For thousands of years, five great fortresses have stood sentinel between the Borderlands and the rapacious Orcs. But the Orcs have allies and these allies are about to set a chain of events in motion that will lead to war. Heroes will rise to answer the call.
Saethryth has just returned from the Orc Lands where he has been killing them for over twenty years. He is one of the last Orcslayers left alive.
Melress is a Half-Elven Battle Mage, recently promoted to Captain and sent to the fortress of Knight's Perch, where there are rumours of a traitor.Tierra has been sleeping with the enemy and now she wants revenge.
And Bazak-Kul, well he just wants to get home alive.They, and others, will face the onslaught at Knight's Perch, but battle is the least of anyone's problems, because The Eighth God is on the rise and everything can change when the Gods are playing.
This is an often gory and fantastically violent story. It's the story of a world where there are orcs and elves (and humans at the very least kind of in the middle) and a very rickety peace between them all. For five thousand years this peace has lasted, but the orcs aren't having any of it anymore.
On the good side, there are the Orcslayers. They do exactly as their name implies, as the orcs in this particular tale, are uh... pretty slayworthy. They are portrayed as just ridiculously bad, mainly through the use of rape as a 'rape is bad, and these guys rape everyone, so they're bad'. The leader of the orcs is usually portrayed as either in the middle of raping someone, or just having finished raping someone. So, there's a lot of rape in this world (and it's not confined to just women either, orcs just rape errybody in the world, so hide yo kids and hide yo wife, etc), but it's not described as much as it is implied. But, that said... uh, if that's something you're sensitive about, probably skip this one. The point though, is that orcs are just... bad. They are rapey, and they are bad.
It's said that the Orcslayers were given their powers by the seven elven gods. They are more or less the avatar of whichever god they represent, so there are normally seven of them. On top of their considerable skill, they get some pretty sweet armor that changes depending on the circumstance, and sweet, sweet sometimes-sentient weapons. At least one of them has a talking sword, anyway, which is kind of awesome. It sings when it's killing orcs. Sings. But, it turns out that there are actually eight gods, and so there are eight possible avatars among the Orcslayers. Dun. Dun. DUUUUUNNNNN.
So we follow several points of view here but the main ones are:
Saethryth, who is an elven Orcslayer. He's one of the very last of them, and the orcs have pretty much killed his whole family and he's pretty much going to revenge them all. With his singing, sentient awesome orcslaying sword.
Melress, who is a half-elven battlemage, who, because of his heritage (half-elves are not really liked), has been bullied most of his life, but he's still turned out to be a good person despite that. He's also Sethryth's half-brother, and he has a talking raven named Caw as a familiar.
Bazak is a half-orc (and half-human) who is sent by his father, who hates him because of the half-human thing, to spy in the human/elven lands. He's not a good person. Most orcs hate him because he's half-human. It doesn't really stop him from being as orc as he can be. There's more than one instance of him somehow magicking himself into an elf, seducing a girl, and then (at the very least making a fine attempt at) killing her. More than one instance. This audiobook is only 6 hours long, lol.
Tierra is an elven battlemage who got tricked into sleeping with Bazak for like a month without realizing what he is, because of the whole magic-into-an-elf thing. She's aghast that she got tricked like this and so she's out for revenge. She ends up joining the Orcslayers and teams up with Saethryth to do some revenging. Also other unrelated things. With their genitals, obviously.
I have to admit that the Orcslayers and their related powers were pretty frigging cool sounding. The singing/talking sword was pretty awesome on its own, but Saethryth, for example, also has a latent power where he is immune to metal. You can stab the dude and nothing happens. Tierra can fling coins hard enough to pass through stuff like a bullet. It's vaguely Mistborn-esque, but utilized in a neat way all the same. Melress is like a necromancer. He can heal people and raise zombies, though he doesn't always know how to control that particular power. This results in some mildly funny zombies.
Sometimes this book was a little overly ridiculous for my taste, but it uses its ridiculousness and grimness to good purpose most of the time. The story is quick and the plot rolls at a good pace. I personally could do without some things like 'necromancy affects sperm somehow' but I'll give that one a pass only because that part made me snortle (chortle-snort) out loud in the middle of my workplace. So loud a coworker checked in on what was so funny. 'Pregnant zombie, lol.' ;D This was only exacerbated by one of the characters falling into random instalove with the pregnant zombie whose zombie baby is heavily hinted at being a very important zombie baby, lol. There are more sex scenes than I was expecting, most of which were... meh... >.>; they weren't the main focus of the story, and weren't the absolute worst. Still, they mostly seemed unnecessary in the first place.
The narrator was... well, he's not the worst narrator I've ever heard, but nowhere near the best. He has a strange cadence at times, and... perhaps not slurs exactly but sort of... mumbles some words? Trips over some words perhaps? It almost sounds like the book skips when this happens, so for all I know it's an audio editing thing, but there are instances of other words which were randomly mispronounced like they were just stumbled over. For instance, occasionally, the word across has a very noticeable 'T' at the end of it, for some reason. One of my co-workers pronounces it this same way sometimes, so perhaps it's some sort of regional thing? Some of the accents were really quite bad, too. Others were less bad but sounded really forced.
