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The Iron Wolves by Andy Remic
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The Iron Wolves

by Andy Remic

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Spoiler alert - do not read this book! This is absolutely horrible, a tremendously bad example of what gets published these days. I never thought I'd find a book like this - a book just barely interesting enough to keep me reading (though I skipped whole sections completely) but so awful that I'll give it a 1 (1/2) rating, which I normally reserve for books you should never read and I could not finish.

Why is it so bad?

1. Poor writing. There are too many examples to list of horribly constructed sentences with really poor word choices.
2. Over writing. There are far too many examples where the author goes much farther than necessary showing us just how evil some people can be. Much farther than is actually needed or useful. Gore for gore's sake.
3. Complete lack of backstory and internal consistency. The main antagonist just appears out of nowhere.
4. Unnecessary foul language.
5. Terrible cliff-hanger plot.
6. Too many plot elements and/or concepts stolen from other books. One character actually says, at the very end of a chapter 'Winter's coming', for absolutely no reason that has any connection with anything else in the book. The geography, what little there is, has apparently been lifted from other current fantasy series.
7. Unnecessary, throw away characters.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. This is just bad. ( )
  Karlstar | Aug 11, 2014 |
I confess that I was a comic book nerd as a lad. (Comic books weren't as mainstream then as they've since become; hence "nerd.") Once, two friends of mine who didn't read comics flipped through an issue of Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S that I had stowed in my locker. Laughing, they pointed out to me that, of 28 total pages, there were only three pages on which there was no fighting whatsoever. I remember that I was embarrassed, not only because I had been caught reading something with so little story, but also because I hadn't noticed that the book had no story to speak of. Jim Lee's artwork blinded me to the comic's vacuity.

All of which is extravagant context for my review of Andy Remic's recent book, The Iron Wolves (The Rage of Kings, Book 1). I must reluctantly report to potential readers that The Iron Wolves reads as if Remic strung together a series of grotesque fight scenes with a bare-bones plot.

The Iron Wolves' premise is simple: Orlana the Changer (aka the Horse Lady), sorceress and (apparently) embodiment of supernatural evil, raises an army to attack our heroes' homeland, Vagandrak. General Dalgoran, apparently the only official of sound mind in the kingdom, reunites the Iron Wolves, heroes of a previous war, in an effort to stop Orlana. The five Iron Wolves (Kiki, Dek, Narnok, Trista, and Zastarte) are morally deficient delinquents for whom the coming war presents an opportunity to reverse their fortunes and save their souls through redemptive, patriotic violence. Think Joe Abercrombie writing a reboot of The Dirty Dozen.

There is gore aplenty here for those who seek it. You might consider using decapitations as the foundation for a drinking game; in Remic's universe, heads exist to be split from the bodies to which they're mistakenly attached. Faces are sloughed off of heads on several occasions, the victims' brains spilling forth. None of which bothers me, per se. I'm desensitized to random violence (thanks, television!). The perversity of some of the war crimes exacted here, though, disgusted me.

Consider a scene in which Orlana impales several women on spears so that the blades project from their mouths. It's torture: she begins while they're still alive. For good measure, she uses the spears as spits and roasts them, feeding the flesh to their husband. Worse, one of the "heroes" kidnaps and tortures young noblemen and -women, possibly because they "deserve" it for their abuse of the lower classes. Or because it's just fun to torture people. I don't expect my heroes to be perfect, but this is fantasy. Please permit me the luxury of not having to root for a sociopath just because he's not (literally) a demon.

The Iron Wolves has two major problems. The characters are simplistic. They're all mercenaries, and readers will find it difficult to sympathize or identify with any of them, even Kiki, their leader, who, at least, has motivations beyond self-interest.

Remic's world, and as a consequence, the book, is disjointed. Remic spends the first third of the book establishing the story, which seems reasonable, but some of the Iron Wolves are introduced to readers even later. The initial chapters jump from one character to the next without segue or elaboration. The intent was, I think, to dump readers directly into the action. The effect is jarring, as the reader wonders what's important and what isn't, if he's following everything properly, why this is happening now, and so on.

Furthermore, Remic engages only in minimal worldbuilding. Not every author should imitate Tolkien, of course, but Vagandrak is painted in strokes so broad as to be nearly invisible. There is a stony country (Vagandrak), bordered by a poison sea, steppes to the south, and in which there is a forest full of suicides. And everything is really big. You now know everything there is to know about the setting of the book.

I spend a lot of time here going over the book's weaknesses because it's all so unfortunate. Remic shows talent as a writer. His prose is muscular and he shows evidence that he does know how to tell a story. Remic uses the last quarter of The Iron Wolves to elaborate on his heroes' history and provide some background the rules that govern magic in his world. The Iron Wolves are bound together in a special way that I found intriguing, and one character has an important destiny that demonstrates that Remic has, in fact, developed his world. He just doesn't share it with the reader.

