the Little Red Reviewer

Scourge of the Betrayer, by Jeff Salyards

Posted on: April 19, 2013

scourgeScourge of the Betrayer, by Jeff Salyards

published in 2012

where I got it: received review copy via the author (Thanks Jeff!)

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I read plenty of fantasy, but not much in the way of military fantasy, so Scourge of the Betrayer was more than a few steps outside of my comfort zone.    Young Arkamondos (he goes by Arki) is a trained scribe. Used to living in the city and recording the daily activities of bored merchants, Arki thinks he wants a more interesting gig. The Emperor has decreed that travelling bands of Syldoon Warriors must have a scribe, and our story begins when Arki finds himself hired by Captain Braylar Killcoin.

The rest of the troop make it no secret they don’t want Arki around, that they think he’s a worthless city boy, and a liability to their missions. The only member of the group who shows Arki any friendship is Lloi, a fingerless hedge-witch. She’s an outcast of her tribe, so she knows exactly what it’s like to be seen as an outsider.  Braylar might not come right out and say it, but he desperately needs someone to observe and witness what happens, just not for the reasons the Emperor thinks.

For a skinny little book, Scourge of the Betrayer touches on a ton of cool worldbuilding ideas.  Soul devouring weapons, the Godveil, Memory witches, Salyards has built himself a well populated playground to play in for future books in this series.  For this volume, he’s kept the worldbuilding very light, perhaps as a tease for the reader, and perhaps simply as a requirement of an action heavy novel that’s less than 300 pages long.

I was about out of my comfort zone as Arki was out of his.  The members of Braylar’s troop are very, very good at what they do. Highly trained, they know how to take orders with out question, set up weapons and ambushes, and generally kick tons of ass. Arki mentions on more than one occasion that it would take him years to learn all this. No wonder they see him as a liability.  Even if he manages not get himself killed in an ambush,  if he asks too many questions or connects too many dots, that might get him killed quicker. Braylar has found reason to kill more than one scribe these last few years – they observe too much, they ask too many questions.

Braylar (and Salyards) doesn’t want to give up any information, not about their mission, not about his two headed flail, not about anything. It’s interesting to a point, for the reader to yearn to know more, but I also quickly got to a point of “are you ever going to tell me anything? about anything?”  there is such a thing as playing your cards too close to your chest.

Braylar’s two headed flail, known as Bloodsounder, isn’t alive per se, but I don’t think it’s quite dead either. Reminding me a bit of Elric’s Stormbringer, Bloodsounder knows who it has killed, and Braylar dreams of those men, remembers what they remembered, even sometimes develops the wounds and scars of those Bloodsounder has killed. Lloi’s cleansing magics are the only thing keeping Braylar from losing his mind.  And Braylar will only work with rogue hedge witches like Lloi, no Memoridon dream witches for him. I kept wondering why. does he want to keep Bloodsounder’s existence a secret? does he not want it to fall into the wrong hands?  Good job Saylards, it’s been a week since I finished this book, and I am still asking questions about Braylar!

The blurb on the book and many many reviewers compared this to Glen Cook. I’ve never read any Glen Cook, so I can’t say one way or the other on that. Hoping for more political details and worldbuilding, I got bogged down with soldiers bragging about their whoring adventures and very, very long action sequences.  By the time the “good stuff” showed up later on, I was too busy recovering from action sequence burn-out to care much.  It’s too bad, because I really was interested in learning more about Bloodsounder and about Braylar and Lloi. This might be a great book, but it was so far outside my comfort zone that I’m just not the right person to enjoy it.

Scourge of the Betrayer had one major turn off for me, and it was a completely personal thing, something that probably won’t  bother most folks who have experience with military fantasy.  It’s no secret I use plenty of bad language. Shit, bitch, fuck, goddamnit, those are some of my favorite words.  Running into stuff like that in fantasy novels these days is pretty much par for the course. But there is  one swear word that I rarely use, and now, thanks to Scourge of the Betrayer, I now know a hundred and one uses of the word cunt. Still not a word I’m going to use in polite company, but a bunch of Syldoon warriors isn’t exactly polite company, are they?

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, I’m happy I left my comfort zone to give it a read. Leaving my comfort zone is something I need to do more often.  I liked a lot of the characters and found Salyards’ world interesting, I’m not all that into action-focused stories.

6 Responses to "Scourge of the Betrayer, by Jeff Salyards"

I agree. It’s good to be out of your comfort zone, but, it’s equally good to be back in it!
Lynn😀

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No Black Company, huh? Malazan books then? Does this mean that the manly dude on the cover isn’t your type? I’ll probably have to check this out, though I may wait until book two is on the horizon.

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yeah, me thinks no Black Company for me. not to say that manly dude isn’t my type. . . 😉

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I think you should. It’s not nearly as bleak as it pretends to be, and not many swears. Also generally respectful of its women, at least in the eyes of this privileged white man.
http://twodudesff.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/the-black-company/

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Bleakness has never been a turn off for me. no female characters isn’t usually a turn off either. The pacing in Scourge was off for me, and I feel like a total hypocrite being offended by the language choices. I can’t go 5 minutes without using the word Fuck, but I’m offended that someone else’s favorite swear word is a different word? HYPOCRITE.

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And yet you seem so earnest and charming on TV!😉
I think you can dislike a book, or parts of a book, without having to justify yourself. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work. There’s plenty of stuff out there where I am the lone dissenter, so I’m sympathetic.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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