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Sword of the North: The Grim Company by Luke…
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Sword of the North: The Grim Company

by Luke Scull

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I received a free copy of Sword of The North from Librarything in exchange for a review. Sword of The North is the second novel in a fantasy series, and I would highly recommend reading the first book first. Otherwise there is a lot to catch up on and familiarize yourself first. The book has multiple POV’s.

Now normally this is where I would put a brief intro to what the book is about. But the book has a few storylines, and multiple characters. It’s been pretty well covered by others and by the description at the top, so I feel it’ll be fine to leave this section alone.

This book has a lot of gritty detail to it. Lots of graphic murder, including slitting someone’s throat, and drowning another person while their friend watches. Not a book I’d recommend for the squeamish. Also there is sexual content.

I would recommend reading the first book, because oh my goodness. I was lost. Now about 50 pages into the book I started to get the hang of everything. At first I thought it was just one POV, and so I was very confused when Sasha and Eremul started making appearances. So it took me a little longer to get into this world, before I could thoroughly enjoy it. I now have the need to buy the first book, then reread this one.
  KallyHB | Sep 17, 2016 |
See the complete review posted on Book Frivolity. Check out other Fantasy and Historical Fiction ruminations there as well! POV's: Multiple
Narrative:Third Person, Limited, Subjective

My first reaction when I finished Sword of the North was: You want gritty, this is like rubbing yourself all over with an emery board!

Sword of The North is possibly the darkest Grimdark novels I have read in quite some time. The world is broken, the characters are all in horrendous situations and the outlook is about as bleak as you can make it. There is horror and death around every corner and there is not much happening to convince people that The Age of Ruin is anything, but The Age of Ruin.

It could have easily been a pretty flat and depressing trudge. The amazing thing is, Scull has been able to make it sing and give it life through craftily bleeding little aspects of hope into the story that the reader can latch onto, little elements that might be a saving grace to keep the characters moving forward. There is also a streak of dark humour running through it, that comes from the strangest of places. Sarcastic wit, humorous violent rages and psychopathic thought processes all serve to create anything from sniggers to belly laughs.

Occasionally it is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride, which I think is one of the most important elements to keep grimdark interesting. At one stage, within 1% of the novel (according to the reader!), I had a tear of emotion, a belly laugh and the feeling of extreme betrayal. There is humour sidled beside death, and love beside hate. It creates such a heady atmosphere, and it kept me enthralled the whole way through.

The development of the characters between The Grim Company and Sword of the North is immense. The most outstanding aspect of this instalment, is that no matter how much action is whizzing about, the human aspect is never lost. Each of the points of view are dealing with demons that readers can relate to: drug addiction, ageing, bullying, disability and anxiety to name but a few.

There are two characters that go through the most obvious developments, but the progression I found most engaging is in Yllandris. The conceited, beautiful and powerful concubine of the King, has been broken down into an emotional and physical wreck. With it she becomes the champion of children lined up for sacrifice, and is willing to sacrifice herself to stop the reign of the Mad King. Her thought processes are fragile and beautiful, and where I disdained her in Grim Company, I fell in love with her in this. The great thing is, Yllandris is not the only character that is treated with consideration, almost all are changed and moulded anew by the events that have befallen them.

Brodar Kayne, the actual Sword of The North, is given some extra groundwork with flashback scenes to his past as a warrior, and his relationship with his wife and child; the driving force of his journey back to the Highlands. I'm usually not a big fan of flashbacks, but these actually served to broaden Kaynes character and reveal his motivations, not just pad out the book with superfluous meanderings.

The plot line is huge. There is so much going on in and around the two central themes that it had the potential to cause brain bleeds; but by keeping each spoke contained within each point of view, it doesn't become unwieldy in the slightest. At no point did I feel like I had missed a crucial element, or that I had been thrown so far wide of the 'real' plot that my attention started to wander off with it. It just flows so nicely, and by keeping the point of views in a regular pattern, it maintains a good structure, rather than jerking you out of one element and into the next, eliminating the potential for confusion.

The battle scenes are fast and furious, yet well enough written that there's no confusion as to where that arrows aimed or who is swinging what sword at who. Generally, the pacing was hard hitting all the way through, but well kept in check so there wasn't any time line clashing or underdeveloped ideas.

However (I always have at least one!), right near the end, things started to get so clamorous I started to lose track of where people were, what they were doing or why they were doing it. It just felt a little too hysterical for the real impact of the battle royale to sink in. I understand the need to make those events as chaotic as possible to create atmosphere, but pulling back and spreading it out, possibly would've left a mightier impression.

But,



This was fantastic! If you liked The Grim Company, you'll love Sword of The North! It's really a step above the first instalment, in both composition and development, but still with the characters you love (and possibly hate!). Abercrombie, Erikson and Lawrence (and so many others!) have some real competition on their hands with Scull advancing like this!

Harcopy Worthy? Nods head vigorously!

