Adrian Selby – Snakewood
Published March 15th 2016 – Orbit Books
The book Blurb
“Mercenaries who gave no quarter, they shook the pillars of the world through cunning, chemical brews, and cold steel.
Whoever met their price won.
Now, their glory days are behind them. Scattered to the wind and their genius leader in hiding, they are being hunted down and eliminated.
One by one”.
When I finish reading a book I almost always know how I feel about it. Not with this one. I actually delayed finishing the book so that I could properly reflect on it. I still do not know *facepalm*. So below, I will lay out what I thought was good and what I thought could have been done better. Let us see if, by the end of this review, I truly know how I feel about it…I’m not holding my breath.
Aside from the questionable ‘readability’ of the synopsis, I was intrigued by this book, the cover art is nice as well, it really draws the eye.
The thought of a band of mercenaries that have disbanded and were being hunted sounds great, so long as the hunter is on par with them. He definitely is.
The story is laid out in an unusual way; we hear the tales of these legendary mercenaries from others in the form of a posthumous journal.
There are LOTS of characters, and when dealing with these over the course of 400-odd pages it is hard to keep track of who is who, particularly those whose names begin with the same letter(s). What is good is the way that the reader is allowed to judge each character’s actions in different situations as it is being relayed by a minor character. A picture of a character built upon information from a character’s picture of another character (it’s almost like character-ception).
The novel does require some patience, it is slow going at first and it is hard to get your bearings in regards to where you are in the timeline of the novel and who, exactly, is who. You need to stick with it.
The action scenes are mostly quite good, enough detail so that you know what is happening – one in particular is great – and the story of one character whose journey is less than ideal had me hooked. It showed a darker side to Selby’s imagination and it worked unbelievably well; this is the only time we get a true picture of someone’s journey leading to current event; the novel needed it at this point. There is grit in here and it is what kept me reading.
As the story progresses the reader will find themselves on a journey leading to current events. Battles and skirmishes throughout the years are explained and are sometimes given from the one or more of the character’s perspectives which makes it interesting as opinions and views do change depending on whose perspective you are looking through.
Another feature of this world created by Selby is the ‘brews’ and their effects on the different characters. Some can hone senses while others can induce rage and gives the fight scenes a different, more satisfying edge, they become almost ‘inhuman’ and this works ever so well. Selby creates tension on occasion and some parts of the story are intriguing and leave you begging for more. However, there are some parts of the story that are just plain boring; at one point different plants are explained to the reader over the course of four pages and this falls into tedium. Some dialogue or intrigue would have made this particular passage a lot easier going.
For me, there is something missing from this novel, the action was not built up in a way that you braced yourself for what was to come. There was little tension before these action points and it left them feeling a little flat. I can understand why an author would create action from nowhere and want the reader to be surprised, doing it in that way can be good, but here, it does not really work (for me anyway).
There are parts of the story that leave you feeling flat, not emotionally, through some rigorous journey the character has to take but just because there is nothing interesting or meaningful happening.
One element of the book that I wish was better is the antagonist. To truly have great heroes and champions, you need a really good ‘bad guy/girl’ one who pushes the heroes to their limits and who you believe has the power to ultimately kill your chosen hero. I was not convinced by the antagonist in this book and I wish that they had been better known prior to their reveal. This would have made it a lot more interesting as I would have been more invested.
I have a feeling that this book will split opinion – some good books do – because there are elements such as the ‘brews’ and poisons that are extremely interesting and enhance the story’s world and the action. But for every interesting story twist or fight scene, there are five more uninteresting passages. This book will definitely have its fans and I can see why; there is enough here for people to want to read on and pick up Selby’s next book; the world in which it is set should definitely be revisited. Fantasy fans will want to pick this up because it promises so much, I am just not sure that it delivers.
And now I DO know how I feel about this… indifferent.
Rating: I am going to give Snakewood 2.5/5 – straight down the middle. I could go either way with it.
Recommendations: I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a different ‘magical/chemical’ element to their novels and one where the characters are plentiful (numerically anyway).
Where to find Adrian Selby and ‘Snakewood’: