Book Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: March 15, 2016

Edition: Kindle, 432 pages

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 1/5 *DNF 39% (page 168)

DNF: The struggle was real


Once they were a band of mercenaries who shook the pillars of the world through cunning, alchemical brews, and cold steel. Whoever met their price won.

Now, their glory days behind them, scattered to the wind, and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated one by one.

A lifetime of enemies has its own price.

Adrian Selby brings us into an unforgettable new world filled with magic, mystery, intrigue, bloodshed and betrayal.

*Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy via Net Galley from the publisher in return for my honest opinion and review.

Word on the street is the plot of the this story is pretty good – once you get past the first 100 pages or so. Too bad the characters, dialog, prose, presentation, storytelling, and pretty much everything else in the novel basically made this story unreadable. And I tried, people. Oh, I TRIED. I was deep down in the mud and trenches, struggling for air, to read this thing. But after 7 days of reading, numerous headaches, a number of boredom naps, and only 168 pages to show, I had to throw in the DNF towel.

In their prime, Kailen’s Twenty was the greatest band of mercenaries the lands had ever known. They never betrayed the coin, and they never betrayed each other, but ten years after Kailen disbanded the crew, someone – or someones – is out to seek revenge on all twenty members for what they claim was betrayal.

Soon, former members of the Twenty start showing up dead with a black coin in the hand, representing that they were betrayers. Kailen and the Prince, another member of the Twenty, then set out to find other members of Twenty, to warm them of the assassin that is out for them.

This assassin in question is the princess of the former King, who used to hire Kailen’s Twenty frequently. She is claiming that it is because of the Twenty that her father is dead, and that is why she is seeking revenge. However, when she seeks out Kailen himself, trapped at an inn, she notices that she is too late – there is another assassin already there to take care of the job.

Why did Kailen disband the Twenty? What happened at Snakewood? Why does the princess blame the Twenty? And who is the mystery assassin?

Tell me you didn’t read my synopsis and weren’t interested? Nope, you can’t. I will not argue one bit, that the plot of the story is BOMB. It was the promise of the story getting good, and the tiny bits of the plot that were able to shine through the dark clouds that were everything else, that kept me going. But OMG, it was a nightmare to read this thing at the times!  Word on the street said around 100 pages in, things got good – well, I found that out after I was past the 100 page mark. Read a few more chapters, still couldn’t figure out what the “good” part was, and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

Instead of me only saying I legitimately hated reading this book, I am going to review this book, and lay out exactly what the problems were I had with it, that caused to me DNF for the first in who knows how many years.

The prologue of the novel introduces us to Goran – son of Gant, who was a member of the Twenty. Goran says his father, Gant, came to him as he was dying, to tell him his story of the Twenty, and wanted Goran to get out the word – the truth – of Kailen’s Twenty. So, the story is told from multiple first person POVs, spanning from certain members of the Twenty, to the Princess, an assortment of letters from certain characters, various reports from random Fieldsman, and a mystery character called “Sand”.

I’m down for multiple POVs – but wasn’t there some author who said, something along the lines of, “Unless you’re George R.R. Martin, you can’t get away with too many POVs”?  I don’t know who said it, but I implore them to use cite Snakewood as a source for that argument.

Since this novel is compiled by Goran, all of first person accounts relate to events concerning the Twenty, and everyonce in a while, before a chapter, we will get a brief little introduction paragraph from Goran saying the context of the what is happening… but not all time. Sometimes it is before a character’s chapters, or it is not; sometimes it is before one of letters or fieldsreports he collected, or it is not. There seems to be no rational for what type of chapter/section Goran gives us a context briefing. So, sometimes if felt like I was reading regular a multiple POV story, sometimes (when we got the Goran intros) it felt like I was reading something someone put together, but no matter what, I felt LOST. Lost because I didn’t know the context of what I was reading in the scope of the story, and lost because I couldn’t understand (because of horrible prose) a dang thing I was reading.

You see, the Twenty are mercenaries, which means they had no education, and that they apparently have the verbal skills, vocabulary, and grammar, that is on par with the level of cavemen. I get it: mercenaries, barbarians, all the like, they fight first, and aren’t supposed to have the linguistics of nobleman – but how Adrian wrote this was borderline unreadable. It is the most dumbed-down, generic, stereotypical, linguistics I’ve ever tried to read in a story. Writing it that way was not needed! I could read Long Ninefingers’ (a barbarian) monologue with no problems; I read Karen Memory (which is told in the first person, with a heavy, deep southern accent) and thought it was great(!); heck, even reading Spook’s talk the first time was easier to understand!

On to the storytelling conundrum: What was Goran thinking when he decided the order of this book? Apparently the story is told in a “linear” fashion (there are flashbacks and story lines that lead to present) but it is not like where each POVs gets their story told completely. Here, each POV and letter is used as a piece to tell the story. So you may segment starting off with Gant going into a hotel, then get a fieldsman report explaining something about Kalien’s characters or piece of information that is somehow releventa to something that happened or will happen soon, then a Kailen chapter, and then jump to a Princess chapters that finished up the that bit about the hotel. All of the things are 100% related to this segment of the story about the hotel – but you have no idea how they are connected at the time! Or even after!

