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The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Incorruptibles

by John Hornor Jacobs

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801150,606 (3.72)1
  1. 10
    Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (DemetriosX)
    DemetriosX: Both books apply western tropes to a fantasy setting (as opposed to weird westerns which apply fantasy elements to tales of the Old West). Both also have strong elements of grimdark. The Incorruptibles has more magic, while Red Country is more cinematic.

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**I am grateful to Nudge for providing me with a free review copy. I was reading an uncorrected manuscript proof, so some details might differ from the published book.**

Fisk and Shoe are two mercenaries in the Hardscrabble Territories hired to protect the steamer Cornelian, along with its high-born Ruman patricians on board. Only gradually it emerges that Governor Cornelius and his four children are escorting a princess who is key to keeping the fragile peace between the Ruman Empire and the Kingdom of Mediera, who are both contesting land and mineral rights in the Territories, to the kingdom’s embassy in Passasuego. After two ill-fated hunting parties things go from bad to worse when the princess absconds secretly in the night – and not alone. Fisk and Shoe set off after them, but eventually Fisk is forced to ride on alone, while Shoe returns to the steamer. When Fisk is again back at the Cornelian, he has a grisly tale to tell, and in order to trace the still-missing princess, he enters into a dangerous bargain. Fisk and Shoe, along with several other companions and a prisoner as an exchange for the princess, set out to find her and so prevent a war that looks increasingly likely.

Told in the first person by Shoe, or Shoestring, half-man half-dvergar, this imaginative and inventive tale about loyalty reads like a fantasy cocktail, with disparate ingredients mixed together that you wouldn’t normally mention in the same breath, but which work all the same: there’s references to Ancient Rome and Greece, complete with terminology used in everyday speech; daemons and imps, used as a power source in engines, lamps as well as guns; non-human indigenous creatures, some hostile to humans – like the vaettir – some friendlier – like the dvergar, though regarded with suspicion by humans and ill-treated – and there’s also mention of dragons, though they don’t actually make an appearance in this book. Shoestring is a natural-born storyteller, forced by his half-blood status to the edge of society, which has turned him into an astute observer and excellent judge of character. The whole novel, the first in a trilogy, exudes a real frontier feeling of adventure and physical and emotional hardship, though also the possibility to forge some long-lasting friend- and partnerships. The characters are well developed, both major and minor, and really grow on you, in particular Shoe. This foreign world is described in lovely prose, and the various settings are realised in exquisite detail, taking the reader from a rather sedate pace to the breathless terror of a vaettir attack without loss of credibility. I thought I detected strong undercurrents of a certain stance towards religion and modern technology (nuclear energy?), but other readers might disagree and this viewpoint is certainly not essential to the understanding and enjoyment of this novel. The reason I decided to give it only four stars is that, one, one or two questions remained unanswered and, two, that it is incredibly violent in places, with nothing left to the imagination; the last few chapters in particular are quite disturbing and make for a harrowing read, and have a nightmarish or fever-induced hallucinatory quality to them.

In short, this novel was a real surprise and must surely stand as one of the more original offerings in the fantasy genre. With such engaging characters, an interesting storyline and excellent world building, I’m already looking forward to the next offering.

Contains swearing and sexual references. ( )
  passion4reading | Jan 23, 2015 |
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In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni
For John Ronald Reuel, George, Elmore, Coleen, and Larry
Strange bedfellows
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We rode through the fields burning like the plains of Hell - Fisk on the Black, Banty on the roan bay, and me on Bess, the mule, leading a string of ponies.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Mercenaries Fisk and
Shoe are hired to protect
Ruman patricians.
Humans, non-humans,
Space western – add, shake. Result:
Fantasy cocktail.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 057513366X, Hardcover)

In the contested and unexplored territories at the edge of the Empire, a boat is making its laborious way up stream. Riding along the banks are the mercenaries hired to protect it - from raiders, bandits and, most of all, the stretchers, elf-like natives who kill any intruders into their territory. The mercenaries know this is dangerous, deadly work. But it is what they do. In the boat the drunk governor of the territories and his sons and daughters make merry. They believe that their status makes them untouchable. They are wrong. And with them is a mysterious, beautiful young woman, who is the key to peace between warring nations and survival for the Empire. When a callow mercenary saves the life of the Governor on an ill-fated hunting party, the two groups are thrown together. For Fisk and Shoe - two tough, honourable mercenaries surrounded by corruption, who know they can always and only rely on each other - their young companion appears to be playing with fire. The nobles have the power, and crossing them is always risky. And although love is a wonderful thing, sometimes the best decision is to walk away. Because no matter how untouchable or deadly you may be, the stretchers have other plans.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:44 -0400)

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