by Mark Smylie
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| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: Heroes, Dark, Adult
| ISBN-10: 1616148918
| ISBN-13: 9781616148911
| Publisher: Pyr (March 4, 2014)
| Paperback: 700 pages
| Cover Artist: Gene Mollica
| Source: Publisher
| Rating: 1/5 Stars
Well, it had to happen sometime I guess. I have finally met my match. An Epic Fantasy I just could not finish, no matter how hard I tried. I got through about half of it and hit a wall where I just couldn't force myself pick it back up. I finally admitted defeat and set it back on my shelf.
Epic Fantasy ARC Review by Mulluane
♦ The Story. The story is pretty basic. A hidden map, a buried treasure, a band of unlikely compatriots comprised of members representing several levels of society. All of the elements needed for an adventure filled quest. What sets this tale apart is the worldbuilding. Dark, exotic, depraved, violent and the list goes on. This is no knight in shining armor type tale.
♦ What I Liked. While I like knight in shining armor type stories I normally enjoy dark ones too. The premise here was solid. The oddball mix of characters were vivid and distinct, each with a voice all their own. The worldbuilding was just as vivid but in a depraved way. This is a horrible world and the author does nothing to sugar coat it. It is evil, depraved, perverted and quite frankly, horrible. It makes the Dark Ages look mild by comparison. This is also something that is pretty rare when it comes to epic fantasy. This book is a true standalone. Though I've seen it said that it is a standalone with the potential to become a series.
♦ What I didn't like. First off let me explain my views on profanity and sadistic sex. I am 53. I've pretty much seen, said or read it all and I use more than my own share of profanity when I am angry or in pain. I don't consider myself a prude and I think I am fairly open-minded about most things. This book however crossed a line with me. The use of profanity was constant. The sadistic sex was -- in my eyes -- over the top and disgusting in a way which made me very uncomfortable.
On top of that, the language didn't fit the worldbuilding. Granted this was a uniquely harsh world but it is still basically medieval. Dropping the F bomb and other modern cuss words, occasionally a dozen times on one page, was jarring. And the frequency of use gave me the feeling it was more for shock value than anything else. Oh I am sure they used just as much profanity in medieval times as we use presently. I'm also reasonably sure their profanity wasn't comprised of the same exact words we use now. Unfortunately inconsistencies like that tend to pull me right out of an otherwise good story.
♦ My Thoughts. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I normally like dark fantasy but this was -- for me -- too dark. This isn't my first time reading a book with heavy doses of profanity but those books either used profanity that fit the era or made up phrases to fit the world. It also was not my first time reading about perverted, sadistic practices but they were mild compared to what happens here. Closest examples I can think of are Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series but those stories balanced the violent sadism with love, humor, respect and romance. Granted I didn't read but half of this book but if there was any good balancing the evil, I missed it.
♦ Conclusion. Maybe, as much as I hate to admit it, I am just not the right audience/age or maybe even gender for this book. I hear and use enough profanity in real life and see enough horror in the news. I don't want that level of dark in my fiction. Instead of giving me an "escape" this story gave me nightmares. I am also sure that the same things that turned me off, will appeal to other readers. So in conclusion I am not going to claim, by any stretch of the imagination, that this isn't a well plotted, well written book with layer upon layer of detailed worldbuilding. What I will say is it simply wasn't very enjoyable for me.
I also want to note that the 1 star rating may seem unfair but since a 1 star rating means I could not finish the book that is what I'm giving it. It may very well deserve much better but I am not in a position to make that assessment.
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What Should I Read Next?
|Kindle: The Barrow|
Audible: Not Yet
Buy Book: BAM! ~ AbeBooks
Amazon: US ~ Canada ~ UK
While The Barrow marks his first published prose novel, Mark Smylie has worked as a writer, illustrator, editor, and publisher for over a decade.
Epic Fantasy ARC Review of The Barrow by Mark Smylie - Reviewed by Mulluane - on February 20, 2014 - Rating: of 5 Stars