The simplest way to put it is: we aren’t getting Kailen’s story of the hotel, and then Princess side of it; we are getting the story of the hotel as the focus, told with select bits of Kailen’s side, and Princess’ side, with other characters, and fields man reports thrown in too. Then, because Goran isn’t there to tell the context of these chapters – and even when he does, it’s useless –  it felt like I was reading random pieces of a story that I had to guess how to put them in order, when in reality, everything is linear… And the WHOLE BOOK is like this; the whole story (Kailen’s Twenty) is told from little snippets, and it did NOT feel like I was reading a coherent story.

So, let’s recap: with the exception of the Princess chapters, nearly every chapter is unreadable, and because I can’t read anything, I can’t understand what is going on; on top of not being able to understand what is going on due to the linguistic, I am not able to understand what is going on due to the lack of context too! And on top of all that, because of the random jumping around from locations, to POVs, to present and past, I can’t even tell where I am in the story, and what is related to what!!!

To put it simply, I couldn’t understand what was going on in the story, and trying to figure things out, made no difference, so I ended up skimming for the important points, and became bored. Skimming, did reveal to me the plot points, and like I said, it is very good, but I was not enjoying my time reading the book.

There is also some cool magic stuff that is called brews. There are these battle brews that people drink to enhance their strength, vision, hearing, and etc., for a certain amount of time during battle. The effects of using them is known as the “colour” which changes your eye color and stuff, and depends on which brew you use and how much and often. It’s cool stuff, but even to get that info, it took a serious amount of riffling and concentration on my part, because from the 40% of the book I got through, how it works, is not explained at all. It is just said that a mercenary took a brew, got superhuman enhancements, or that this solider was showing his “colour”. That’s it. From reviews I’ve read, this isn’t even explained how it works until well past halfway – and ain’t nobody got time for that.

There is also some cool chapters with a character called “Sand”, but I have no idea what his deal was. One moments I was in a burning house the Twenty, and the next thing I know I’m with an amnesiac, somewhere in ocean, who is now a slave on a ship? His stuff was interesting, and I’m sure his connect is a great twist, but with my experience in the story up to that point, it just made me more confused with the overall story. Confusing: that seems to be the motto of this story.

I could go on, there are actually several more points I planned on writing out in this review but I am up on the word count so… ah, just two more! Real quick!

One, I couldn’t bond, don’t know, and don’t care about any of the characters due to all the issue I have stated. Two – and this was a BIG issue for me when it happen – is are the regular POV chapters all part of the stuff that Goran collected or is Adrian Selby just telling us their thoughts? I thought it was transcripts and journals that Goran had collected too, but then we get a chapter where a character is about to die, and it ends with him saying I love you to his wife… How he do that? You’re telling me, this character in a burning room in a building, instead of trying to escape, took the time to write a good 20 pages outlining the events that led to him being here, with all his last thoughts, as he burned to death in a room? How did he have enough time to do that? How did what he wrote down not get burned? That doesn’t make sense. Maybe he didn’t actually die, and wrote this journal thing later, but why add the I love you dear part in there? Maybe this is answered later on, but I was past the point of caring, and in full on confusion-mode.

The point I want to make is this review is the book was poorly written and presented. I get using certain linguistic choices to make the reader feel closer to the character, but if you’re going to do it in first-person, make it readable. I get using multiple POVs to tell a story, but make it coherent for the reader to understand. You want the reader to feel mystery of the plot, not the confusion because they can’t follow what is going on. There is a BIG difference.

And, in case you’re wondering, I am not the only one who had issue with Snakewood. There are a number of DNF reviews out there (before the book is even released) and a number of reviews complaining about the difficulties they faced in even finishing the book. However, their are also reviews out there of people who like it. (Although, at the time of me starting the book, the GR reading was a 2.88 with 24 reviews).

This was my most anticipated new release for 2016 by a debut author. I had zero expectation going on, I was just eager and exited to read it, and find out what was happening with a band of mercenaries and this mystery assassin.  Unfortunately, I will never know – and I don’t care anymore.

Best advice I can I give to anyone about this book, is to read a preview (or this one), and go from there. 

My name is DJ, and I fully support the DNF.

1/5 Rating *DNF 39% (page 168)


Date Read: 03/02/2016 - 03/07/2016
Review Written: 03/14/2016
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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Snakewood by Adrian Selby

  1. I’m currently reading Snakewood and its mind boggling thus far. I’m hoping that it will get better for me because it sounded so promising!


    • Some people do say that it gets better after a certain point – but, for me, the effort wasn’t worth the reward. There are a lot of book out there where you “just have to get through the beginning”, and I have read many of them, but Snakewood didn’t have anything going for me to hold on to, until the “good stuff” happened… Hope things work out better for you with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. @lynnsbooks says:

    I’m currently reading it – about 60% in now. It does get better in terms of the chapters lengthen so it becomes easier to absorb. I’m enjoying it now but it was a struggle at first.
    Lynn 😀


  3. The story really is good! I think the author went a little overboard and/or was a bit too ambitious though. The structure does not suit it at all, especially when Gant started things off with an account of the events, where he spoke like the reader already knew what he was talking about. His peculiar way of speaking did not help my confusion either. I think what Lynn said about spending more time with the characters as you progress further into the book is spot on – once I felt more connected to the people involved, it was smoother going.


  4. I’m going to give this one a try on audio. Fingers crossed for me!


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