Book Review: Road Brothers – Tales From The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence

Road Brothers : Tales from the Broken Empire

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Grimdark
Author info: http://www.marklawrence.buzz/

Disclaimer: I have received a review copy from the author.This is an indie book by Mark Lawrence, a collection of short stories set in The Broken Empire world, each one featuring one of Jorg’s infamous band of Road Brothers. If you haven’t read The Broken Empire, I must say the stories and the footnotes contain spoilers for all three books, so this book is best suited for those who have read and enjoyed The Broken Empire trilogy.

I must admit I’m not quite over The Broken Empire hangover yet, even though Red Queen’s War books are awesome and set in the same world, I missed Jorg and his brothers a great deal. These stories give a great insight to the characters’ backgrounds, let them shine on their own without Jorg’s majestic presence and show you how they ended up there. I would categorize these stories not as just grimdark fantasy but also as literary fiction. The way they depict the human condition and how the choices people make shape their whole life remind me of the rather grim short stories from the grand masters of literary fiction I’ve read in my younger days.

Two of the stories are about Jorg, the rest feature Jorg’s band of brothers. Red Kent didn’t have a huge presence in the trilogy but his story is pretty powerful and as a lover of rustic settings, I found it a delight to read. Brother Sim was one of my favorites from The Broken Empire, his piece is superb and full of almost lyrical dark suspense. The leucrota Gorgoth has a killer show. Father Gomst story has the best cameos and ‘a-ha!’ moments.

We even get to see a cameo of Snorri’s father (for those who haven’t read Prince of Fools, Snorri is one of the main characters there) in the Nuban story. Nuban was one of my favorite brothers and his story is a true masterpiece, showing the tribal culture and spirit in poetic beauty. The book made me want to re-read The Broken Empire so badly, but alas, I have a lot of other grimdark books to read and review. But then again I might cave in and just do it. Then I will re-read The Road Brother tales, too, for these stories are the kind that warrant multiple re-reads.

Amazon link: Road Brothers – Tales From The Broken Empire

Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

Beyond Redemption

Genre: Dark Fantasy/Grimdark
Author info: http://michaelrfletcher.com/

I have received a review copy from the author in exchange of an honest review. My opinions are my own.

A lot of reviewers call Beyond Redemption ‘The grimdarkest of grimdark’ and as a grimdark fan, I agree with them. It’s the epitomy of grimdark but far from depressing. It has plenty of twisted humor and dark satire between the lines. The best way I can describe this book is that it’s immensely dark and gritty with slivers of hope, witty philosophy and stunning black humor scattered around. The point of view characters are horribly vile and amoral, perhaps with the exception of the little boy, whose innocence turns out to be tarnished like everything else in the book. Everyone is batshit crazy except for the one sane character.

Even though the characters are all insane and horrible, you still root for them. Don’t ask me how that is possible, this book is a work of genius and makes you care about those awful cretins. You end up feeling sorry for them. There’s only one character I (and I think everyone else) hated, which is the gluttonous, greedy slug Erbrechen the Slaver. Erbrechen one is 1000 times more revolting than all other characters and I’d say I hated him as much as I hated Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and Joffrey from Asoiaf/The Game of Thrones. None of the fantasy books I recently read featured such a horrible villain. Reading this book made me realize how much I missed reading a well written, awful villain I could hate like no tomorrow.

One of the female characters, Stehlen the kleptic, is all kinds of awesome. She’s hideous and messed up beyond any hope, and she’s a horrible cutthroat bitch with no shred of morals or honor, but she’s still an awesome character and I liked her. The other female character, Gehirn the pyromaniac, is equally hideous and even more messed up. She also behaves like a damn weakling but I rooted for her more than anyone else. Two thumbs up to Mr. Fletcher for this stellar accomplishment.

The most entertaining parts for me were 1)the constant bickering between the three main characters and 2) the bantering and plotting between the doppels of the other main character Konig. Doppels are the aspects of personality becoming real beings of flesh. Kind of like the multiple personality disorder, but they are fragments of the same person’s character and they have the exact likeness. But delusions make reality in this crazy world, so everyone else can see and hear those delusions, too. The doppels are creepy as hell but quite intriguing, full of surprises and great fun to read. I really hope Mr. Fletcher writes some short stories featuring the doppels.

The other thing I found great about Beyond Redemption is the totally unpredictable twists and turns. If plot twists and fresh, original stuff is your thing, you will love this book without question. If you like magic systems you will love it, though it’s a different kind of magic system than you see in most fantasy books featuring significant magic elements. If you hate magic systems you will still love it for the same reason.

The concept of death is also quite original and unusual. I can’t say much for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free, but you will have a lot of fun after the character deaths. That’s all I can say, you have to read and see for yourself.

The morbid adventures of Bedeckt, Stehlen and Wichtig are insanely entertaining and the action never lets up. There’s also deliciously dark philosophy and black humor to be found in this story. Hilarious and macabre dialogues, messed up events and the cleverly woven satire making this book a 2 am in the morning page turner. It ends with a cliffhanger with the promise of a sequel. What can I say, I’m dying to read the second book.

Verdict: Buy it ASAP! If you love grimdark and complex characters, you will be a big fan. If you don’t like grimdark, you might still enjoy this book a great deal cause it’s much more than just grimdark.

PS: Someone opened a rather interesting discussion thread on reddit as I finished writing this review. There’s a bit of controversy about the book and the author chimed in to answer some of the questions. Here is the link.

A Thrilling Announcement

I am very pleased to announce a new project I started with two other fantasy book bloggers. If you like the dark fantasy genre, which is also known as Grimdark, or even just fantasy in general, I invite you to stop by and take a look at (drumroll goes here):

Grimdark Alliance

I, along with Eric from The Grimdark Review and Alexandru from Barbarian Book Club, have come together to create a master Grimdark site which will be a one stop has all portal.

We feature book reviews (mostly Grimdark but we are going to review more general fantasy books every now and then), writing and Grimdark related articles, author interviews (we have some serious names lined up already!) and news about the events such as conventions and book tours.

I will still post book reviews here, but I’ll write the detailed Grimdark book reviews on Grimdark Alliance from now on.