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Posted August 17, 2012
Most fantasy novels begin with a very clear explanation of who the
characters are, what the story is about, and where the story is going;
the author immediately defines a goal, a destination, or an objective
against which to measure progress; and then leads us to the discovery of
a monster, a villain, an empire, or a philosophy to be defeated as the
ultimate measure of success. With Scourge of the Betrayer we get none
of that. We're introduced to the characters by name, given a few vague
hints and clues as to their roles within the world, and then we're off.
Much like Arki, the scribe who provides our focal point into the world,
we're kept in the dark as to where we're going, why we're going there,
and what it is we hope to accomplish. More than that, we're denied any
insight into the significance of events, and robbed of the opportunity
to play along and estimate where we are on the journey. It's a
dangerously ambitious way to tell a story, and one with as much
potential to alienate readers as to engage them. Fortunately, Salyards
know just how to pace his clues, creating a sense of drama and
anticipation that wouldn't otherwise be found in what is ultimately
revealed to be a rather straightforward tale. Instead of driving towards
a goal or a destination we, as readers, are driving instead towards an
understanding of who Captain Braylar is and what, exactly, his Slydoon
are up to. The fact that Salyards tells such a stark, brutal, realistic
tale certainly helps - had this been a lighter or brighter fantasy, the
storytelling likely wouldn't have worked so well. Instead, the edginess
of the storytelling plays well against the edginess of the characters
and their world, actually serving to draw the reader in. Make no
mistake, it's a literary tease, and one that's often frustrating, but it
somehow all comes together. Of course, every story must have its end,
and every mystery must have it's big reveal. The big reveal here is less
of a "WOW!" and more of an "hmm . . . okay" moment,
but it's in keeping with the rest of the story. While I was looking for
something a bit more grand, something with a bit more significance, I
can't really say I was disappointed. The reveal, and the casual way in
which it takes place, just seem to fit. Besides, in a story that is so
character-driven, it's only fitting that the most significant moments be
saved for the characters themselves, not their journey. My only
complaint is that this feels like less of a complete story and more of a
first arc in a longer book, the kind of opening instalment that catches
your interest but leaves you wanting to reserve judgement until you know
more. Having said that, it's an intriguing enough first arc to make me
want to read more, and there's no better recommendation I can offer than that.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2015
You know a book has promise when you start reading it one night before bed and then by the time you force yourself to actually go to sleep, its past two in the morning and you’re already halfway through the book.
That was exactly the case for Jeff Salyards’s novel, Scourge of the Betrayer, book one in the Bloodsounder’s Arc series. This book has everything that you would expect from a kick starter of a dark fantasy series: blood, gore, sex (or at least talking about it, as Braylar’s company of Syldoon’s are not shy to do…ever), political intrigue, death, magic, twists and turns, the whole nine yards. It’s a story about a young scribe Arki, enlisted by Captain Braylar Killcoin, leader of this particular group of Syldoon, to chronicle their journeys. Unfortunately for Arki, but fortunately for us as readers, Arki hasn’t a lick of an idea when it comes to what he’s gotten himself into, and I personally think that even by the end of the novel, he still doesn’t.
We follow and root for Arki as he struggles to deal with a company of men (and one crippled woman) that he has only ever heard horror tales about, and we feel for him as some of those tales prove closer to reality than fiction. Arki proved to be a good protagonist, albeit naïve, and one I had no problem cheering for.
However, I was much more interested in the rest of the company and was probably as frustrated as Arki when I had to work for the details about each member. I’m still frustrated that I feel wanting for more, even at the end (but trust me, Salyards, that’s a good thing). I still cannot decide my opinions on Braylar himself: a dark man with a dark past and a magic that sends shivers up my spine, he is the type of man you don’t like, but you respect, because he makes the decisions that no one wants to make, and isn’t afraid to choose the harder choice. I understand Arki’s fear of him and I can’t decide if I like him or not.
