Kindle Edition, 518 pages
Published June 1st, 2014 by RAMPART (first published November 20th, 2012)
It took me a chapter or two to get into the story but after that, it read very smoothly. Thank god for that because it’s a long ass book and I hardly had time to read last week (see my previous post). When things picked up, I was internally screaming “ZOMG, 5 stars!!” already, yet this turned out to be a bit of premature excitement. The further the story progressed, the lower my rating became. Not dramatically low but just a bummer when you’re thinking it’s going to be 5-star material.
“The realm of Cambria has been ravaged by war for decades. Towns and villages are reduced to heaps of rubble and wasteland. On one side, the Imperial Lances and Cambria’s fearsome chanters, capable of shaping reality through the power of their harmonies. On the other, Eldain’s proud rebels, guardians of the free domains in the East. Three brothers are born and grow up submerged in the despair of the fighting, smothered by a hatred that infects them and fuels them to seek each other out on the battlefield. They are dragged by remorse and recrimination with roots too deep to be eradicated, tied double to the blood-steeped failure of their family. And so the war front becomes the stage where Mordraud, Dunwich and Gwern will play out their personal tragedies, between irresistible passions, rampant careers, and drawn-out nights shivering in tents assailed by the Long Winter.”
So, after a sluggish start, it gets really interesting and awesome for a good while. We get to meet the Khartians, who are human, and the Aelians, who basically look like supermodel versions of humans and age very slowly. It wasn’t until I was 25% into the book when I discovered the pun after reading out loud for a bit…I’m slow like that. You can compare the Aelians more to elves than sci-fi like extraterrestrials, though.
If you’ve started to think this is your typical Fantasy book, you’re wrong; this is Dark Age Fantasy with a twist of horror to it. Not horror as in monsters or anything, but more brutal combat horror. Heads are being chopped off more times than I can count (that’s not entirely true, I just can’t be arsed to count), bloated corpses fill the ground the characters walk on, and death and betrayal are two key ingredients to the storyline.
It felt like reading a very dark Patrick Rothfuss novel. The writing style can be compared to Rothfuss’s: detailed storytelling without it getting boring. Yet when I encountered the female main character for the first time and saw her name was Deanna, I made a note saying: “You gotta be shitting me“. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about: here’s my old review of The Name of the Wind (I ended up hating Deanna just as much as Denna).
Luckily, Mordraud is an entirely different story and, might I say, a unique one as well. We follow the lives of three brothers: Dunwich, Mordraud and Gwern. If I understood it correctly, each brother was born 10 years after the previous one (making the age difference between Dunwich and Gwern 20 years).
Dunwich, the oldest, goes off to Cambria, the Khartian capital in which the royalty and arcane magic reside, to become a chanter a.k.a. a wielder of that arcane magic. I thought the magic system was very interesting because it’s powered by music. Singing, to be specific. A well-trained chanter can conjure a fireball into his hands by merely humming a certain tune. I believe any human can be a chanter, yet some are way more talented than others. Dunwich is one of the talented ones, for sure. And an incredibly smug dipshit.
Mordraud is more of a warrior with great strength and super stamina. He also has a bit of a vile temper which can make him lose control and literally kick the crap out of people. His bold courage leads him to great battles and makes him a fearful opponent, but characterwise, I think he should take a chill pill from time to time…
The youngest brother, Gwern, takes more after his oldest brother when it comes to his talent. But unlike both his brothers, Gwern has a very gentle and good-natured personality. I definitely liked him the most because it’s often hard to feel sympathy for the other two. It’s actually odd to feel any sympathy for Dunwich at all because he’s such an unlikable character. Yet the author pulled it off to still keep me interested in his point of view.
Some points I came across that contributed to deepening my frowning wrinkles:
- A lot of things (including one of the main plot twists) are extremely predictable. With a big pinch of subtlety thrown into the mix, the story could’ve had many more “OMG, I can’t believe that just happened?!”-moments. If someone does an evil smirk after every time he says something, no one will be surprised to see that the particular smirking character turns out to be… *holds breath*…evil.
- Then there’s a lot of redundancy that could’ve been easily edited out. Characters are introduced multiple times. The same sentences are used multiple times. Some situations are explained way too thoroughly. Like explaining a joke right after you made it. Not cool.
- The fonts. I would’ve really liked to see some Italics when the characters are either thinking or talking to themselves out loud. It’s confusing without them, really. And then there’s the CAPS-issue. Every time someone even slightly raises his voice, the caps lock turns on. At other times, when someone is yelling, there are no caps at all. It just doesn’t make any sense and makes things look overly dramatic. Keeping up with the Khartians yo.
- Dunwich. He’s supposed to be extremely smart yet he fails to see all the conspiracies going on around him. There might be some chanting involved to erase any suspicions he might have, but for the love of god, when he’s far out of chanting reach, he still acts like a complete dumbwit. In fact, I think I might just call him that from now on…
- A thing I kept wondering about was how far the distances traveled in the book actually are. There’s a map in the beginning of the book, but it still makes no sense to me that people can just travel back and forth so quickly while at other times, they’re traveling for days on end without getting anywhere. Might just be me, though.
- My last point of critique is the switching between characters. It sometimes felt like hopping from one scene to the next in a movie, yet this is a book and it can get pretty confusing without the right layout for separating the scenes.
Apart from these occasional messy transfers, the characters’ point of views were woven together extremely well. We hop back and forth, not missing anything of any character and keeping a fast pace at the same time. Brilliantly done!
Then there are the consequences of a war which are so well depicted, I could feel the despair in my bones. The hunger, the loss, and all of it taking place in the dead of winter…
And then there’s the topic of brotherly love…
Together with the great storytelling and intriguing magic system, this book is well worth the read and I can sincerely recommend it to lovers of the Fantasy and/or Horror genre. Also, if you really dig the action style used in, for example, 300, The Walking Dead or Deadpool, this’ll be a satisfying read for ya. I’ve already got Book Two lined up on my Kindle!
The e-copy is currently available for free on Amazon, so you can enjoy it without having to pay a dime as well. The paperback edition, however, is quite expensive…
Thanks to RAMPART for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!
Links to the book:
~About the Author~
Italian, born in 1982. Writer of the Mordraud saga,
four books already completed of which the first came out in 2013. Soundtrack composer and screenplay writer of the official Short Movie of the first novel of ‘Mordraud’. He’s been a professor of orchestra, a worker, a designer, and even a boat’s gas attendant. He loves his smoke machine.