Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review- Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Okay, my opinion of all sorts of epic/traditional fantasy is well documented. I don't like it. BUT my tendency to be as changeable as the weather. As a woman I reserve this right.

Pay attention authors.

I NEVER would have picked up Tome of the Undergates. NEVER. The name is pretentious. The cover art? Well, it's a guy with a sword, innit? And it ain't even a samurai sword and there ain't even a hint of fine man-titty anywhere.

But when I followed Sam Sykes on twitter (@SamSykesSwears) he sent me a DM complimenting this here blog. Well, then we were friends, weren't we? (I'm allowed my delusions). Then the book got nominated for a few awards ( the Compton-Crook and the Gemmell). These things-- plus my utter suck-a-tude at picking books of late *grumble grumble* convinced me.

So, yeah. I went ahead and bought the book.

And *surprise!* I liked it.

Publisher's Copy-
Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out.

At the start, violence gets most of the attention in this book. That's good. I likes violence. But the most interesting part of the book is all the loathing. Though the publisher (and most everyone else) seems to focus on the enmity between our merry band of adventures, it was all the self loathing that interested me. The race-traitor, the one hiding behind faith, the PTSD-esque survivor's guilt,  the one for whom everything is wrong. It is this self loathing that drives the characters to do the crazy things they do.

In perusing other reviews (actually I didn't. I went looking for the BOB copy and stumbled on another review) I noticed a lament that the characters don't grow or change. I disagree-- I mean I agree, but...

BUT the feeling I get is that the characters have been living with this self hatred inside them like an abscess. In book one we get to watch many of these characters lance the boil and bleed out (at least some) of the infection.

Okay-- that's way heavier than I ever wanted to be.

If you aren't looking for philosophy- Tome is still fun. It still has the violence in spades, there are plenty of fart jokes and the writing is good. No smex. (wah wah wah) But maybe the most erotic sweat drop ever written.

Not a perfect book, but a lot of fun and so much better than the previous 2 crap books that I bought and hated*. Worth a read and I look forward to picking up Black Halo (book 2).

*Okay, 1 I hated and 1 that was so soul crushingly disappointing that I wanted to cry.

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