Lloi might have been my favorite, as she played the role of underdog. I loved the banter between Glesswik and Vendurro. Mulldoos I was not a fan of, but I don’t think I was meant to be, either. But I am also intrigued by him and want to learn more about him. Hewspear has a special place in my heart, just because I think he might be one of the few within the company to have a heart. But these characters are very well developed and I enjoyed reading and learning about them, both as a unit and as individuals.
As for the writing itself, Salyards wrote in a quick-pace that was easy to follow. He gave special attention to the battle scenes which I appreciated. And the dialogue, usually banter, whether between company members or between the Baron (which those scenes need a whole review of their own) and Braylar, was particularly on point.
Overall, this book was a pleasure to read. It kept my interest, it got me invested and left me craving for more. I’m quite excited to go and read Veil of the Deserters, and I recommend, if you haven’t already, to give Scourge of the Betrayer a go. If you appreciate good literature, you won’t regret it.
Posted September 17, 2014
Jeff Salyards has done something new. He has taken the fantasy epic and made it intimate in a way most authors just can't manage. Scourge of the Betrayers take many elements of fantasy, such as the fish out of water character, a character dealing with a curse, as well as mentally and physically damaged characters with unknown motivations, and weaves a tale that is gritty, dark, humorous and action packed in turns. The battle scenes are especially well set, taking into account in a real way how melee weapons would fare against armor and horse, and leaving you in doubt who will prevail. The author seems to have taken special care with the narrator, a scribe, to ensure that he didn't go from a weakling into Conan, but instead acts in character of a person who has not been threatened with battle before, and acts accordingly. The characters grow organically to the story, and the ending only leaves you wanting more, which he has thoughtfully provided in a second book. One of the best reads this year. If you like the writing Joe Ambercrombie, Anthony Ryan, Brian McClellan, Scott Lynch or Brian Stavely, you will enjoy this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2013
An outstanding novel. I loved the characters, the scenery, the story and the style of writing. Mr. Salyards is a fantastic storyteller and I look forward to traveling with him as his epic unfolds. Do yourself a favor Fantasy fans!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2012
I finished this book and loved it. It is well written and drew me into the story and the characters at a perfect pace. Arki the scribe is a good narrator as we see the story through his eyes. I will be watching for the next book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2012
I need to be honest from the start. I love books, but I am not at fantasy reader. To me, the world of LARPing, dressing in medieval clothing and adopting an Ole Englysh accent for a weekend to joust while selling roasted turkey legs and dancing to lute music seems, well, an escape from reality taken a little too seriously. I will not line up to be a serving wench at the next Renaissance Faire in town, but Salyards has convinced me that fantasy literature is worth the time. And perhaps wearing a corset or two isn't out of the question.
I actually pre-ordered the book for by brother as a Christmas present, noted its arrival on my doorstep in May, and innocently thought I'd skim a few pages before handing it off. I ended up reading the whole thing, hijacking the gift without remorse.
I entered into scribe Arki's world, his narration and recording of a mysterious journey with Captain Killcoin's troupe, and I wanted to know more. The use of a scribe as the narrator is clever: the plot and discovery unfolds just enough to leave one to want more questions answered, leading us through Arki's observations as though we are he, as though we are there.
We learn of the caste system of the Syldoon, the Grass Dogs, the Hornmen, and the elusive and feared Memoridon. We also learn of the dark underbelly of the mystery and the bloodiness of battle. I admit, I'm a woman, an usually not into war scenes and books about battles. But this one, yes, this one, I was nervously crouched reading through the chase of horses, the blood and gore, the flails flailing, the swords poised, and afraid of just who might become a casuality. Salyards creates a believable world, one that comes alive for me, one that I see easily. The characters gain shape and color as the story unfolds. There are a few subtle anachronisms, but the kingdoms are real, guts and all. I also appreciate the humor laced in the darkness, just enough to lighten the mood slightly, but not make the book comical. Salyards does this well.
