REVIEW: The Grim Company by Luke Scull

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Title: The Grim Company

Author: Luke Scull

Publisher/Publication Date: Roc, Pub. date Feb. 4, 2013

The Grim Company has many of my favorite things in a book: fantasy, fighting, dysfunctional characters, and a fair bit of hilarity. And I did enjoy the book for the most part. Brodar Kayne was definitely my favorite part of the book. The Highlander is well advanced in age, has had a really shit time for the last few years, but just keeps on trekking. The rest of the pack have their ups and downs. Sasha was an enjoyable character but her last minute drug habit was oddly placed and then sort of overlooked. The Half-Mage is a great anti-hero. He supposedly acts for the betterment of all and yet, his weak willed nature always seems to get the better of him. Cole’s massive ego makes him ridiculous but since everyone else is aware of this it makes it a little easier to swallow. Jerek, the other Highlander, was part of where the book took an unfortunate turn for me. But I’ll discuss that more in a bit.

Plotwise, the book moves at a good pace. The evil overlord and the megalomaniacal nature of many of the so-called leaders of other lands, all of whom were responsible for killing the gods, serve as a good focal point for dislike. Every book needs someone you can really hate, and these jerks are definitely it. Our intrepid band of heroes end up in some sticky situations and Scull does an excellent job of questioning what really makes a hero. Our group sometimes behaves in a manner not consistent with heroic behavior but often aren’t given much of a choice. In a land that is ruled by the morally bankrupt, how do we determine who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? The head Augmentor falls into a similar category. Not a bad man in and of himself but forced to do distasteful things. Loyalty to the state or to a cause and an “ends justify the means” type of mentality make it impossible to peg many of the characters are truly good or truly bad. Since this tends to mirror real life, I find it an interesting concept in fantasy novels. Michael Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series tackles some of the same issues in a fantasy setting, though his “heroes” aren’t quite as off the beaten path as some of Scull’s. So, overall, I enjoyed the plot and most of the characters.

Which leads me back to Jerek, who is quite the sticking point for me in this book. Jerek is an unapologetically awful person. Yes, he displays extremely commendable loyalty to Kayne, but he is a really awful person. Which I am actually okay with. I have no problem with awful characters. Books need awful characters. Awful characters do a lot to help drive a book or to address issues that should be talked about. That being said, there is, in my opinion, a way to make characters awful and still sympathetic. Make him an outspoken and crass jackass. Make him violent with a vocabulary worse than every sailor and pirate who has ever lived. You can do all those things and I can still find him sympathetic. Jerek, however, comes across as a misogynistic rapist, or at the very least a would-be rapist. There are repeated implications that he’d as soon rape Sasha as he would look at her. He repeatedly refers to her as “bitch”, among other things, and views her with an anger and vitriol that we don’t see towards other characters. Does he like or respect the other characters? By and large, no. But they never seem to incur the same hatred that Sasha does solely because she is a woman. And that is where my issue is. I cannot find a character like that sympathetic. His behavior and language throughout the book took me out of the story every single time. I was constantly distracted by how uncomfortable I was by the author’s desire for me to somehow find this character sympathetic. So yes, while I enjoyed much of the book, it is highly unlikely that I’ll pick up the sequel.

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