Snakewood. Book Review

snakeSNAKEWOOD by Adrian Selby
Orbit. h/b. £12.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

This is the story of Kailen’s Twenty, a band of mercenaries whose like had never before been seen. Their deeds are now behind them and the twenty have gone their own way. Gant, our young narrator, begins the tale of Kailen’s crew, their infamous deeds, and their notorious deaths…

A poisoned arrow and Gant is done, just like that. Quick as the draw. He knows his poisons, and he knows what would cure him, if only his enemies would give him chance to act. His Honour will keep him going, but it cannot save him.

A black coin represents a betrayer – one who has turned against his crew. Why The Prince had one clasped in his dead fist is a question that Kailen would like to know. It is the third black coin he has seen in recent times. Where have they come from, who is placing them there, and what does it really mean?

The story of Kailen’s Twenty and their hunter begins slowly. Reader investment is certainly required to grasp the threads of the story clearly from the offset, but hold tight because about a third of the way in everything clicks into place and by the end Snakewood has you gripped.

Snakewood’s narrative voices are the real strength here. Much of the story is told by Gant, our opener, as he tries to track down whoever is killing Kailen’s Twenty. At the start of the book he confesses to the reader that he is not much of a storyteller, so his tale is told as it was, from the heart, with simple words in an honest voice, which turns out to be an excellent contrast to Selby’s other prime narrator – a dark man with darker suffering and deeds whose identity is trickled out cruelly and wonderfully as the story progresses.

This would definitely fall into the category of grimdark. The characters’ actions are not pretty. At times things take a gruesome and fairly unspeakable turn – although it is spoken through our aforementioned well-delivered narrative voices. This novel is not for everyone, but those who like their fantasy contemporary and as grimdark as it comes will appreciate it.