To begin, I should probably let you know that I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Just FYI or whatever. I’m still going to be honest AF and
probably definitely curse a lot. 😀
Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.
Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.
Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.
Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.
Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone.
“Task had seen enough history to know how it was made. History was a bloody mess, scraped up and strained into the books of the people who made the mess in the first place.”
That’s some profound shit right there. This book has, among many things, some extremely quotable quotes. I had a real tough time choosing one to put up there, because I’ve highlighted so many. I don’t think I’ve actually ever had so many highlights in one book, ever. There’s some excellent use of similes as well here, with things like ‘the lines broke like a load in hungry hands,’ and ‘the beast tore through the lines like a beggar through a steak.’ that puts you right the action (and yet makes me want steak. Yum!). I had a real good visual of what was going on most of the time.
I know that reading is ‘looking at words and seeing a movie in your head’ more or less, to some people, but that doesn’t quite happen to me. I’ve got a real good imagination, and I do usually visualize what’s going on as I read, but I’ve never had the knack for the voices. That’s why I listen to so many audiobooks, lol. Task had a voice as I read this one. An actual, visceral, grating, stone voice. It was somewhere in between Treebeard and Optimus Prime. Am I having auditory hallucinations? Shit, I dunno… maybe? Probably not though. It’s probably that Galley’s writing just makes that shit happen.
Task is an interesting character. An interesting concept, really. He is a golem, made for war, used only for war. He sleeps, and he dreams, but doesn’t eat or drink. He feels the heat of a fire, and smells the animals in the stables around his paddock. After 400 years, nothing has changed for him. It’s always been war. I can’t imagine what that would do to a person’s psyche. Golems aren’t exactly people though, at least, not to us skinbags, amirite? But Task has legitimate emotions, so it’s sad to think of him constantly warring for all that time. The way he subtly changes throughout the story was really well executed. I rooted for Task right from page one, people or not people. I liked his personality, and how he knows his rules to the absolute letter and will backtalk his master if possible. He knows exactly what he can get away with. I loved the character that Task became over the course of the book.
Lesky is also an endearing character. ‘You aren’t going to leave me alone, are you?’ ‘No.’ ‘And you aren’t scared in the slightest, are you?’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Fine.’ It made me happy that Task made a friend. A friend he didn’t ask for and probably didn’t really want (or didn’t know that he wanted), but still a friend. A best friend. She’s got the courage I wish I had, the attitude that I probably have, and the snark that I definitely have. I also really liked Lesky’s story and how she grew as a character throughout the book too. Like Task, she becomes more than the sum of her parts.
This was a world in which women weren’t barred from serving in the military, and as a woman, I both noticed and appreciated that. Even very highly ranked women, such as Ellia Frayne, while she doesn’t actually fight on the front lines or anything, works quite closely with the general of the King’s army, among other people. The opposing side had some fairly highly ranked women as well, and it was no big deal. Ellia wasn’t sneered or whistled at or cat called, at least, not to her face. That was… refreshing. You do see this more and more in modern fantasy, but it’s still something that is odd enough to draw my attention.
Now, I’ve got a couple of criticisms too. The first is that the made-up animals seemed sort of weird. I think some good ol’ horses and dogs would have fit better, personally. I’m not sure if this is used as a way to demonstrate that this world is different than ours, but, to me that was a given. The beautiful maps at the beginning of the book were testament of that fact. This world, while different, seems similar enough to ours to allow the same kinds of animals. Horses actually do apparently exist in the world, at least in part of it, because Alabast speaks of them once or twice. It’s no big deal, either way, but it irked me because I couldn’t remember which of the animals talked about were pretty-much lizard-horses and which were pretty-much lizard-dogs, pretty-much pigs, pretty-much crows, and pretty-much cows. That sort of thing.
My second criticism is very similar to the first – made up swear words. They never ever give me the same reaction as a good old f-bomb is going to give. ‘They have a fucking golem!’ – doesn’t that sound good? Like someone is realizing that they are royally fucked and need to let their underlings know it in an angry-as-all-hells panicked sort of way? I think so too, but hey, it’s probably because I curse like a fucking sailor. Why, yes! I am ladylike AF, thank you for noticing! My point here is, these people speak English. This is an English speaking part of this world. Other, ‘less severe’ curses are the same as English. It’s only the word ‘fuck’ that is changed. This felt like the literary equivalent to figuring out which words cross the line when talking to your mother-in-law for the first time and which substitutes are okay to use but still convey that you really mean fuck without actually saying it. But, you know, I don’t blame Galley for going this direction. In my experience, it’s always the people who get offended by the f-bomb that are the most likely to dock a book points because they had to suffer looking at it… even a book where there’s plenty of war, people getting shot, blown up, ripped in half, stabbed twenty times, beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, having their limbs ripped off, and more than one instance of a golem actually crushing people’s motherfucking skulls. Better not drop that f-bomb though guys. It’s too much for my delicate sensibilities. So crass!
And for the record, I can’t say the word ‘fuck’ in front of my mother-in-law either, but the woman reads Game of Thrones and shit. I don’t even know.
Quotable as hell. Great characters. All kinds of feels. Best use of the phrase ‘forcible defenestration’ in all of literature. Definitely one of the most well written books that I’ve read in a while! Everyone, do yourselves a favor and read this book!