When enemies loom and no one can be trusted. As friends and family get snuffed out one by one. A price is about to be paid. Snakewood is a grimdark fantasy novel by Adrian Selby, an author that I am sure that we will hear of in the future. On his first go around, he has introduced a dark world from the view of old retired mercenaries from the band Kailen 20. Over the years they split up and guarded their backs dealing with the enemies that their careers have afflicted them. But recently, they are being successfully taken out one by one by a mysterious party they must discover before it’s to late.
Adrian Selby’s dark world in the book Snakewood really knocks home the use of potions or brews that lead to improved sight, fighting ability and other effects that made this mercenary group one of the most feared in the land. Even going as far to explain what extended use of these items did to the characters bodies over the many years calling them “men of the color.” It is a unique take on fighting that has a way of building up the upcoming battles suspense that was cleverly implemented. I have not read many fantasy books that really go into detail of apothic like methods of increasing one's abilities without sounding like the generic red potion, mana potion that many video games offer.
The bews are a critical part to this book and the fact that it was done well and even expanded was fantastic and leads to the realization that the craft of these methods is ever changing and becoming more potent.
In this story we follow a couple characters from the mercenary group right off the bat as they work to seek out the others and warn them of the threat that is killing them all off. We start off with Gant, a member of the Kailen 20. His description of his battle and his mortal wound sets the story off. Each chapter can contain the vantage point of several different characters. Kailen himself as well as the price and the amstand.
I have to say the character of Sand in the book was the most interesting to me and for good reason. He had a brutal going of his life throughout the book that really told his story more than anyone else's in the book. I found myself really connecting to this character and having a desire to read on.
And that is where I think this book does shine. There are some characters that though their mission seems important, there is not a whole lot of backstory to give more rich information on the past. It presents a sort of fog of war effect that continues on until the end of the book for many pieces that the I the reader was asking come forth and present themselves leading me to genuine surprise.
The conversations between characters at times can be hard to read. Almost like the mercenaries are suffering brain damage from the years on their potions. But after a few chapters of the characters I was able to get used to it. Still, it felt like a weak spot in the writing.
I think that this book really sets up the possibilities for more stories in this world going in any direction. I would assume prequel content would be more interesting though seeing these mercenaries at their prime. However I would be perfectly content with it just being a standalone piece. As the flashbacks were enough to cover a good chunk of the Kailen 20’s existence.
The best part of this book is the descriptions of the fighting. The combat is really well done and very well explained and I think that is the main focus of this entire story. It’s brutal and unforgiving. Wounds carry meaning throughout the story as characters need to recover or work around their injuries.
Is Snakewood Worth Reading?
If you are wanting a book about powerful mercenaries fighting for their lives and paying for their past deeds in a grim dark fantasy world I would recommend this book to you. If you're more of a Tolkien adventure reader for fantasy novels I think there is still enjoyment out of this. I would not say that the book is overly detailed about the overall world so world building is not something to be expected out of this book. Most of the detail is around the characters and their flashbacks throughout the book. Getting past the first 3rd of the book will be the challenge as the info dump is pretty intimidating along side the pace the book as placed on the story and the flashbacks. Once into the second third the book becomes to good to put down.
7 / 10 - Would recommend to grimdark fantasy fans or fantasy fans in general. Readers looking for a change of pace to Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones may enjoy this book.