Book Review: Sword of the North

Sword of the North by Luke Scull, The Grim Company #2

As Davarus Cole and his former companions were quick to discover, the White Lady’s victorious liberation of Dorminia has not resulted in the freedom they once imagined. Anyone perceived as a threat has been seized and imprisoned—or exiled to darker regions—leaving the White Lady’s rule unchallenged and absolute. But the White Lady would be wiser not to spurn her former supporters: Eremul the Halfmage has learned of a race of immortals known as the Fade, and if he cannot convince the White Lady of their existence, all of humanity will be in danger.

Far to the north, Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf continue their odyssey to the High Fangs only to find themselves caught in a war between a demon horde and their enemy of old, the Shaman. And in the wondrous city of Thelassa, Sasha must overcome demons of her own.

 
2013 was a year of some tremendous debuts, amongst other was the release of Luke Scull's The Grim Company. A hard hitting, grimdark in true dark colors Epic Fantasy story. It hit all the right snares and cam to show that Luke Scull's background in RPGs gave him a definite edge when it came to writing his debut. It was action packed and full of cool idea's. But then the day has to come to publish the sequel, I thought it was planned last year but it was postponed to March earlier this year. When I picked up Sword of the North I was full of expectations, to be honest, I missed the "click" personally that I had with the first book.

The story picks up with some events that took place in the past. About 40 years past with Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf. This marks one of the two storyline that you follow. The second storyline takes place in their current timeframe and revisits a lot of characters to whom we were introduced to in the first book. Brodar Kayne and his friend Jerek the Wolf, as well as, Davarus Cole, Eremul the Halfmage and Sasha.

In the past storyline the full focus is on Brodar and Jerek and how their earlier journeys went, I am always a big fan when a author implements such a thing in their book, devoting many chapters to great a very nice backstory to a main protagonist. Brodar Kayne is better known as The Sword of the North, and in this part of the story you learn just how he earned this title and what he is capable of. What for me was very striking was that Luke Scull doesn't at all portray all the main characters as immortals, yes they might have terrible powers, but on more than one occasion, Brodar was in a whole heap of trouble and should count himself blessed of getting out alive, yes alive and not unscathed! There are some great revelations packed in this storyline, some more that deadly character that are bound to have an impact in the third book. 

The current storyline is shown by many a perspective. To start with one: Brodar Kayne and Jerek the Wolf, they are making their way back to where it all started for Brodar, making the long trek to the High Fangs. Brodar has grown old in the last years but he is still bound by his honor and feels he has one last mission in him. However as Brodar and Jerek come closer to their journey they have to battle hordes of demonic creatures (Luke Scull once again shows that he knows how to write some cool action scene, top stuff). Though this path is one of a lot of resistance, Brodar and Jerek don't give up, Brodar has set his mind on seeing Mhaira and the Shaman once again... 

Next up is the (in)famed Halfmage Eremul, yes he is literally in half, missing his legs. I really liked the part of Eremul, in the first book we knew that he was left in the mercy of the Mage Lord Salazar to live. There was a bit a change around him, for the better. Eremul resides in the city Dorminia and has stumbled upon something that will impact a lot. An immortal race known as the Fade who threaten the world and all of its existence. Something can still be done, but The White Lady, Eremul's current employer doesn't really take Eremul series. Introducing such a bigger aspect was really cool and does expand the promise of the story a lot. 

In Thelassa you have the story of the saboteur Sasha and her sister Ambryl. Sasha had a relation with Davarus Cole and now she misses him and seeks comfort in a very dangerous and addictive drug better known as hashka. So basically her story of grief is told with a lot of high a low moments, eventhough Davarus is said to be dead, Sasha holds on to that remaining bit of believe that Davarus is still alive. Ambryl is or was an assassin who due to events has to take on a different job function. But who is the wiser.. ? 

Davarus Cole, is recovering in the meantime from the events that happened in the first book. So I guess you can say Sasha was right. Everything has shattered around this big hero, Davarus is far from what he was once upon a time and has to find his right mindset back again. During Davarus adventure there are just as with Brodar's one some nice revelations and one that will mark Davarus as something definitely bigger was this intentional? A bigger question that remains to be answered is if Davarus is up to the task to be that person. 

This is the basic outline of the story of Sword of the North something that feels divided and perhaps this was a concious decision to spread the story and highlight different aspects of the bigger picture. For me it fetl in the end harder to connect with several characters. Now I am not saying that the story is bad, no not at all, it felt different in the end. I am also still very eager to see where Luke Scull will let this story end in the third volume, with all that we have seen so far the ending will be undoubtely a very, very big one. 

One thing in where Sword of the North excels in once again is the tight action. This is something where I have to give Luke Scull a lot of praise. The action scenes, be it the sword fights of Brodar and Jerek or the magic standoffs with the Mage Lords, are tight. Luke Scull captures in these brief scenes just what it means to get your reader strapped in for more of the same. The way that the action is described is done perfectly especially when you take into account the bigger picture of it all, when just for the battle the story seems to slow down and all of a sudden BAM, action takes place and it slowly winds down again. A perfect showing writing up an engaging story. Overall the whole story moves at a very nice pacing, not to fast and not to slow. 

Sword of the North is a solid continuation of the stellar debut The Grim Company that Luke Scull delivered to us in 2013. If you are into Epic Fantasy this series should be on your to read list. Luke Scull's background in RPG design has given him a definite edge when it comes to designing and executing his story. In the first book Luke Scull showed some memorable character which he highlights and develops on some fronts further as valuable players, all must have something to do with the third and final book of the story. And jsut lastly, the action in this series so far has been relentless, jsut the way I like to see it. Fast, brutal and a whole lot of cool. That thing with the mage circle - WOW - amazing stuff.

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