“…we’re all of us pawns, and many in games far
beyond our understanding.”
– Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
Scourge of the Betrayer is neither breakneck paced nor action packed – but ultimately that doesn’t even matter. This novel is essentially the (very well written) introduction to a much more grand-scale storyline, one with a potential narrative magnitude to rival any shelf-bending fantasy.
The focal character (and narrator) is Arkamondos, a young scribe who is hired on as the chronicler for a band of Syldoon soldiers, legendarily ferocious warriors whose exploits are the stuff of nightmares. The job is a perilous one but the band’s brooding, introspective leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin, puts it all into perspective early on:
“I can give you something much grander than coin. Fame. Fame for having been the archivist of an amazing tale. I could’ve chosen any scribe to record this, but I chose you. Among many. And you’ll have the rarest of opportunities to record something exceptional firsthand. For now, I’ll tell you this much. All empires crumble. All borders change. All kingdoms die. Where I’m taking you, you’ll witness the death of a body politic, the expiration of a way of life, the redrawing of a map. Something singular and priceless…”
Knowing virtually nothing about Killcoin’s mission or even where they are headed, Arki sets off with the band – and quickly becomes involved in a conspiracy of epic proportions that will not only change the political balance of power in the realm but will change Arki and the way he perceives the world around him…
Bottom line: Scourge of the Betrayer is a literary appetizer that will undoubtedly captivate anyone who enjoys fantasy, be it epic fantasy, adventure fantasy, military fantasy, etc.
If you’re a fan of Cook’s Black Company, or GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or of classic fantasy sagas like Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Moorcock’s Elric, this is a debut novel that is, like Jagger said, “what you need.”
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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