First up, a big thank you to the lovely Becci Sharpe and all the other folks at Head of Zeus for having sent me a review copy !! You’ve backed a winner here, a racehorse for the longer innings – so take a bow!
Grim Company is the hot debut by Luke Scull, that went into a multi-way bidding war between publishers and little known UK based Head of Zeus walked away winners. Big risk for an enterprise setting out in this industry? Well, risks pay off and boy, what a brilliant gamble this has turned out to be for them, huh.
Epic fantasy featuring sweeping battles, mighty God-like magelords, an enriched system of magic, a company of misfits including a tragic hero and an older cynical warrior weary of life out to change the fate of the world in an age of ruins where heroes have no place. Grim company packs all these fantasy tropes pretty well into an explosive grim dark fantasy that I believe, is well neigh going be the heir to that throne currently occupied by a certain Mr. Abercrombie from the same country. Luke definitely has written a gripping story ripe with violent action and snarky humor bringing alive some riveting characters who enthrall you with their grey motives and morally ambiguous interests keeping you invested till the explosive end. For fans of Abercrombie, while he is still penning down his next and working on making that First Law into a graphic novel, take a break and dive into the grim world of Luke Scull. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
The story is set in a grey world where the Gods have been killed by powerful magelords who each rule various factions – chief ones that feature in this book are the Tyrant of Dorminia, Salazar, Lord of the North, the Shaman and the mysterious White Lady. Written in third person narrative, it features multiples POVs that keeps the tightly-written bloat-free story rolling forwards. We are first introduced to Davarus Cole, a self-proclaimed hero out to rid the city of Dorminia of its tyrannical ruler. Caught up in his own narcissistic heroic images, Cole makes for really interesting read –his character evolution arc is pretty well written (Well except for a hurried training in the middle) but two of the most well written characters whom I absolutely loved were Brodar Kayne, the barbarian from the North Highlands and Eremul, the legless wizard who is also seething for his revenge against Salazar. Till now it does look like Luke just borrowed from the enigmatic cast of the First Law trilogy and dumped them into this new world on the razor-edge of doom, doesn’t it? But give it a go and Luke’s interpretation of this band of misfit “heroes” is something you will love. Thrown into the fray are also Sasha, another rebel accompanying Cole, Yllandris a sorceress from the North with her own secret ambitions and Barandas, Salazar’s chief Augmentor ( Augmentor is like a super bad-ass soldier with magic infused into their weapons or body itself) – He is possibly the only guy who has honorable intentions in this whole book. Well sadly, that made him a little boring for me. But despair not, the twisted wicked legless half-wizard Eremul, the inept Cole with his big mouth and tall claims and the brooding fearsome swordsman par excellence Kayne will more than make up for that. All of them get caught up in the claws of fate.
Political intrigue and unrest crackles through the book – the hero’s journey comes a full circle back to where he started. Horrific demoniacal monsters from the badlands where fallen Gods leak magic abound. Action is top notch and Luke’s writing comes alive in an easy fast prose that makes for excellent reading.
Overall, a crackling debut that will cement Luke’s place in an arena already full and brimming with talented writers. I for one, will definitely want to watch where Luke is going to take Kayne – surely headed for the glorious blood-soaked pantheon of brooding badasses in fantasy history – right alongside the Bloody Nine. Highly recommended, a full four stars.