Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Rec: Scourge of the Betrayer (Jeff Salyards)

I've been a little quiet here recently because I'm hip-deep in revising The Tainted City (and having a terrific time doing it...I adore revising, it is my favorite part of writing!).  But I've still been reading, albeit not at quite the same breakneck pace as I did right after finishing my draft (after which I read a book a night for 10 days straight, woo!)  Still, I'm up to 26 books read in the last month - some new to me, and some old "comfort food" favorites.  Today I'm highlighting one of the debut novels among my recent reads that I particularly enjoyed: Jeff Salyards' Scourge of the Betrayer.

I thought it sounded interesting right from the get-go: a naive bookish scribe playing "embedded journalist" in a hardened military company with a haunted, enigmatic leader...sign me up, I said!  (I'm a total sucker for characters who've got secrets, and I enjoy military fantasies.)  The book didn't disappoint.

The characters are very nicely drawn, particularly Captain Braylar Killcoin and the scout Lloi, both of whom I found fascinating.  The internal journey of the young narrator (Arkamandos the scribe) as he witnesses and even participates in the company's violent encounters is also quite well written.  The book is very tightly focused on the characters; if you read fantasy for grand, sweeping dramas and elaborate worldbuilding, you won't find that here.  To me, the tight focus felt refreshing, and it keeps the novel lean and well-paced.

The book is definitely of the "gritty" school of fantasy; the violence is not gratuitous, but Salyards does not shy away from the unpleasant realities of battle.  (It would be a cheat if he had!)  I found his characters more sympathetic than some in other gritty fantasies I've read - I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll say that there was one moment toward the end of the book I found wonderfully gut-punching in impact, because I cared so much for the characters involved.  Scourge of the Betrayer works beautifully as a psychological study, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Salyards takes the characters from here.  If you enjoy military fantasy - or even if you just like a deep exploration of character - pick this one up!          

1 comment:

  1. The premise and the unusual nature of the protagonist drew me to reading this one, too.