What you need to know: Not for the squeamish, The Iron Wolves is a fantasy big on action and short on character development and worldbuilding. Possibly ideal for readers who think Joe Abercrombie is a pansy.

(Special thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for providing me access to The Iron Wolves in exchange for an honest review.) ( )
  LancasterWays | Dec 30, 2013 |
I have not had the pleasure of reading Andy Remic's Clockwork Vampire Chronicles yet, but hearing about how those books have earned the author the nickname "Tarantino of epic fantasy" has gotten me mighty curious. Being compared to the great QT is high praise indeed! How then could I possibly say no to The Iron Wolves?

This book has it all: bloody fight scenes and explosive battles, psychopathic villains and twisted, gritty anti-heroes. Oh, and mud-orcs. Mustn't forget the mud-orcs. Needless to say, I am happy to report that Andy Remic's title is well-deserved; we're talking no-holds-barred dark fantasy, of the faint-of-heart-need-not-apply variety. We're talking graphic violence, explicit sex scenes, and a truly astounding number of decapitations within these blood-soaked pages.

If this sounds like your kind of novel, then you're in for a real treat. Andy Remic has taken the classic "gather your party and go forth on a quest of epic proportions" objective, and so generously wrapped it all up for us in a nice grim package. To stop an invading army of horrors, the great general Dalgoram sets out across the land to reunite his band of veteran warriors for one last stand. Having been estranged for years, the members of the Iron Wolves have all either fallen on hard times or have turned to lives of deviance and corruption. But together again, they find they can transform their shared curse into something so much more.

By the way, my description of "twisted, gritty anti-heroes" was in no way an exaggeration. With perhaps the exception of the old man Dalgoran, I was hard pressed to name a single admirable soul in this group of vile, despicable Iron Wolves. But that's what I signed up for so I can't complain too much, especially since Remic delivers exactly what was promised. The only downside I could see to this is finding enough to set some of these characters apart, which gets a little difficult when almost all of them are defined by broken pasts, foul mouths and violent tendencies.

Also as I've noted before, at times a novel's "epicness" can be something of a double-edged sword, as it can do a number on pacing. This story stumbles a bit due to the sheer size of the cast and their multiple points of view, especially when a couple more Iron Wolves are still being added to the mix at about two-thirds of the way through the book. As maniacal as they are, I wish we'd gotten a chance to know Zastarte and Trista a bit better, though I think this will mean a much smoother ride for the next installment now that the scene has been set and all the introductions have been made.

Speaking of which, I'm excited about book two, and if you'd seen that ending, you would be too. I have to say I felt the final showdown scene was over way too quickly, though this probably had less to do with the pacing and more to do with how much I enjoyed the climax and conclusion. Andy Remic is in his element when it comes to writing big battles and fight scenes, and he graces this book with a lot of them. It would be easy but disingenuous to brush them all off as an excuse to provide gratuitous violence, because I actually found many of the scenes of war and fighting to flow and fit exceedingly well within the context of the story.

After all, this is The Iron Wolves, folks. A great choice for readers looking for a stronger, headier kick to their heroic fantasy, just remember to steel yourselves for the unlimited energy and madness this book will unleash upon your lives! ( )
  stefferoo | Dec 12, 2013 |
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This one is for my mother, and my mother alone.
Sarah Ann Remic, "Sally" to her friends,
1928-2013. May you rest in peace, my love.
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"I'm sorry, Dek. Real sorry."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0857663550, Mass Market Paperback)

Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain. This ended the War of Zakora, and made the Iron Wolves heroes.
 
Now, a new terror stalks the realm. In hushed whispers, it is claimed the Horse Lady, Orlana the Changer, has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from then slime and heading north to Vagandrak where, it said, the noble King Yoon has gone insane...
 
After hearing a prophecy from a blind seer, aged General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be the final battle. But as mud-orcs and twisted beasts tear through the land, Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer heroes of legend... Narnok is a violent whoremaster, Kiki a honey-leaf drug peddler, and Prince Zastarte a drinker, a gambler, amoral and decadent: now he likes to hear people scream as they burn...
 
United in hate, the Iron Wolves travel to the Pass of Splintered Bones; and as half a million mud-orcs gather, General Dalgoran realises his grave error. Together, the Iron Wolves hold a terrible secret which has tortured them for three decades. Now, they only wish to be human again...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:40 -0400)

"Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain. Now, a new terror stalks the realm. Orlana the Changer has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from the slime and heading north to battle the mighty region of Vagandrak where, it said, the King has gone insane. General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be their final battle. But Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer the heroes of legend, and they might just be more dangerous than the invading hordes."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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