Backlist Burndown is a monthly meme hosted by Lisa from Tenacious Reader where you put aside at least one book from your blacklist every month to read, and then post a review of it on the last Friday of that month.
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2012 (first published Jul 25, 2006)
Edition: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Salyards fights scene are brutal, rough, intense, and bloody. Some of the best I’ve ever read.
Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.
Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe … and Arki might be next.
Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!
A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.
Scourge of the Betrayers has that “first book of a series” feel: heavy on the character and world-building, with a plot that sets up for the overall story arch. Surprisingly though, despite me giving this novel a 3/5 rating, my anticipation for the rest of the series is 4.5/5!
Arkamondos is a scribe who has spent his entire youthful career working for merchants and nobles. Seeking something more than numbers and ledgers, Arki becomes a chronicler for Captain Braylar Killcoin, a Syldoon solider. He is to follow Captain Killcoin and the Syldoon soldiers across the lands and write whatever it is he sees. What he does see though… he was not expecting. After witness fights, blood, gore, and death – all within the first couple days – he begins to doubt wether this was the right decision. And that fact that Captain Killcoin seems to be hiding something from him, doesn’t help to put Arki’s worries at ease.
Arki is like a young Bilbo Baggins: a bookish and academic individual, who gets bored with the lack of adventure in his life, so he signs up for an adventure with a group of warriors who are not at all like his in-group. While Biblo joins Dwarves who clank mugs and sing songs, Arki join the Syldoon warriors, who crack mugs on their enemies heads, and talk of whores and debate the worst imaginable ways die.
The story is told from Arki’s point of view, as if we were reading his actual chronicling of events that he was hired to do. That I thought was really cool. And because it is Arki’s own personal accounting, I was able to easily see into his thoughts and worries, and quickly built up sympathy for this poor boy. (Not that sympathy for Arki is hard. He is essentially an innocent boy who wants get to out of the library and see land! Only, poor Arki get so much – so, so, so much more than he was expecting).
As reader, it was my first time meeting and learning about the Syldoons warriors, and traveling and seeing the different lands and cities of the world, but it also the same for Arki. So, as you are learning about all these things for the first time, he is also. This created a common ground and comforting view point. Yes, we are suddenly thrown into a new world, but as Arki learns bits and bits gradualy, we do too. Thus, there is no overwhelming info dump as the narrator talks like everyhitng is given knowledge. On the flip side, because we a stuck with Arki’s knowledge only, it could get frustrating. And it did.
The beginning of the story was fantastic. It starts as Arki first begins his job with Captain Killcoin, and this takes us to a pub, the Noisy Jackal, where we meet the rest of the Syldoon soldiers. This was probably my favorite scene in the book, because this is where we first meet all our characters and see how their dynamics will be.
Slydoons warriors have a certain kind of reputation: the kind that says they are ruthless killers who eat babies. I can see how those rumors may have gained traction. Very violent men, with with vulgar words and topics of discussion.
Under Captain Killcoin’s commands are four soldiers. Two men are Mulldoos and Hewspear. Mulldoos is that violent, and wild type, while Hewspear in the philosopher of the group. Both these men are very large, and very deadly though. Then the last two are young men, Vendurro and Glesswik. Vendurro reminded me very much of that young man he is that he just loves to talk, while Glesswik was generaly more quite. Make no mistakes though, they are just deadly and dirty mouthed as their older companions. And just as Mulldoos and Hewspear are best friends, so are Vendurro and Glesswik. There is also a women by the name of Lloi, who has no fingers on one hand, and what her exact job is in the group is unclear. The one thing that all these people have in common though, is their unwavering commitment and devotion to Captain Killcoin.
Killcoin is not a man you want to mess with. He walks around with a flail attached at his side, and is deadly with it. He is the type of man who will slit your throat without a second thought, but he is not ruthless savage. He is quite the opposite; he is very cunning and tactical in everything that he does.
I’m not sure about you, but the first thing I heard about Jeff Salyards was his fight scene. And they were right. He doesn’t write these epic sword fights with 10 minute dueling. No. His scenes are realistic. If you get hit in the face with a mug, you get knocked out, and don’t get up. If your first sword attack doesn’t hit or gets parried, your opponent’s next attack is most likely going to hit and kill you. There is no dancing on tables or running around on rocks fencing with each other. You miss; you die. May not sound the most exciting, but with all thing in books, it’s how you write it. Salyards fights scene are brutal, rough, intense, and bloody. Some of the best I’ve ever read. You’ll get a taste of them at the start of the book in the Noisy Jackal.
Why only the 3 rating? As I said earlier, this had that “book one” feel to it, the first person point of view limitations was frustrating, and I felt now much happen during this chunk of the middle of book, when it’s just Arki and Killcoin – with occasional appearances by Lloi – traveling across the grass to the next town. To me, this was almost pure character building, world-buidling, and plot set up. It’s a lot of conversations exploring Lloi, Killcoin, and Arki, and it’s also when we begin to realize how much Arki doesn’t know of what is going on right now (their quest, I guess you could say), and what is going on in the background. Because we are just getting more questions and no answers, and the actual plot of the book was becoming more and more illusive to me, things did drag and it become very frustrating.
Upon finishing the book, it felt like the plot was Arki’s personal growth – his development and ark. While the point of the book – this would be the information the Arki isn’t privy to and everything that was happening in the background of the story that wasn’t brought to light until the end of the book – was to set everything up for the rest of the series.
However, all that stuff in the background and this mystery behind Captain Killcoin, when it’s all finally brought to the front of our attention, I was shocked. I could finally see what the point of the book was and where the story was headed. And the story arc for whole series is a lot more complex than I was expecting! The fact that next book is twice as long as this, only reaffirms my belief that book one was merely a set up for things to come.
Date Read: 10/15/15 - 10/19/15 Review Written: 10/25/15