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The Grim CompanyAuthor: Luke Scull

Title: The Grim Company

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Paperback: 464 pages

ISBN: 978-1781852125

Price: £7.99

Publication Date: 29/08/2013

For someone who lives in a  town called Warminster, it is perhaps apt that Luke Scull has written a dark fantasy novel filled with action, skulduggery, betrayal, and …well, war!

In a world where the gods have been defeated and usurped by a group of magicians, who now style themselves the ‘Magelords’, war is brewing. With the death of the gods magic is on the wane in Dorminia. And, with demonic forces spilling into the northern mountains, there are threats and dangers on all sides.

Set against this background is the Grim Company of the title [which also serves as the title for the trilogy itself]. This group includes Davarus Cole, a hero in his mind only [an insufferable idiot to everybody else]; Brodar Kayne, an ageing warrior from the North, with his companion, The Wolf; and Sasha, the young, fiercely independent woman who is everything Davarus is not.

If this band, along with some of the supporting cast – there is Eremul the Halfmage and Yllandris, the young sorceress and lover of the King of the Fangs – seems a little familiar, then that shouldn’t be a surprise. You can certainly see the influence of fantasy writers such as Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, George R.R. Martin, David Gemmell and – most especially – Joe Abercrombie on Scull’s debut novel. Specifically the dark humour and bleak violence of Abercrombie can be seen in The Grim Company. And I would definitely say that anyone who is a fan Abercrombie’s will likely enjoy this book.

However, that is not to denigrate Scull’s work in any way. He shows a deft and confident prose style, and the plot is lean and pacy, balancing the backstories of the numerous characters with the need to keep a constant impetus to the reading experience. But as a work of fantasy it certainly shouldn’t be seen as reinventing the wheel – which isn’t something that I think that the author or the publisher is claiming, so it certainly wasn’t a problem for me when I was reading this novel.

And, whilst there are occasional flashes of satire aimed towards the fantasy genre – and specifically the dark epic fantasy genre – Scull is certainly writing for an audience within that area. So anyone not keen on works in that subsection of the genre should probably steer clear of this series. If I had one gripe it would be that there are a smattering of slightly annoying pop culture references dotted throughout the book that seemed a little superfluous, and a little irritating.

Personally though, I enjoyed the manner in which Scull took a number of rather stereotypical fantasy tropes [specifically those relating to characters], and through his skilful writing, managed to avoid any of it feeling stale. I especially liked the manner in which he managed to make each individual character POV feel exactly that…individual. Ultimately I really enjoyed reading it, and read it in one sitting. And so I will definitely be picking up the second book in the series when it is published and have high hopes for the trilogy.

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