Science fiction and fantasy
The Marching Dead
by Lee Battersby
The Marching Dead is very funny. It's full of rich descriptions of places, as seen from Marius' cynical perspective, full of wit and vinegar. We also get to meet more of his family, which goes some way to explaining why he's such a messed-up individual. His dysfunctional attitude to money and honesty makes much more sense after we learn about his origins.
Marius and his crew encounter smugglers, whores, nuns, and other misfits, both living and dead. There are plenty of twists that keep the story interesting, so it's never a simple matter to figure out who he can trust. There are lots of enjoyable characters, both new and old. Granny is hilariously frank, and there's Arnobew, an old warrior who is mad as a hatter. Drenthe is a cunning opponent with hidden depths, whilst Gerd matures considerably from the dumb farm boy he once was.
This novel tackles themes of guilt, sin, and the way religion is used to control people. In many ways it uses the dead as a clever metaphor for this, but it's not a subtle one. In the final chapter it's as though the author is saying "this is exactly what the book is about and how you should interpret it, in case you missed it." For me, it crossed the line from satisfyingly clear to overly blatant at the start of the last chapter, and I felt like I was being talked down to for a couple of paragraphs or so.
On the other hand, the ending is pretty good in terms of creating closure, completing the story arc, and having an impact. The Marching Dead is an amusingly sordid, sweary romp in the company of an incorrigible rogue, but it goes out on a high note.
27th May 2013
If you like this, try:Giant Thief by David Tallerman
Easie Damasco will steal anything not nailed down and a few things that are, even a giant.
Crown Thief by David Tallerman
Trouble is brewing for the thief who once stole a giant, and his developing conscience is not helping him to escape it. Book two of the Tales of Easie Damasco.
The Enterprise Of Death by Jesse Bullington
A story of necromancy, warfare and painting in Renaissance Europe.
Review © Ros Jackson
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