The Siege of Scarn by Robert C Auty

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The Siege of Scarn by Robert C Auty

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A heroic fantasy with suitably high body count, some good world features and a very exciting battle taking up one third of the volume will appeal to all fans of this post-Conan genre, despite suffering from sketchy and at times clumsy writing in the non-battle sections. Other fantasy fans might want to borrow it.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 300 Date: February 2006
Publisher: Apex Publishing Ltd, Essex
ISBN: 978-1904444596

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Heroic Fantasy is a sub-genre that harks back to Conan The Barbarian and is identified by the presence of warrior heroes, high body-counts despatched in one to one combat whose descriptions form a big part of the text, intrigue at decadent courts, bloody evil cults and heroes of often dubious personal ethics that almost accidentally end up fighting on the right side. The Siege of Scarn has all those ingredients with a struggle of supernatural good and evil forming the backdrop.

Connor, a Trance Warrior who can speed up his individual time and thus dispatch his enemies with even more astonishing efficiency, takes on a mission to kill the King of Grynn, but instead falls foul of the Queen who is in thrall to a growing evil threatening to overcome the world and bathe it in blood. Pursued by lizard-like demons and then imprisoned, he finds himself escaping to the mysterious city of Scarn in the mountains, accompanied by the necessary fellowship composed by a dwarf fighter, a Scarn hunter sent to the lowlands in search of somebody who can change the fate of the world and a demi-elf, his lover and friend. And yes, there is an artefact too: their world had been created for two divine brothers Scarn & Scarl. Scarn is the good one, Scarl is the bad one: imprisonned in the void between the worlds by Scarn, he's waiting for his followers to find pieces of his sword so he can return to the world. There's also the mystery of Connor's parentage and his destiny. All of it, and more, will unfold in the buildup to the mighty siege of the title, when amassed armies of people and other races will fight.

The Siege of Scarn is the first volume of the Trance Warriors saga. The siege of the title forms the second half of the book and decidedly the better one. The battle narrative and descriptions are very good: both sides are shown in action and their strategies and motivations are well described and interesting. I am not particularly keen on battle scenes or fight descriptions, but I found the siege of Scarn compelling and entertaining. There are characters the reader can root for on both sides and enough twists and turns to make one interested in how the final outcome (obvious from the beginning) is reached. It's long, but not too long and makes one almost sad that the fighting eventually ends.

The earlier parts of The Siege of Scarn are taken up by events preceding Connor's arrival in the city of Scarn as well as introducing all the characters and providing the background info, followed by the build-up to the siege itself. These first introductory sections are the weakest: the writing mostly manages to keep just about the right side of cringe-inducing, with an occasional anachronistic lapse in dialogue being perhaps the most offensive; although nobody in their right mind should worry much about writing in a novel descended from Connan anyway.

However, the introductory sections are much too sketchy. Many fantasy books suffer from excessive pagecounts, so brevity is normally a virtue, but in this case there is just too little space and too few words to do all that needs to be done. The result is a stumbling narrative in which major characters and revelations of epic proportions are introduced suddenly and without a build-up to disappear for many pages after a brief appearance. There is hardly any setting description and the tale rushes on more like a synopsis or a film script before the real fun of the battle can commence.

Once all the hasty introductions were done, I enjoyed The Siege of Scarn and in particular the long and exciting battle. Fans of heroic fantasy should have quite a bit of fun with this novel and might want to buy it and continue on to the next volume while other fantasy readers might enjoy a foray into the land of mighty warriors and bloody cults, probably best borrowed.

Thanks to the publishers for sending us this volume.

For a longer but worth pursuing example of good concept and excellent execution in the related dark fantasy sub genre, try Scar Night.

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