book reviews by Althea

Snakewood – Adrian Selby ***

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Snakewood by Adrian Selby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of buzz about this debut…

Grim! Grim! Grim! Dark! Dark! Dark!
Seriously, this makes most fantasy described as grimdark look like a sunny and cheery laugh riot. This book is bitter and brutal and nasty. Also, kind of disturbing, for those who care about things like bodily integrity.

My first impression of the book was that it was really, strikingly original. The group of mercenaries we meet here are dependent on cocktails of toxic drugs – and antidotes for those drugs – which they use, berserker-like, as the main part of their fighting arsenal. Indeed, although these drugs are used mainly by fighting men, this society’s economy depends largely on trade in rare and desirable ‘plant’ – herbal elements – and the drudha (druids?) who mix and innovate the drugs are coveted and powerful men. The descriptions of the various drugs and their effects are colorfully (literally) and vividly described, and deeply weird.

However, as the story went on, I began to feel like, overall, the book wasn’t as innovative as a thought it was going to be. A couple of decades ago, the infamous and successful mercenary group known as Kailen’s Twenty disbanded. Each of the fighters went their separate ways. But now, someone is killing them. The ones still left alive aren’t sure who could be out for revenge, so many years later. But they’ll have to try to find out, or they’re sure to become the next victims.

The book did have some flaws. Although different characters were written in different styles, I still found them difficult to immediately distinguish from each other. They didn’t feel distinct. The jumps in time period and perspective often felt awkwardly placed, and the pacing at which information was revealed could’ve been better. Overall, it was still interesting.

I felt like this may have been influenced by Gene Wolfe.

Many thanks to Orbit and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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