Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the curch even before the injured became the dead.
When Jorg, Prince of Ancrath was a child, the men of Count Renar murdered his mother and his little brother. He could only watch, helplessly, held fast by the thorns of the Hook Briar, biting deeper into his flesh with every move.
That day and those thorns changed Jorg. He leaves his father’s castle and joins a group of murderous outlaws, burning and pillaging as they go. But Jorg has bigger plans: He will be king. Then he will end the Hundred War and become emperor of the Broken Empire.
Jorg is a bastard. If I met him in person I would hate him. He is not a good guy. He murders. He burns. He rapes. For all intents and purposes, I should hate him and in real life, I would. But in this novel? I was fascinated. He is one very important thing: A really interesting character in a compelling story.
War, my friends, is a thing of beauty. Those as says otherewise are losing. If I’d bothered to go over to old Bovid, propped up against the fountan with bis guts in his lap, he’d probably take a contrary view. But look where disagreeing got him.
Jorg is manipulative and cruel. He is also highly intelligent, has a knack for getting people to do what he wants and doesn’t take orders from anyone. He spins elaborate plans that consist half of careful planning and half of winging it when the time comes.
You can only win the game when you understand that it is a game. Let a man olay chess, and tell him that every pawn is his friend. Let him remember happy days in the shadows of his castles. Let him love his queen. Watch him lose them all.
I really loved the worldbuilding. It starts out in a classic medieval fantasy setting, just darker. But bit by bit, things get added that make the world more complex and fascinating. There are dead that walk the land. There are castles built in the ruins of what the mysterious Builders created. Castles that sound oddly familiar:
The Road-men didn’t build Tall Castle, but those who did had artifice almost to equal that of the Road-men. The walls weren’t quarry hewn, but seemingly crushed rock that had once poured like water. Some magic set metal bars through the stone of the wall, twisted bars of a metal tougher even than the black iron from the East.
This book combines a fantasy setting with a post-apocalytpic science fiction setting and it works really well.
‘State your name and password.’
‘How long have you been trapped in there, spirit?’ I asked.
The brothers gathered around me, peering into the compartment. Makin made the sign of the cross, Red Kent fingered his charms, Liar pulled his self-collected reliquary from beneath his mail shirt.
A long moment passed while the green worms marched down the black wall, a flood of light beneath the dust. ‘One thousand one hundred and eleven years.’
This broken world is populated by dark characters. There are almost no noble hearted characters to be found. But that’s okay because these twisted characters work. They are interesting and rounded and that is enough for me to care about what happens to them.
A dark fantasy set in an interesting world full of complex characters.