S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars
With A Road of Blood and Slaughter, author David Hunter delivers what the title promises. Expect brutal military fantasy infused with political intrigue and eldritch sorcery. Highly recommend for Conan fans.
Part 1) Organized Crime Meets Cthulhu:
The book is divided into 4 parts, the first sets the brutal tone for the novel, introducing us to the rogue-royal Artemo and the Viking-esque Horsa in a Sword & Sorcery adventure. Artemo takes center stage and is known as the Killer of Men, so don’t expect him to be a chivalrous tour guide. Immediately, we understand the title is apt, as we are thrown onto a road literally filled with blood and slaughter. Fragile alliances are constantly formed and broken amongst criminals & governors; the occurrence and outcome of betrayals & loyalties are sometimes difficult to predict. Part 1 mixes political intrigue, with vivid battles, and Lovecraftian-inspired magic. With this introduction you should expect more brutality, and you’ll get large doses of it.
Part 2 & 3) A Bloody Tour:
Part 2’s introduction will likely be disorienting (especially if you haven’t read the Author’s Note on Goodreads). Tucked into the chapter headline is a change in year (rewinding ~14yrs). Given the abundance of names, and vast survey of lands, this time-shift further encumbers the reader. On the plus side, Artemo continues as our primary protagonist, though Horsa emerges too. The frequent alliance/betrayal routine continues. At this juncture, you will want to know if it is worth stretching your memory to comprehend it all; it was a risk I took, and I am glad to report that the story does converge pleasantly in the last Part.
For fans of the fantasy genre, it is obviously that the fantasy world is modelled after a European centric continent much like Robert Howard (Conan creator) conceived. Still, a map or index would have been helpful since the books pays homage to every culture and corner of the world (Kush, Amazons, Vikings, Egypt, etc.). Generally this middle section has less sorcery, emphasizing bloody, “realistic” battles. Amongst the warring, there is a compelling, heroic last-stand of a King; and Horsa raids a tomb in splendid, horrific fashion.
Part 4) A Thrilling End:
With plenty of epic adventures and diverging plotlines, readers should be comforted knowing that the author does bring it all back together at a pleasant pace. Also, the amount of monsters and sorcery ramps up, which also makes this more pleasing as a fantasy read.
• Although most of the sudden betrayals & fragile-alliances are explained/justified, there are several that seemed implausible enough to distract
• A lack of Index & Map
• The Author’s Note found on Goodreads should be in the book (apparently it is included in the Paperback version, just not in the eBook)
• The non-chronological order may alienate readers. Despite it making sense from a design perspective (i.e. it introduces the key characters and sets the tone better than if chronologically arranged), it is not abundantly clear as a first-time reader that time shifts.
• A lead character has a frequent habit of “tongue clicking” which occurs abundantly enough to swamp other traits
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