Blade of the Destroyer: The Last Bucelarii Book 1, by Andy Peloquin

Bucelarii - Copy

Let’s get to the point right up front; this is a well-written story that will appeal to a small readership: fans of Dark Fantasy and fight scenes. It would be an exaggeration to rate the story “completely concerned with violence,” because it also contains the requisite artistic merit: a wonderfully-described setting, an important theme, an empathetic main character and a satisfying resolution.

But the violence overshadows all. To give the reader an idea, I used the search function of my Kindle program. The words “blood” and “pain” appear 100 times each in the last 5 chapters. And that’s not through shoddy writing. “Agony,” “gore,” “death,” “horrible,” “horror,” and many other evocative words get their share. Mr. Peloquin has a highly descriptive style.

The Blade of the Destroyer is the story of The Hunter, who has no other name and no memory of his true identity. The tale discusses the old dichotomy of human nature: the conflict between the need to nurture and the need to kill. While demonstrated in a mythological setting, with soul-stealing daggers, demons and magical semi-humans, the question is the same as for all of us. Will we give in to the desire to smash our adversaries, or will we allow our humanity to guide us? The Hunter wants to do both, and as we all know, this doesn’t usually work.

As the name of the protagonist indicates, Hunter has long been a purveyor of the more violent side of human nature. However, his humanity burns deep inside, and when the truly evil characters in the story attack the few friends The Hunter has accumulated, his reaction is predictable; he decides to rid the city of these vermin. He goes on a four-chapter binge of violence, killing a variety of thugs, criminals, and upper-class vermin in various interesting ways, usually involving a battle of some sort.

And then he starts in on the demons.

Not to give too much away, but I feel I should deal with one specific element of the story. I mentioned in another review lately that there is a real danger in having a protagonist who heals quickly. It tempts the author to keep wounding him. It also reduces the suspense, because once we know that the fighter can heal almost instantly from any wound, the individual injuries – even when portrayed in gory detail and agony – become reduced in importance.

This author is also hampered in having a hero who jumps into battle with such alacrity. One of a writer’s greatest sources of tension is the earlier conflict when the main character is trying to avoid the fight. “Will he have to fight?” starts the suspense. “Will he win?” is the second phase. With The Hunter, the fight is a given, so the suspense suffers.

This novel is a festival of sense and emotion. The fight choreography is exquisite. Every move is described in all its gory detail, with plenty of blood, broken bones, and the ensuing agony. The setting descriptions are also highly detailed, although for the most part highly unpleasant, as the story takes place in the worst areas of a terrible city. The main character hunts his prey by scent, so the smells of the various settings compete for our attention with the sights and sounds.

I find it unfortunate that the overbalance of violence will keep this novel from a larger readership, because otherwise it is an enjoyable story, rich and detailed in physical and emotional atmosphere and action.

Recommended for fans of Dark Fantasy, violence and gore, and those with strong stomachs who like a good read. 4 stars out of 5.

 

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