Narrator Chris Chung's youthful, likeable voice quickly makes naive young scribe Arkamondos familiar and sympathetic as he leaves his dull life to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors. In contrast to Arki's thoughtful nature, Chung adds texture and roughness to the voices of the bluff, often-crude Syldoon. Arki's adventure with the Syldoon is filled with bouts of violence and political intrigue, and Chung performs these scenes with energy while keeping Arki's wide-eyed perspective intact. As Arki shakes off his small-town innocence, events unfold that hint at a larger conflict yet to come.
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.
©2012 Jeff Salyards (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"I read 70 books in 2012 and I consider Scourge of the Betrayer to be both Debut of the Year and Fantasy of the Year." (SFSignal.com)
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
Arkamondos the scribe has just been given a new and unusual commission. He’s been hired by a notorious band of Syldoon soldiers to travel with them and observe and transcribe their adventures. The leader of this motley crew is Captain Killcoin, a brooding authoritarian figure whose weapon of choice is a frightening looking flail that has magical properties. Killcoin is accompanied by a few loyal companions who are just as scary and tough as he is. Arkamondos is intimidated by all of them, and he wonders if he’s made a big mistake, but Killcoin’s insistence that important events are about to occur makes Arkamondos decide that it will be best for his career if he stays… Plus, they’ll probably kill him if he leaves.
So off he goes with Killcoin’s band. They are coarse and vulgar but their dialog is frequently sharp and witty. There is much drinking, cursing, barfing, bleeding, pissing, etc. (Should be appealing to Joe Abercrombie’s fans.) But at the same time, there is something underneath, at least for Captain Killcoin, that suggests a nobility of purpose that he may be purposely repressing for now.
It takes a while for Scourge of the Betrayer to really get going, but once it does the plot becomes quite interesting. Arkamondos witnesses many strange and horrible things — bar fights, long gruesome battles, murders, curses, sickness, healing, treachery, trickery, manipulation, and magical weapons and boundaries. By the end of the story, Arkamondos isn’t much more enlightened about the impending important events than he was at the beginning and neither are we, the readers. Who does Killcoin work for? Why is he so feared? Why does he seem like such a tortured soul? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Why is his band so loyal? What is happening in the realm? It’s obvious that something significant is happening, but what is it?
For a book that provides so little information, it’s surprisingly gripping. I was transfixed on the very first page. My reaction, I think, reflects a weakness for bookish protagonists who find themselves thrown in with warriors. I wasn’t really aware of this little fetish of mine until I read Scourge of the Betrayer, but the contrast between Arkamondos and his new comrades — a rough seemingly uncivilized little group — made me recognize it, and when I stopped to think about this, I realized that I almost always like these sorts of characters. I think it’s because they’re introspective. They think about what they’re seeing and they report it in the first person. They can react emotionally or mentally, and they can judge the actions of others, but they are neutral figures — they are not supposed to influence the action. This allows for some interesting observations, insights, and ethical dillemas. But of course, occasionally Arkamondos does make the decision to act and these are some of the best scenes in the novel. Arkamondos is also engaging when he relates what he sees and experiences to his own life and the low self-esteem he feels because he’s the bastard son of a prostitute. Arkamondos doesn’t learn much about his companions’ plans in Scourge of the Betrayer, but he does learn a lot about himself, about other people, and about companionship, loyalty, and love. I look forward to seeing how he develops in Veil of the Deserters, the second book in BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC.
Scourge of the Betrayer is a promising debut. Jeff Salyard’s has created some unique and likable characters, the writing is strong, and the story, though it takes a while to get going, is exciting and mysterious. I listened to Kris Chung narrate the audio version produced by Audible Studios. This was the first book I’ve heard by Chung (he’s fairly new to the audiobook world, I think) and I was pleased. I will choose this format for the sequel.
Debatable...I loved the story, having read the book. But I didn't really care for the narrator; also, the audio was mixed poorly, if I'm phrasing it properly...there was faint white noise that I never hear on other books. It would stop and start when the narrator reached a section; I could tell when one recording session started and one ended.
I loved the characters; I like repartee in the dialogue and also mild understatement, both of which were common in this book. I also loved the action sequences. There were not many, and they were not spectacular; they were....real. In a melee, one man protecting himself against five is cause for concern, regardless of his skill. The writing reflects this.
Steven Pacey, without a doubt. Then perhaps Bronson Pinchot or Michael Page. I'm currently listening to John Lee, who is also good.
Chris Chung read with feeling, yes, but his attempts at changing accents to fit the various characters detracted from his narrative. Incidentally, few do this as well as Steven Pacey!
This is an average book with average narration. It is barely good enough for me to get through the book.
It is a story about a mercenary writer hired to take account of the adventure of a mercenary band of group on a secret mission. The mission is so secret that even the reader does not know about it till much later in the book. I think that author tried to follow the steps of ''The name of the wind' in terms of account of events, but quality of writing is not up to standard. I found myself to be dis interested due to over all super secretive theme which though intriguing at the start, became annoying later in the book. Also, there were constant lessons that were given to the writer form the leader of the mercenary which again became tiresome. I barely completed the book. I will not be reading the next book on this series.
I walked into this book not knowing anything about it aside from the cover art, the cover of its sequel, Veil of the Deserter, and the internet whisperings of 'Grimdark.' What I found was a very enjoyable and unique story.
The book opens with our narrator, Arkamondos, a professional scribe, meeting his newest employers, the Syldoon. The Syldoon are no mercenaries like The Black Company, they're more like the Dirty Dozen of a fantasy empire. As Arki is not a warrior and a bit sheltered, he is often horrified and awestruck by the warriors' ways. The Syldoon, who are required to have a chronicler by Empirical decree, make no secret their opinions of the bookish coward in their company.
The setting has a very ancient feel, and we are treated to only glimpses of greater things from the past. I enjoyed that Salyards never infodumps his world history on us, but lets it serve as a backdrop, slowly revealing itself.
Because the novel is part of a larger series, please be warned that it does not wrap up nice and neat by the end. Instead it closes on a hook, much like a chapter close. Fortunately the second book is already out, but the third book is still some time away. Many fantasy readers are used to waiting years between installments, but I always try to warn people of it before they begin that road.
In the topp 3rd. It has some promise and I think that if the author polish up on the plot and worldbuilding a bit, maybe flush out the characters somewhat. Because the action bit is good stuff.Will buy the second installment
I like that you are kept guessing about what our guy with the flail will do next and how.
The action segments were the best
There was some dark humor in it, but the best was the suspence of the elite commando stuff. Some intricate(in a good way) twists in the planing of the ops the unit did.
The Narrator had a killer voice! Mr Chung did a fine job:)
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