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Review of Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Review of Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff SalyardsScourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
Series: Bloodsounder's Arc
on May 1st 2012
Genres: Epic, Fantasy
Pages: 320


Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself. Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next. Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience! A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

This was a terribly hard review to write. Honestly, this was sooooooo close to falling into my I LOVED IT category, but when I thought back on my reading, I did a lot of skimming.

What I loved most? The Captain and his weapon, Bloodsounder. Sadly, by the time I really came to be interested in Braylar (and saw him as something more than just your standard tough guy), and was introduced to Bloodsounder, I was 40% into the book. Now, this is a short book, so that’s not a lot of reading, but still. If maybe I had gotten a taste of Bloodsounder a bit earlier on, I might’ve had no problem moving this up because I would have been invested sooner. Unfortunately I can’t say why I loved the Captain and Bloodsounder without ruining it for those who’ve not read the book. I will say when I hit that part I sat up straight and said: “Holy crap, that’s awesome!”

And another crazy fun part about this book? The fight scenes. They are done incredibly well. Detailed and riveting. Those moments I couldn’t get enough of, especially when the Captain is involved. Shame there were only two major fights. There was some tension, don’t get me wrong, but it was the actual fight scenes that amazed me.

So what kept me from loving it and what made me skim? Well, the skimming is simple: Too much description for this girl and too much setup. Of course the descriptions were done wonderfully and really set the scenes. They weren’t excessive, but combined with my other reasons for not loving it, they seemed more prominent to me than they probably were. And then there just seemed to be so much introduction and setting up the characters. Sure, the dialog to do so was fun and watching the soldiers interact was entertaining. I just wish it would have been cut down by half.

This book is in first person, which I generally tend to love. The problem is I found the voice of Arki … I don’t know, boring, maybe? Flat? Distant? Arki’s descriptions of the soldiers, especially the Captain, were so engaging that it made times when he was not with them seem very flat. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Perhaps I’m used to the first person PoV coming across with a slight bit of humor, or dry observations that make the internal processing sessions fun. Since Arki is along as a scribe meant to document the quest in detail, I guess he goes about it a bit more business-like. I will say toward the end I started catching glimpses of a bit of personality, but it really comes down to a bit too late for me.

On a smaller note, be prepared for a few typos here and there. It’s not excessive, but I did notice a few.

Overall, despite my gripes, I’d recommend this to everyone who loves fantasy. I think my issues with it are minimal and a lot of fantasy fans would love this book. The books are pricey (even for the ebook), so be sure to read a fair share of reviews to make sure you’ll enjoy it.

About Jeff Salyards

I grew up in a small town north of Chicago. While it wasn’t Mayberry, with all the doors unlocked and everyone offering each other slices of pie and quaint homilies, it was pretty quiet and sleepy, so I got started early imagining my way into all kinds of other worlds and universes that were loud, chaotic, and full of irrepressible characters and heaps of danger. Massive explosions. Tentacled aliens. Men with sharp swords and thousand-yard stares and secrets they would die to protect. Clearly, I was a full-bore dork.

Royal Crown bag full of multi-sided dice? Check. Blood-red hooded cloak? Check. Annual pilgrimages to Renaissance Faires? Check. Whacking other (curiously athletic and gifted) dorks with rattan swords in the SCA? Check. Yes, I earned my badges, thank you very much.

My whole life, I’ve been fascinated by the fantastic, and of course this extended to speculative fiction of all kinds. Countless prepubescent evenings found me reading a worn, dog-eared copy of Thuvia, Maid of Mars (it sounded so much dirtier than it was!) or The Frost Giant’s Daughter (high hopes for that one too!) well past lights-out, flashlight in hand, ignoring the repeated calls to turn in. That’s as quiet and harmless a rebellion as you can have, and my parents mostly sighed and left me to it.

So, no one has ever been surprised to hear that I was working on (or at least talking about working on) some sci-fi or fantasy story or other. But it took years of flirting with various projects, flitting from one to the next without the hint of complete commitment, before I finally mastered myself enough to finish a novel. And longer still before I finished another one that was worthy of being published.

But wonders never cease. And here we are.

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