Reviewed by Steve Dean
This collection contains the novels ‘Grudge Bearer’ and the short story ‘Ancestral Honour’ by Gav Thorpe, and the novels ‘Oath Breaker’ and ‘Honour Keeper’ by Nick Kyme. There’s also an appendix, called ‘Grudgelore’, which is pretty much what it sounds like.
First of all, I need to say that these are dwarfs as we all know them, the typical Tolkienesque, vertically challenged bearded folk, that live under the mountains, are grumpy and beat metal all day. Okay, got that out of the way, just in case you were expecting anything new, original or exciting. (There’s even a dwarf called Grimli, I kid you not!)
Putting that aside, let’s get to the novels themselves. First up, ‘Grudge Bearer‘, which isn’t a novel at all, but a series of short stories with some of the same characters. For the most part, they are average, unfulfilling, and leave you with a sense of ‘so what?’.
The short story ‘Ancestral Honour’ shows a bit more spark, is more readable, but is so predictable the author virtually waves the ending in your face right from the start.
‘Oath Breaker’ is slightly better, being the story of a group of dwarfs trying to reclaim a mine lost to rat men. The plotting is ok, it has a few decent set pieces, and it even features a female dwarf.
‘Honour Keeper’ tells the story of the dwarfs battling first with chaos and then with the elfs who were supposed to be their allies. This one was a tough read, I had to force myself to continue, for you, dear listener. It’s over-long, repetitive, and the combat completely wrong. Once the fighting starts, the author seems to forget they are small, and they fight just like barbarians.
Overall I found it very disappointing. There’s no originality here, no new insights or cultural flavour, nothing that makes them anything more than just another bunch of fighters. A wasted opportunity then, and one to avoid.