But, that all said, it evens out a little bit, because this guy drops f-bombs like he *means* it. He says the f-word like it's a word that he's not quite sure about, and so goes whole hog just in case. Like he's not quite sure of the level of emphasis needed, so it gets *maximum emphasis* every time, lol. It was hilarious, if I'm honest, because this book has a veritable ton of f-bombs in it. This is something I point out not in a ruined-the-book-at-all way, but just something that I noticed, lol. It lightened up the whole thing, and made what I would have called a bad narration.... not actually as bad as I initially thought it would be (though still not great, honestly =\). I hope he continues to narrate though. I think he'll be great at it with more practice. The potential is there, because his voice has a nice tone, it's just the diction that needs work.
This is one of those books some friends of mine recommended as a decent grimdark story. I decided to give it a shot, and I am glad I did. It is a completely different take on elves. No longer the wise, graceful elder race, these are gritty, at times petty and prejudiced. They can't stand the half elves, and give them a raw deal, and they are not too sympathetic.
The Orcs are much different than the fairly sterile ones Tolkien created. Yes, they kill indiscriminately, but this author's are so much worse. They don't just kill. They torture, humiliate and will rape anything they can hold still. They plunder, despoil, keep sex slaves and are generally the worst sort of evil race I have ever seen put to page that is not demonic, and these actually give other writer's demons a run for the money, and these create the background tension in the story.
The story starts 5000 years ago. An elvish battalion has been almost wiped out by a horde of orcs. The last seven elves are surrounded by the horde, protecting a pregnant human woman, about to be wiped out when a miracle occurs. The warriors are imbued by the seven elven gods with magic weapons and armor that they become bonded to for life, that allows them to defeat the orc horde. These are the Orcslayers, the scourge of the orc hordes, and the orcs would tremble in fear at the mention of them.
Now 5000 years later, the orcs haven't been seen in numbers in millennia. The South is at peace, with 5 forts guarding the passes between the orcs in the north and the elves and humans in the south. In the orc lands, and orc chieftain with dreams of uniting the tribes and conquering the south, sends his half-orc son, Bazak, to spy on the leadership of the Southern kingdoms, and help set up the invasion. He makes it down south and seduces a captain in the guard of Ashen Falls, gaining valuable intel.
Enter Saethryth. He is one of the two Orcslayers currently active. The roles have been passed down over the years. He follows the half-orc and confronts him as he is about to kill his duped captain, and saves her, although the orc gets away. He then decides to help her get revenge on Bazak by inducting her into the Orcslayers, realizing their numbers need to be increased, and she takes the new name Tierra.
The other storyline follows Melress, a half elf battle mage who is actually
Saethryth's half brother, unbeknownst to them both. Melress is sent on a mission to support the fort at Knight's Reach if the Orcs actually are invading. While he is on the way to the fort, he comes across a farm that an orc war band has despoiled, and he uses his power to save a young woman who was recently killed. He has a unique power to raise the dead, which is a priest's power, not a mages, and this plays an important part in the story later. He also unintentionally raises her parents, but they arise after he and the girl leave, and the parents quest for orc vengeance provides some hilarious moments in an otherwise grim story. Talk about gallows humor! We also discover that there might be a little more to the Elven pantheon than the seven accepted gods.
The story lines converge at Knight's Perch, where the one of the forces of the orcs is invading. What follows is a well drawn out battle scene, with surprising combat, monsters rampaging, heroism, courage and barbarism in steady amounts, as well as some betrayal you don't see coming. Bazak and Tierra meet again, although Bazak doesn't enjoy the meeting for long. We discover Melress is married to someone rather important, and that there is a grand conspiracy moving events far bigger than the orcs, looking for vengeance long denied. The story ends with us getting a glimpse at the larger world the story will be taking us in to in future books.
The characters and setting are real strengths of this book. Saethryth's world weary cynicism, Tierra's need for revenge and to protect her homeland, and Melress's innocent earnestness, with just a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to being half elven, all make them endearing. The side characters are also well fleshed out, making you interested in their interactions throughout the story. The villains are just loathsome. There is no other way to describe them. They are Orcs as would make Tolkien shiver just thinking about them. They are not sympathetic in the slightest, although they are interesting, as in wow, that train wreck sure has a lot of fatalities way. You just cant take your eyes off of them, even though you want to.
All in all, this was a very good debut novel. Grimdark as all hell, great characters, an interesting backstory, and a fully fleshed out world that has a grander conspiracy awaiting discovery.
Damien Brunetto is a new narrator to me, but I am interested in hearing more. He did a great job bringing the characters to life, giving each character lavish attention. He has a good cadence that keeps the listener engaged the whole way through. I recommend this book wholeheartedly for dark fantasy fans.
A good, fun story, that keeps you enthralled the entire time. Can't wait for the next installment.
Narration was easy to listen to and definitely kept you in the world of the book.