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Fast paced action, fantasy and adventure. The previous review stated that the first half was sketchy, I would say brief, and I like that as it gets you to the brilliant second half siege! Recommended to any fan of fantasy fiction and I understand a sequal is due very soon.
Heroic Fantasy is a sub-genre that harks back to Conan The Barbarian and is identified by the presence of warrior heroes, high body-counts despatched in one to one combat (whose descriptions form a big part of the text), intrigue at decadent courts, bloody evil cults and heroes of often dubious personal ethics that almost accidentally end up fighting on the right side.
"The Siege of Scarn" has all those ingredients with a struggle of supernatural good and evil forming the backdrop.
Connor, a Trance Warrior who can speed up his individual time and thus dispatch his enemies with even more astonishing efficiency, takes on a mission to kill the King of Grynn, but instead falls foul of the Queen who is in thrall to a growing evil threatening to overcome the world and bathe it in blood. Pursued by lizard-like demons and then imprisoned, Connor finds himself escaping to the mysterious city of Scarn deep in the mountains. He is accompanied by the necessary fellowship composed of a dwarf fighter, a human Scarn hunter sent to the lowlands in search of somebody who can change the fate of the world and a demi-elf, his lover and friend.
And yes, there is an artefact too: their world had been created for two divine brothers Scarn & Scarl. Scarn is the good one, Scarl is the bad one: imprisonned in the void between the worlds by Scarn, Scarl's waiting for his followers to find pieces of his sword so he can return to the world. There's also the mystery of Connor's parentage and his destiny. All of it, and more, will unfold in the buildup to the mighty siege of the title, when amassed armies of people and other races will fight.
"The Siege of Scarn" is the first volume of the Trance Warriors saga. The siege of the title forms the second half of the book and decidedly the better one. The battle narrative and descriptions are good: both sides are shown in action and their strategies and motivations are well described and interesting. I am not particularly keen on battle scenes or fight descriptions, but I found the actual siege of Scarn compelling and entertaining. There are characters the reader can root for on both sides and enough twists and turns to make one interested in how the final outcome (obviously, obvious from the beginning) is reached. It's long, but not too long and makes one almost sad that the fighting eventually ends.
The earlier parts of the novel introduce all the characters and provide the background info, which is followed by the build-up to the siege itself. These sections are much weaker: the writing mostly manages to keep just about the right side of cringe-inducing, with an occasional anachronistic lapse in dialogue being perhaps the most offensive. In all honesty, nobody in their right mind should worry much about writing in a novel descended from Connan.
However, the introductory sections are much too sketchy. Many fantasy books suffer from excessive pagecounts, so brevity is normally a virtue, but in this case there is just too little space and too few words to acomplish all that needs to be done.
The result is a stumbling narrative in which major characters and revelations of epic proportions are introduced suddenly and without a build-up to disappear for many pages after a brief show. There is hardly any setting description and the tale rushes on more like a synopsis before the real fun of the battle can commence.
Once all the hasty introductions were done, I quite enjoyed "The Siege of Scarn" and in particular the long and exciting battle. Fans of heroic fantasy should have a bit of fun with this novel and might want to buy it and continue on to the next volume while other fantasy readers might enjoy a foray into the land of mighty warriors and bloody cults. It's, overall, probably best borrowed.
Apex Publishing, 302 pages
This review was originally written for www.thebookbag.co.uk.
Set in a fantasy world beset with chaos and warfare and inhabited by both good and malevolent characters, including elves and dwarves, this first book in the Trance Warriors saga follows the struggles of outlaw, Connor, as he becomes drawn into a battle between good and evil, part of his destiny from which there is no escape. Connor finds himself vying with both personal and real demons, grappling with a new role as a leader and protector, and learning how to develop and use his innate Trance Warrior powers to stop a bloody conflict and bring the opposing forces together for the ultimate battle on Middle Isle the Siege of Scarn against a hidden but escalating evil that could destroy the world. As the story unfolds, Connor discovers hidden truths about himself, the history of his world and the gods the gentle Scarn, who needs an instrument in the world for good, and the depraved Scarl, the root of all the evil consuming peoples hearts and minds and whose Blood Cult is growing but there is one final devastating truth that Connor must face