When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they've struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.
Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin's sister, Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross-section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, united by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books or get them all killed.
©2014 Mark Smylie (P)2014 Tantor
"Genuinely inspired, shockingly erotic, and completely fantastic." (John R. Fultz, author of Seven Sorcerers)
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"Scallywags and Ne'er Do Wells"
Here's what I love about this book: scoundrels. Fantasy has gotten pretty dark of late and many books feature anti-heroes and dark or grim types but the members of the underworld featured in The Barrow have have uniqueness and panache. They enjoy their dastardly deeds and they carry them out with a bit of flair. Whereas Game of Thrones (which I enjoy) is largely peopled with bloodthirsty pragmatists the heroes and villains in The Barrow like to take risks and have a bit of fun.
Any chapter with Leigh is a good one. The narrator gave him the most interesting voice. The narrator also did very well with Erim who (as the book's description points out is a woman disguised as a man). That's a tricky one to convey but Page did this beautifully
I spent a few moments at one point wondering if there wasn't just a bit too much of the lurid and prurient in this story; it seemed gratuitous and there seemed to be one too many brothel scenes early on but this was balanced out nicely. The characters were surprisingly complex (which is an absolute rarity in Fantasy).
"Not for the faint of heart...but a good story"
Let me preface this by saying that I love the new genre of fantasy called the "anti-hero" (joe abercrombie is one of my favorite authors) and when I read the blurb for this I thought it would a story similar to that.
It is an it isn't. This story has more sex, more violence, and more treachery (if you can believe it!) that kept you guessing up until the end.
If you like dark fantasy give it a try, but as my title indicates this story is definitely not for the faint of heart!
"If sex sells this book sold out..."
Not much to like but if I had to pick it be the end because the it was over. What I liked the least, to much graphic sex every other page some one was banging someone. Heck even a maggot ridden zombie got some and it went in to detail, curse my vivid imagination.
No, it has turned me away from Mark Smylie.
No, see above zombie scene as one reason.
I feel this book would lose about 5 to 6 hours if the author spent less time describing peoples privates and how to fit them to. I'm no prude but after the unicorn horn strap on enough is enough.
"Oh! it's a comic book."
Well this book was...interesting. I tried it out because I had previously enjoyed listening to this narrator, Michael Page. Page does a creditable job with odd material.
I think the key thing to know about this book (which I did not know until after listening to it) is that the author is primarily a comic book writer/artist. This book is set in the same universe as a series of comic books by him. Once I knew that, the over-the-top violence and sex suddenly made a lot more sense. The cruel incest (indeed all the sex in this book is dosed with cruelty to some degree), the unicorn horn strap-on, the maggot-animated zombie, etc...all of these made much more sense to me once I knew they came from the imagination of a comic book artist.
Sympathetic characters are in short supply in this book. The vast majority of characters are shockingly cruel, and the villains are so stereotypically villainous they're beyond caricatures (although one character amusingly comments on that fact at some point). I wonder if the only reason the author manages to make two characters somewhat sympathetic is by telling us so little about them.
Despite all the revolting material, I found myself engaged by the story. The writing is not bad by any stretch. There are, as I say, two characters I found myself rooting for. There is quite a bit of intriguing mystery about curses and maps and hidden tombs and ancient evil kings. There's a believable feeling of history throughout. The world-building is pretty well done.
I can't say I fully understood all the mysteries by the end. I was left with several unanswered questions, and in fact I was a bit unsatisfied by the ambiguous ending. (This is apparently a prequel to the comic book series, but I certainly am not tempted to read it.) There are several revelations at the end in which we learn that many of the characters are not who we were led to believe they were. Some of these turn-abouts are quite fair (i.e. well foreshadowed) and some do not seem fair at all, as if the author decided to change the rules at the last minute. I was reminded of the movie "House of Flying Daggers", in which we learn at some point that the blind girl was just pretending to be blind all along--which raises the question of why the filmmaker chose to show her acting blind when she was alone. Something like that is going on here, I think. Or I just missed something. But I would have to listen to the book a second time to find out for sure, and I'm not sure I want to do that.
this was the first book I had to stop listening to. Way over the top regarding malicious and homesexual sex acts.
Now I consider myself open-minded and reading about sex doesn't generally bother me, but this book went way overboard. I was not ready to hear detailed depictions of grisly bestiality, incest, and female degradation. I don't know what I was expecting, but this certainly was not it. If this stuff is up your alley, good for you. If not, I highly recommend not reading this book. It just made me uncomfortable.
"decent first novel a little too disturbing"
I must start this review by saying that Mark Smylie has the potential to be a great author. He can create good character depth, write excellent fight scenes, and create an intricate plot but he does have some flaws. First, he likes the gruesomely disturbing scenes a bit too much, he lingers on a few almost pornographicly depraved sex scenes a bit too much. These scenes provide nothing for the novel unless to turn someone on if you like that sort of thing. I understand this is supposed to be a grimdark novel, but he simply goes over the top with it. The other problem with this book is the fact that his overall starting plot is a bit generic and almost seems like a dungeons and dragons theme. However, despite these shortcomings I must say Smylie has the potential to write novels with the likes of Abercrombie and Cook. I would recommend this book to read because it does have some of the more intriguing characters I have ever read about and was fairly enjoyable. Also, the second book in the series is coming out soon and I am planning to get it because I feel it could be a great second novel. Finally, the narrator did a good but unremarkable job, but it was very easy to tell the characters apart. This is why I gave him 4 stars.
"Lots of words, not enough story"
Maybe I'm just too unsophisticated for this offering but I had to give up. All those words just weren't turning into anything meaty.
Hey, Joe Abercrombie, all is forgiven!
"not amazing but worth a listen"
not different but entertaining enough I enjoyed it for what it was, decent on the whole and pretty much non stop from start to finish. A good filler if you have nothing else is the best way to describe this book. Not amazing but worth a spare credit
"Not to my taste; at all"
The Narration, the writing, all bad. That is all there is to it.
No, one bad book does not make a bad genre & there is always Joe Abercrombie to fall back on
His style, his diction, his choice of voices for characters but with all this said the source material did not help
anger and disappointment and an urge to 'read' better books
I was advised badly, but never again.
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