BOOK REVIEW: GRUDGEBEARER / AUTHOR: J.F. LEWIS / PUBLISHER: PYR / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 2ND
One of the appeals of the fantasy genre is that it lends itself to world-building. Highly detailed settings are a common occurrence, but this can be a bit of a two-edged sword. Finely detailed worlds can often be inaccessible to casual readers and the harder one has to work to get immersed in a strange new place, the less likely it is that one will get any pleasure from the experience.
Grudgebearer falls into this trap almost straight away. The author can’t resist drip-feeding this or that piece of cultural information as the story unfolds and a great deal of the first half of the book feels like exposition. By the time we get to the actual meat of the intrigue and adventure, the reader is already overloaded with everything from the complex politics of this world to the courting and mating habits of the various races. Lewis’ writing style is quite light and the story is actually well paced, it’s just that on every other page there appears to be a new strange and alien word/concept to contend with.
The set-up for the story is rather involved, making an already dense work even harder to navigate. Ancient creatures called the Eldrennai long ago created beings called the Aern to fend off the incredibly hard-to-kill creatures known as the Zaur. The Aern were originally bound through a mystical oath and made slaves, however they aren’t anymore and a pact has been created. Wackiness ensues when an Eldrennai prince carelessly breaks this truce by messing with some rather formidable suits of mystical armour.
There are some really nice touches here; the main protagonist’s concerns about his family are well done and the over-arching theme of what it means to be free and what battles are worth fighting are interesting. Sadly the entire thing groans under overenthusiastic explanations of everything. If you like your fantasy slow, intricate and stuffed full of enough information to fill several fantasy RPG source books, then you will utterly adore this dense and painstakingly detailed world. Otherwise you may well give up before the story really gets started.