There has been quite the buzz about this book since its release, it seems like everyone in my blogging circles have read this book except me. So, I finally decided to spend the audible credit and go in for this series.
Right from the start you know this is going to be a darker sort of tale… I wasn’t totally thrilled that the very first scene involves a bunch of soldiers trying to rape an Innskeeper’s daughter. I’m very over the trope of a guy proving he isn’t totally awful by not condoning rape… but I decided it was early to DNF so I kept going.
Tomas Piety is a soldier returned from war… but before he was a soldier he was a “businessman”. This has strong gangster overtones to it. Tomas used to own a wide variety of establishments made up a good portion of the city known as The Stink. When he came back from the war, however, he realized that he has a lot of work to do to win back all the businesses that he’s lost in his absence. He has an odd dual persona because while out at war he was made into a priest. He’s a priest of the goddess of soldiers. This goddess isn’t necessarily a goddess of ‘war’ per se, more of a goddess of life and death…. you prayed to her to hopefully make it through the day and that was it, no soldier with half his wits prayed for war.
So, when he comes back and has to retake all of his establishments he also needs to rebuild what was known as the “Pious Men”. These are men who are loyal to the Piety brothers, Tomas and Jochan, and collect “taxes” from local businesses, which is more or less protection money. Most of the time the Pious Men don’t have to deliver any violence to back up their threats… but everyone knows that they have no problem with following through which makes the threat of violence is good enough for most to leave well enough alone.
Tomas was an interesting very grey character, and it took me a long time to warm up to him. He was equal parts decent person, and fucking violent asshole. I kept wanting to like him but something would always come along and make me not like him. He was a well written character, for sure. He had a way about him that made him a competent leader that people wanted to follow. He knew when to use the carrot and when to use the stick, and how far to take things, and when to show mercy. I can see him being a lot of people’s favorite character. His brother I didn’t like much… he’s a loose canon and is like Tomas with half the brains and a quarter of the morals. There’s a scene at the very end of the book that really explains the darker aspects to these two brothers and how they grew up, it definitely was a fucked up moment.
The world building was pretty great. I felt like I knew what the city looked like, smelled like, who populated it and how the city was run. There were distinct districts and territories that felt real and vivid. This is not a high magic book, it was much more of a low fantasy type book with the fantasy elements playing a background role.
The writing style was somewhat reminiscent of Abercrombie in that it was a darker tone, and there were repetitive phrases/words that were used on purpose for emphasis. I didn’t totally love it as much as I do with Abercrombie, but I think it was still effective. One of the phrases that annoyed me though was “harsh justice”, it was used so often that it went from being a point of emphasis to a an annoyance. It was like having a rock in my shoe… I’d be reading along going just fine and then I’d be sharply but briefly annoyed, and then I’d keep on reading.
Full disclosure, I rarely enjoy organized crime shows, movies, or books… this may be part of why I wasn’t as taken with this book compared to others. That’s not to say it was poorly written at all. I found the characters to be well rounded and engaging enough, it’s just not my kind of story. The prose was easy to read, the dialogue was believable, the pacing was fairly steady and didn’t lull or rush in any particular place. I was simply the wrong audience for this book, and I highly recommend it to people who are looking for something a bit different, character driven, and full of complex morally grey characters.
- Tropes: two brother team, gangsters, gritty city, soldiers
- Tags: character driven, territory wars, taverns, brothels, stabby stabby
- Genre: low fantasy
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 6/10
Final Score: 81/100 or 4/5 on Goodreads