The Grim Company by Luke Scull
|The Grim Company by Luke Scull|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: For those who like their fantasy with a gritty street-level RPG feel incorporating heads exploding like melons this is dystopia at its most brutal and, indeed, entertaining.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: March 2013|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
The gods are dead. The Magelords murdered them and hurled their bodies from heaven and are also slowly dominating the world below. Dorminia is already in their iron grasp, policed by the feared Crimson Watch and the terrorising Augmentors. It's not even safe to think as Mind Hawks monitor and punish with pain and suffering. However there is a resistance, albeit fragmented and comparatively impotent but the situation is worsening so they must make a stand or lose everything (and everyone) they love. Is the evil magic stronger than the heroes' own resources? They're dying to find out.
Bristolian RPG designer/writer Luke Scull became bored one day and thought he'd write a longer story than those usually back-dropping his day job. This story became The Grim Company which, in turn, is something rather excellent.
The best way to explain Scull's chosen form of fantasy is to liken it to painting. (Bear with me; this will make sense!) The great masters of art (Michelangelo, Da Vinci etc) had a certain style that influenced others. The best of these others created showing these influences, without plagiarising. In Mr S's case, he is definitely from the School of Joe Abercrombie. The resulting book, however, is all Luke Scull. Summed up in his words The difference between a hero and a killer lie in the ability to justify dark deeds.
Grim's Jerek the Wolf and Brodar Kayne aren't just wonderful names, they're heroes with pasts, problems and uncertainties. On the other side of the judgemental divide, the Supreme Augmentor Barandas hopes that the dark brand of justice he dispenses will one day give way to a kinder society. He's not comfortable with the means but gets through by focusing on the end of his rainbow: a peaceful, repaired world. We therefore have a dichotomy which adds a layer of humanity; these are people who aren't wholly good or wholly bad. Then in the middle there's Davarus Cole, a callow youth who's a hero in his own teatime, making you wish you could have a wet slapping haddock on hand if you ever meet him. Although if I had to pick a favourite at this stage of the series, it would be Eremul, the wheelchair-bound ex-Magelord. He's very much in the mould of my Abercrombie pin-up, Glokta with his sarcasm and wry, embittered humour. Eremul also proves that Luke Scull understands disability. I was recounting Eremul's rant when asked where his legs are to a wheely friend. It seems he's also wanted to shout the same retort at various inopportune moments.
The world of the Grim has a backstory as well as a future, giving it a tangible 3-D quality that we enter rather than read. The only anxiety for us readers may surface around the rate at which new people are thrown at us. They come thick and fast (and many go just as swiftly), but trust the author. The important ones will rise up and remain memorable even if the pronunciation is best left in our heads. (I went for a Welsh pronunciation for the nasty megalomaniacal wannabe-queen Yllandris but not without a fair bit of saliva!)
There will always be the shells of central casting characters in fantasy… the sword buckling hero, the tomboy feisty young woman, the evil power hungry mage/wizard/witch… The sign of a good author is what he fills these shells with and how he builds around them. Based on the fact that he doesn't spend a lot of time talking about clothing, that we're jettisoned into one precarious situation after another and that we're left with enough questions and loose ends to happily knit an enthralling series, Luke Scull is more than good. He's the sort of author you buy on publishing date and read on the way home.
If you do enjoy your fantasy full-on, we also heartily recommend Seven Kings by John R Fultz.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Grim Company by Luke Scull at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Grim Company by Luke Scull at Amazon.com.
The Grim Company by Luke Scull is in the Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2013.
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