations in the north are covered and explored as well. Each setting was very well contrasted and I could very easily pick up on the tone of the scene and picture the locales well.

Characters: A lot of characters have changed since The Grim Company and many more did change over the course of this novel. A lot of emphasis was placed on developing Brodar Kayne. I liked Brodar's character in the first novel and I enjoyed his rough companion Jerek as well. In Sword of the North, Brodar is given plenty of POV time plus his background is explored with a separate POV thread filled with flashbacks. The flashbacks also serve to explain a lot of the different wars and relationships forged over the years that interlace with other characters critical in the story. All the main characters that survived The Grim Company have returned and they are each in different parts in the world, but all given 'screen time'.  

Plot: In the wake of the White Lady replacing the fallen Salazar to the throne of Dorminia, the people feel that they may have swapped one tyrant for another. Sasha and her sister are in Drominia and the city seems to be starving, no one having enough food or money to feed their families and the White Lady's promises seem to be taking forever to come to fruition. Meanwhile the north is in turmoil and the Sword of the North is journeying back with Jerek at all haste to find his wife whom he found may not actually be dead. There are some other characters that get involved in a big way in this tale but I don't want to ruin any of the story for you. It was a bloodier tale than The Grim Company and I found that the plot was a more interesting and engaging reed than its predecessor

My Thoughts: When reading The Grim Company I felt that it drew pretty heavily from Glen Cook's The Black Company and throughout I kept seeing things that were so very similar between them. In it's sequel however, I now felt that it broke away from drawing on that source material and has really truly become its own thing. I liked the way Luke Scull found his groove with the characters and pushed them to their limits. It was definitely a bloody tale and much darker than it's predecessor. I would only recommend this to fans of Grimdark, if you're not into the dark parts of fantasy you would probably do well to stay away. As for me, I tend to enjoy Grimdark alongside the other parts of fantasy and found this to be an enjoyable read. I'm stoked to see what the rest of the series will have in store.

About the Author:   LUKE SCULL was born in Bristol and lives in Warminster with his wife. Luke also designs computer roleplaying games and has worked on several acclaimed titles for Ossian Studios and Bioware.

Luke's first novel, THE GRIM COMPANY, was shortlisted for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, 2014.

Author's Website: Luke Scull's Website

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