Book Review: The Wurms of Blearmouth

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson, The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach #5

 Tyranny comes in many guises, and tyrants thrive in palaces and one-room hovels, in back alleys and playgrounds. Tyrants abound on the verges of civilization, where disorder frays the rule of civil conduct and propriety surrenders to brutal imposition. Millions are made to kneel and yet more millions die horrible deaths in a welter of suffering and misery.

But leave all that behind and plunge into escapist fantasy of the most irrelevant kind, and in the ragged wake of the tale told in Lees of Laughter’s End, those most civil adventurers, Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, along with their suitably phlegmatic manservant, Emancipor Reese, make gentle landing upon a peaceful beach, beneath a quaint village at the foot of a majestic castle. There they make acquaintance with the soft-hearted and generous folk of Spendrugle, which lies at the mouth of the Blear River and falls under the benign rule of the Lord of Wurms in his lovely keep.

Make welcome, then, to Spendrugle’s memorable residents, including the man who should have stayed dead, the woman whose prayers should never have been answered, the tax collector everyone ignores, the ex-husband town militiaman who never married, the beachcomber who lives in his own beard, the now singular lizard cat who used to be plural, and the girl who likes to pee in your lap. And of course, hovering over all, the denizen of the castle keep, Lord—Ah, but there lies this tale.

During the time that Steven Erikson was writing his massive ten volume series Malazan Empire of the Fall, he also wrote several short stories that featured the peculiar duo of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. For many they don't need an introduction, but for those that aren't familiar with them: Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are both one half of an entity known a Nehemoth and they are both necromancers... one other person that is not to be missed by their sides is their manservant Emancipor Reese. Emancipor Reese goes by one nickname: Mancy the Luckless, he got this name by the fact that every travel he has made on coach or ship they either crashed or sunk, also all the people Empancipor Reese has served so far have met untimely deaths... Bauchelain and Korbal Broach have gotten in some precarious situations before and you bet they are still alive!

For their story in The Wurms of Blearmouth they have departed for a voyage on ship... and as luck would or should I say wouldn't have had it, their ship gets wrecked... Mancy the Luckless anyone? Eventually they wash up on shore and wind up in the strange, weird and dangerous village of Spendrugle. Spendrugle is ruled by a tyrant Lord who goes by the name of Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render, he insists on having every soul brought to him to be killed. Lord Fangatooth, just as Bauchelain and Korbal Broach has the means to use magic and he doesn't shy away to show just what his power entails. From the first moment you meet him you just know it is going to wind up bad for him. Bauchelain and Korbal Broach aren't a duo to be trifled with. It soon does become clear that this duo was being chased by previous made enemies, who are out for their heads and for their money. Bauchelain and Korbal Broach and Empancipor Reese now have a threat in the front for Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render and in their back as well for some old acquaintances.

Besides this part of the story there is much more going on in the village of Spendrugle and on the shores. Steven Erikson has created quite the "special cases" in the inhabitants of Spendrugle. All of them are memorable but the character that I enjoyed reading out the most was definitely the beachcomber who lives inside his own beard, he uses pieces of his beard for isolation of his shed on the beach. When he sees the shipwreck and people on his beach he know his time has come to scrounge the wreck and the possible dead for treasure. On first introduction he is like deranged old man better left alone or he will chase you with off with his walking stick, on a second take, which you learn later.. you know that he is much more and just what he does with his walking stick is far from chasing you away...Another memorable character is the tax collector Spilgit Spurrble, he and his other friends a lawman and a gravedigger have some very funny dialogues going on that will put a huge grin on your face when you are reading their parts. One scene is still stuck in my mind, the discussion of the shovel and taxes. Just top funny stuff. 

The story is a relative easy one compared with his other works. Also it's a novella (208pages). However within those 208 pages Steven Erikson puts down a highly enjoyable story. He shows that he is one of the best fantasy writers out there, his way with words, the descriptions and dialogues he writes are just sharp and witty. The storyline of The Wurms of Blearmout might sound like it diverges a lot, but this is far from the case, Steven Erikson connects every storyline in the end with each other in a seamless way. I think I am not the only one to say: We need more of these stories! And besides the duo Bauchelain and Korbal Broach I would love to see one story featuring Teholl and Bugg man I love those guys!  

It is hard to say what The Wurms of Blearmouth actually is. If you compare it to the epic ten volume Malazan Empire of the Fallen, it is very different. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach are definitely dark, added to it they have a high dose of humor in it. So for me it would fall more or less in the "grimfunny" category. I read the previous books in the series but have to say that The Wurms of Blearmouth is the best so far. Steven Erikson again does a terrific job with showing one of the most memorable duo's from his series in a brilliant light. He will make you look away with some of the gritty and gruesome bits he writes, but will put a grin on your face on many other a occasion. The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach is good stuff for a quick and easy read, they are not as demanding as his others, but be warned they will wet your appetite for more Malazan goodness! Wurms of the Blearmouth is a must read.

BTW the second book in the Kharkanas Trilogy will be out in 2015. 


  1. Grimfunny - that's brilliant! You're right, it is a very different sort of feel from the Malazan Book of the Fallen, but I've enjoyed these little snippets. That same humor is buried in the larger books, and was great at relieving tension, but it's nice to just indulge and wallow in the laughter.

  2. Thanks Bob! earlier this year I also read The Forge of Darkness, Steven Erikson´s first book in his Kharkanas series and compared to it, The Wurms of Blearmouth is a light read but doesn´t take away the brilliance of how Steven Erikson shows his Malazan world. Definitely keeping my fingers crossed for more Malazan adventures!


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