Major point taken: Always be careful when selecting a pet. ( )
  BookFrivolity | Apr 23, 2016 |
I didn't end up finishing Sword of the North because I stopped being in the mood for grimdark, but that's not the book's fault. I'm excited for the war brewing and the consequences of dead gods everywhere and will be picking it back up when I'm in the right mood.
  anyaejo | Aug 12, 2015 |
Of the many fantasy sequels coming out this year, Luke Scull’s Sword of the North is high on my anticipated list. The follow-up to the hit that was The Grim Company, this second book continues with a story teeming with fantastic characters, a strong plot, and plenty of action.

In the first book we met Brodar Kayne, a hero from the cold reaches whose battle prowess and skill with a blade earned him the title Sword of the North. Together with a band of ragtag outcasts, he and his companion Jerek the Wolf were able to survive the chaos that reigned after the White Lady declared victory and succeeded the tyrant Salazar. However, their new ruler has proven not to be as benevolent as she claimed. Something feels rotten at the heart of the city as dissidents are captured or disappeared, but if the White Lady cannot be convinced of the new danger threatening Dorminia, the state of things are sure to go from bad to worse.

Our grim company is broken now, the characters scattered across the land to pursue their own personal quests. Amidst dark tidings about the Shaman and demon hordes in the High Fangs, Brodar and Jerek begin their journey back to their homeland in light of new revelations about Brodar’s family. Weakened and injured from the ordeal at the end of book one, Davarus Cole wakes up in a labor camp and immediately finds himself put to work, but deep inside he is a changed man, no longer the puffed-up blowhard he once was. Sasha grieves, believing Cole lost to her, and falls back into her drug addiction even as she travels with her slightly unhinged sister Ambryl to bring news to the White Lady. And last but certainly not least, there is Eremul the Halfmage who continues his investigation into the race of immortals known as the Fade. Who are these mysterious creatures? And what do they want?

Make no mistake, the characters are the highlight of this series. It’s difficult for me to single out any favorites, because they are all so well written, deeply developed and memorable in their own way. I don’t know how Luke Scull does it, but even when his characters are dastardly and unlikeable, they’re great. Take for example, the chapters featuring Sir Meredith and his misguided notions of honor. I found them a pleasure to read, if for no other reason because you know it’ll feel so good when the cruel “knight” finally gets what he deserves.

I also believe much of the characters’ strength comes from their all-too-human flaws, which are nonetheless balanced by admirable virtues…well, in most cases anyway. Even Jerek who is as crass as ever can be lovable in his own way, because one would think nothing can shake the old Wolf’s loyalty to his friends. It’s what makes one significant plot development late in the novel so heart-wrenching. When it comes to plot elements that cut deeply, there’s also Sasha and her hopeless cycle of abstaining from the moon dust only to fall off the wagon again and again. Scull has this way of getting you right into the heads of his characters, and Sasha’s struggle with the drug is one instance where the storytelling really closes in at a more intimate level. It’s all about personal stories, and nothing can be more personal than the flashbacks to Brodar Kayne’s past. These chapters were excellent, giving insight into our rough and tough protagonist, especially with the way they were interspersed with his present perspective. The company may be no more, most of its members separated, but in the process we’ve actually been given some great opportunities to further explore each character.

I was also surprised that for a heavy book containing such abundant themes and trappings of grimdark, Sword of the North was a relatively smooth, breezy read. It’s helped by the strong thread of wry humor woven through the story as well as the straight forward prose and dialogue, which at times featured language that bordered on modern-sounding. It’s not all gloom and doom despite the action and brutal violence, and actually managed to pull quite a few laughs out of me too.

As for flaws, I can’t think of many at all. Sword of the North is the middle book of a planned trilogy, and there are a lot of plot threads to follow so you can expect a slight slowdown in some of them while we gear up for the finale. On the whole, I found this to be the case with Davarus Cole as well as Eremul’s chapters. That’s not to say they were boring; on the contrary, there’s a lot of development happening there. But in terms of pacing, they were no match for Brodar Kayne’s action-filled chapters. Practically every other scene featured Brodar and his companions sticking a sword in something’s face, whether they be bandits, the risen undead, or poop-flinging barbarians. There were a couple new plot elements inserted into that storyline that felt a bit awkward though, such as a certain character from the Jade Isles who joins Brodar and his party late in the book. I think Scull may be setting up some game changers for book three, but the introduction of this character still seemed quite sudden and random. I guess we’ll see if it pays off in the next installment, but something tells me the author knows what he’s doing.

All told, this book was very enjoyable. Speaking of the next installment, I absolutely cannot wait for the third and final volume of this trilogy. If the first and second books are any indication, the finale is going to be well worth it. In Sword of the North, Luke Scull delivered a truly stellar sequel. ( )
  stefferoo | May 1, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425264866, Hardcover)

In The Grim Company, Luke Scull introduced a formidable and forbidding band of anti-heroes battling against ruthless Magelords and monstrous terrors. The adventure continues as the company—now broken—face new dangers on personal quests…  
 
As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions—leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.
 
Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.
 
Because the Fade are coming…
 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:22 -0400)

"As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady's victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned or exiled to darker regions leaving the White Lady's rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters, Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger. Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs, only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman and in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own"--… (more)

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