Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Review of The Eighth God by Paul Lavender
Author: Paul Lavender
Release Date: September 12, 2016
Publisher: Paul Lavender
This is one of those books some friends of mine recommended as a decent grimdark story. I decided to give it a shot, and I am glad I did. It is a completely different take on elves. No longer the wise, graceful elder race, these are gritty, at times petty and prejudiced. They can't stand the half elves, and give them a raw deal, and they are not too sympathetic.
The Orcs are much different than the fairly sterile ones Tolkien created. Yes, they kill indiscriminately, but this author's are so much worse. They don't just kill. They torture, humiliate and will rape anything they can hold still. They plunder, despoil, keep sex slaves and are generally the worst sort of evil race I have ever seen put to page that is not demonic, and these actually give other writer's demons a run for the money, and these create the background tension in the story.
The story starts 5000 years ago. An elvish battalion has been almost wiped out by a horde of orcs. The last seven elves are surrounded by the horde, protecting a pregnant human woman, about to be wiped out when a miracle occurs. The warriors are imbued by the seven elven gods with magic weapons and armor that they become bonded to for life, that allows them to defeat the orc horde. These are the Orcslayers, the scourge of the orc hordes, and the orcs would tremble in fear at the mention of them.
Now 5000 years later, the orcs haven't been seen in numbers in millennia. The South is at peace, with 5 forts guarding the passes between the orcs in the north and the elves and humans in the south. In the orc lands, and orc chieftain with dreams of uniting the tribes and conquering the south, sends his half-orc son, Bazak, to spy on the leadership of the Southern kingdoms, and help set up the invasion. He makes it down south and seduces a captain in the guard of Ashen Falls, gaining valuable intel.
Enter Saethryth. He is one of the two Orcslayers currently active. The roles have been passed down over the years. He follows the half-orc and confronts him as he is about to kill his duped captain, and saves her, although the orc gets away. He then decides to help her get revenge on Bazak by inducting her into the Orcslayers, realizing their numbers need to be increased, and she takes the new name Tierra.
The other storyline follows Melress, a half elf battle mage who is actually
Saethryth's half brother, unbeknownst to them both. Melress is sent on a mission to support the fort at Knight's Reach if the Orcs actually are invading. While he is on the way to the fort, he comes across a farm that an orc war band has despoiled, and he uses his power to save a young woman who was recently killed. He has a unique power to raise the dead, which is a priest's power, not a mages, and this plays an important part in the story later. He also unintentionally raises her parents, but they arise after he and the girl leave, and the parents quest for orc vengeance provides some hilarious moments in an otherwise grim story. Talk about gallows humor! We also discover that there might be a little more to the Elven pantheon than the seven accepted gods.
The story lines converge at Knight's Perch, where the one of the forces of the orcs is invading. What follows is a well drawn out battle scene, with surprising combat, monsters rampaging, heroism, courage and barbarism in steady amounts, as well as some betrayal you don't see coming. Bazak and Tierra meet again, although Bazak doesn't enjoy the meeting for long. We discover Melress is married to someone rather important, and that there is a grand conspiracy moving events far bigger than the orcs, looking for vengeance long denied. The story ends with us getting a glimpse at the larger world the story will be taking us in to in future books.
The characters and setting are real strengths of this book. Saethryth's world weary cynicism, Tierra's need for revenge and to protect her homeland, and Melress's innocent earnestness, with just a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to being half elven, all make them endearing. The side characters are also well fleshed out, making you interested in their interactions throughout the story. The villains are just loathsome. There is no other way to describe them. They are Orcs as would make Tolkien shiver just thinking about them. They are not sympathetic in the slightest, although they are interesting, as in wow, that train wreck sure has a lot of fatalities way. You just cant take your eyes off of them, even though you want to.
All in all, this was a very good debut novel. Grimdark as all hell, great characters, an interesting backstory, and a fully fleshed out world that has a grander conspiracy awaiting discovery. Is it a perfect book? No. There are some editing issues, such as punctuation, things of that nature, that are kind of usual in a lot of first time indy books. Its not something that will ruin your enjoyment of the book. I recommend this book wholeheartedly for dark fantasy fans.
I will mention one more thing. This book shows the orcs in a very visceral, graphic way. They keep sex slaves, and will slaughter, rape and humiliate any and all of their victims. This includes ALL of them, so gender and age do not restrain them. There is graphic talk of sex, and the aftermath of their raids is described, so if you are looking for clean, sterile fiction, this isn't it. I had no issue with it, since the author basically took the gloves with the orcs, and depicts them as I always imagined orcs to behave. Fair warning.