Esme’s SPFBO 2017: Twin by Howard Gurney

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This was part of Bookworms Blues grouping and has since been eliminated


The book opens with a slaughter of a village via a horde of undead that are being lead by dark monks. A family in the village has a set of twins, during the attack one is taken by the Brotherhood, while the other is left at the cottage, too badly injured to be of any use for a sacrifice.

On the way back to the monastery with the children for sacrifice to their Lord, the other twin gets an infection from a wound on his hand, and is deemed unclean and not fit for sacrifice. So, he’s left on the steps of the monastery to be raised by other monks.

In this story the dark monks are a secret society living within the Order of Unity, the sect meets in bowels of the monastery using hidden passages at night. The different sects don’t know who’s in each one to help keep exposure risk to a minimum. They worship a god known as Balzar instead of Ea which the rest of the Order of Unity worships – the lore says that Balzar was cast out, and that the Weave created by Ea unites all things in the world together, bringing order from chaos. Without the Weave there will be chaos, but the dark monks believe that breaking the Weave will unite Balzar and Ea again like it used to be and that will better serve humanity.

The twins, as the title suggests, are crucial to the storyline. It’s been prophesized that twins separated at birth will be the only way to stop the dark monks from completing their task. When the dark monks find out about this prophecy, their attention turns from creating tears in the Weave, to hunting down these two brothers.

Tul is the twin who was taken from his home and dropped at the monastery, and Jack is the twin that stayed behind and lived with what was left of his village after the attack.

The story also focuses on Litanus, who is the dark monk who staged the attack against the village, you follow him and his antics trying to bring about draugrs, rips in the weave and other rather dark stuff.

Final Score: 8/10


Bear with me, there are a ton of characters

  • Jack – he’s sort of self-absorbed, but not to the point where I didn’t like him. Since he was attacked as a child he suffered a head wound as consequently has problems with his left arm and leg. He does have the best intentions, I think, and is loyal to those who mean something to him. He’s an incredible archer and has uncanny luck with dice, as the story goes on and his ‘magic’ progresses he’s able to do more and more things, but it’s not controlled at all.
  • Tul – he’s grown up with monks and has taken their philosophy of life to heart. He wants to be chaste, clean, and devoted to his studies. He’s incredibly intelligent and finds his classes to be a little under his level, preferring to self-teach in the library.
  • Litanus – this guy is the creepiest creep to creep. He stole a nipple off of a woman he tortured to death and keeps it as a souvenir. He brings mens souls back from the afterlife, puts them into animals, and forces them to do his bidding. He tries to impregnate women with animal sperm to create horrible hybrids, he’s utterly repulsive.
  • Prime Jair – the leader of the Order of Unity, and not in with the dark monks. He’s calm and measured and knows there’s something terrible going on but doesn’t know what until it’s basically too late.
  • Catewyn – she’s a member of a secret order that’s mission is to collect all the knowledge from the library held by the monks. The monks don’t share their knowledge and this order fundamentally disagrees with holding back wisdom. She’s level-headed, rather even-keeled and also very smart, she’s rising through the ranks fast due to her ability to memorize and recite books back.
  • Eve and Shanna – Jacks two sisters who survived the attack, Shanna is a skilled healer, and Eve is learning how to knife fight.
  • Madi – the leader of the secret order taking knowledge from the library, she has to take care of her Sisters before they are discovered – she knows something bad is going on at the monastery and has her Sisters trying to figure it out before something even worse happens.

There are more, but these are the ones that took up the most page time. Honestly, because the book jumped around from person to person I didn’t get to know each one as well as I would like to, but, they all were developed well enough to stand apart from one another.

Final score: 7/10

World Building:

The “magic” in this world isn’t supposed to exist because of the Weave, since the Weave is now tearing, ‘chaos’ is coming back into the world. But, the monks refuse to call it magic, they call it “disturbances” or something similar. The magic truly is chaotic, however, strange reports of people getting stuck inside desks, falling through sidewalks, plagues of bees harassing towns then disappearing and other things are starting to be reported all over the realm.

Jack/Tul and the rest of that family all appear to have some kind of magic power, but since no one has dealt with magic in a very long time there’s no training to be had – they just sort of wing it and hope they get it right, or it’s a fight/flight reaction and things happen without them meaning to.

Draugrs are creatures that have been possessed by human spirits, Latinus is making an army of these things using the souls of dead monks. “Normal” undead exist in this world too, where a body has been raised and not druagr.

Chanting seems to be an important part of the magic in this world, the dark monks *are* able to use magic in the ways that they want to, but it comes with a cost. If you’re in the middle of a powerful chant and get it wrong, you end up on the floor writhing on the ground in excruciating pain.

There’s bits of lore sprinkled throughout about the old gods and the world before it was now – like the goddess of the moon died and the moon broke, and when the god of the sun died the sun went from yellow to red, and other things like that.

Final Score: 8/10 


The tone of the book is laid out in the prologue: dark as fuck. Babies are being murdered and sacrificed and women are being dismembered before you even hit chapter one. It calms down for a little bit but picks right back up with a woman POV character being raped repeatedly on screen while captured by dark monks. This will not be a book for people who are upset by scenes like that.

The pacing was okay, when things got going they really got going, but some parts did drag a touch in the middle – but nothing too bad. I think what got me was in the beginning when all of the POV’s were being introduced trying to keep things straight – there are a ton of side characters and you need to be paying attention.

There were a few spelling and grammar issues here and there, but nothing too bad.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 7.5/10


So, I’ve seen a ton of books revolving around a prophesized hero of the world, so the plot wasn’t all that original – but the world building and ‘magic’ system and how all that works in this world was.

Final Score: 7/10 


  • For people who like darker books with lots of violence
  • For people who like undead/monsters/demon like things
  • For people who like lots of characters and complexity
  • For people who like epic adventure hero needs to save the world stories
  • For people who like unique magic systems
  • For people who like villain POV’s

Final Score: 45/60 or 7.5/10

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