S.E. Linderg's rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Victory rewards the most brutal”. But in a war fought between Orcs, Humans, and the monsters known as the Reapers, who best deserves that title? And will any of them fight for the weak? Or are the weak just prey? Back cover Summary
Context: This is a short story, originally scheduled for an anthology in ~2011 that never made it to market, and has thankfully been made available as a stand-alone tale. An underlying motivation of the anthology was to show Orcs as more complex characters than presented by Tolkien. Gramlich delivers this.
Brutal, Poetic Style: Amongst the heaps of eBooks available, the above premise alone does not make this stand out. However, deliver it with Gramlich’s style and you find yourself with a true treasure. Harvest of War will appeal to both casual and literary readers because Gramlich’s economy of words is so smooth it belies its rich imagery and emotional depth. His prose is: Arresting. Vivid. Compelling. Here is a glimpse:
Across a snowfield that lies red with dawn, the Orc charge comes. And is met. Axes shriek on shields. Swords work against armor into flesh. The tips of spears are wetted. Gore dapples the snow...
..Others are surrounded by clots of human foes and hacked down in an orgy of hatred. At last, only one Orc stands, dark axe blooded in his fists. A lightning-rent oak wards his back so his enemies can come against him only a warrior at a time. His axe splits a helm; his knotted fist tears a man’s jaw away. A shout makes the rest of his foes pause and draw apart.Only one brief instance gave me pause: a character not accustomed to speaking strangely has a burst of dialogue; this contrasted the efficiency presented throughout, but was merely a surmountable hurdle in an enjoyable 400meter sprint. I highly recommend this.
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