While I was converted to reading this type of literature, I do caution the foul language and adult situations are not appropriate for "delicate" readers. Don't give this book to your 13-year-old to read. It might be a little randy for virgin eyes.
The second installment is anticipated in another year. Hurry up! The first book ended on a very precipitous note: I am teetering on the edge to find out what happens next!
I highly recommend Scourge of the Betrayer to anyone who wants well-written adventure, with the anticipation there will be more to come! Bravo, Salyards. Brilliant debut.
Posted June 1, 2012
I enjoyed this one... it felt different from most fantasy novels. The end seemed a little abrupt, but it wasn't a big deal. I look forward to reading the next in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2012
I've been a fan of fantasy fiction for a long time and I've read more than my share of books that make me say "Oh, this author has clearly read Tolkien / Brooks / Eddings / etc." This is NOT one of those books. This is a first-person narrative (normally not a big fan, loved this one) told by a guy who is basically an observer to a situation and characters he doesn't fully understand. His boss is a mysterious captain of vicious soldiers on an unclear mission. Arki, the narrator, knows only what he is told and as a result, that's all the reader gets. Very effective method of rolling out the mysterious plot that is primarily a character study. The characters are well-developed, the dialogue is great, and while one probably shouldn't like the main character (who is not Arki, it's Arki's boss, Braylar Killcoin), he's very likeable. He's multi-dimensional and while he's brutal and cold-blooded, he's also decidedly sympathetic in some ways. Can't wait to read the next one in the series. If you're a fan of military fantasty fiction, medieval soldiery, or great characters, pick it up. It stays with you and makes you think.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2012
I often ask myself what it is about Game of Thrones that makes it so fascinating. Thanks to Jeff Salyards, i now understand: It's the intimacy. In spite of the epic scope, each chapter has the feel of one person, in over their head. Mr. Salyards has taken that idea, and whittled it down. There are epic goings-on in the empire, but we are only privy to the views of a scribe, challenged with telling the story, reporting what he sees and thinks, but never gaining full insight or understanding. We are forced to stumble down the path with Arky, watching plots within plots unfurl themselves in front of our eyes as we try to piece together the full tapestry.
Even more than that, though, is the power of the gritty realism of the fight scenes. These are not the "one man defeats 50 fiends" battles of other fantasy worlds. Heroes hurt, bleed and die in battle, and friends are lost. Salyards' deft touch at creating characters that are both off-putting an endearing at the same time lends an even harsher reality to the violence; fortunately, his sense of humor underlying everything also makes it tolerable and fascinating, like watching a man laugh his way to the gallows. Hopefully, the arc will continue to a conclusion that meets the promise of the initial swing of the flail.
Posted May 9, 2012
The fact that I enjoyed this novel doesn't surprise me, just the extent to which I did. I've got a real taste for militaristic, dark fantasy, and "Scourge of the Betrayer" definitely satisfied me on that count. I really appreciated the fact that Salyards' writing style was descriptive and aesthetically pleasing without completely sounding out of character for Arki.
Speaking of which, Arki, the narrator, is possibly my favorite part of the whole book; Salyards' choice to write the blood-soaked quest from the point of view of a borderline cowardly, gentle-hearted scribe really sets this book apart from others in the genre. I've seen Salyards compared to Joe Abercrombie a lot, and I don't think that comes down just to their penchant for very gritty fantasy (although that is a definite similarity between the two)--Salyards, like Abercrombie, excels at crafting three-dimensional, true-to-life characters that live in a world which is believable, yet steeped in elements of the fantastic.
I was enjoyed the first half of the book; like I said, Salyards' writing style and characters are nice to read in and of themselves, but the second half of the novel, the plot and character histories really pick up and fall into place. It was really great.
Posted October 17, 2012
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Posted November 13, 2014
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Posted January 19, 2013
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