Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: "What Remains of Heroes" by David Benem

Though I wasn’t chosen as one of the blogs for Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, I committed on my own to at least give all 10 finalists a chance, hoping that one of them would blow me away.

My plan is to read the samples available on Amazon for each book. If by the end of that sample, the book has grabbed me, I’ll buy it and keep reading. If not, I’ll pass on it.

Since it was one of the highest rated so far, I opted to start with David Benem’s “What Remains of Heroes,” and it was an excellent choice to begin the journey. Not only did the sample grab me, but I bought the book and mowed through the first third in the same sitting.

Benem gives us three primary characters, all of whom are about to have their lives drastically changed in a world teetering on the brink of a potentially catastrophic war with evil sorcerers known as the Necrists.

Lannick de Veers was once a hero of Rune, now he’s a disgraced drunk. Hubris got the best of him and brought him a powerful enemy that cost his family their lives and sent him on a downward spiral. Now a chance encounter in his favorite tavern puts him on a collision course with his past life.

Karnag Mak Ragg is the best at what he does. And what he does is kill people for money. But when he draws a huge contract on a Lector of the Ancient Sanctum of Illiene, he gets a lot more than he bargained for.

Finally, there’s Zandrachus Bale, a bookish scholar in the Sanctum, who far prefers his own company to that of others. A visit to the castle, ostensibly to cast out an evil spirit for one of the servants, reveals to him a plot to overthrow the High King and eventually puts him on a quest to find out what really happened to the Lector.

Around these characters, whose stories are slowly working their way together, Benem builds a nice cast of supporting characters who begin to rise out of the shadows of the primaries.

First, there’s Fencress, companion of Karnag who owes him a great deal. She is perhaps the most interesting because she brings a human dimension to the dark, brutal and largely unlikeable Karnag. By the end of the book, she’s almost usurped his position as a lead character.

For Bale, there’s Gamghast, a leader of his order who gets drawn into the political maneuvering that the acolyte has uncovered and may play pivotal role in the future of Rune.

With Lannick, you have Brugan a former brother in arms who now owns the Wanton Vicar tavern and has been an enabler for the former hero’s descent into drunkenness. He also may be the one to pull Lannick out of his stupor and put him back on the path to being a hero.

In all honesty, I thought that some portions of the book could have used a little more polish, but by and large it’s quite well written, and I soon found myself immersed in Benem’s world. It reminded me somewhat of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, both in tone and structure, but it grabbed me and pulled me in much quicker than Abercrombie’s story did.

I often groan when I’m approached with self-published books. Like most reviewers, I’ve been bombarded for years with poorly written and edited pieces, but every now and then there’s a gem. I’ll go one step further and say that “What Remains of Heroes” is a true diamond. It’s a book that I think could stand toe-to-toe with pretty much any major publisher fantasy out there.

One book into my read of the SPFBO finalists, and I've already found a winner.

On the down side, I’ve gotten myself into another unfinished series, but Benem promises that the second volume, “Wrath of Heroes,” is on pace for early 2016. I can’t wait to continue the story.



1 comment:

Floresiensis Senior said...

So glad you liked the book too Fred. Out of 25 books it was my favourite. Though I have to admit, I had issues with the first chapter but after that it improved immensely. Very well written. Hope you enjoy the second book every bit as much.
Lee @ Fantasy Book Review