Monday, September 26, 2011

Life and Death in the Dung Ages

If you like your fantasy of the dark, darkly humorous, and dirty variety exemplified by Warhammer fantasy, then I’ve got a couple of book recommendations for you. Jesse Bullington’s two (standalone) historical fantasy novels are just the sort of grubby, violent, and irreverent stories you’ve been looking for.

I’ve mentioned The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart before. It’s probably the more humorous of the two and maybe the most violent—though that’s a close call. Bullington’s latest effort, The Enterprise of Death has a bit more sympathy for its protagonists perhaps but doesn’t lose the qualities that made Brothers Grossbart entertaining.

Set in 15th Century Europe, The Enterprise of Death concerns a necromancer’s apprentice on the run from her evil master, and the friends she makes along the way—which include real historical figures mercenary/artist Niklaus Manuel Deustch and drunken eccentric Paracelsus. There’s plenty of corpse-reviving, cannibalism, witch-hunters, prostitutes, and pox along the way.

Sometimes Bullington hews close to history: there’s a monstrous voice-mimicking hyena that comes right out of Pliny. Other times, he goes his own way, like with his interesting take on vampires.

Bullington’s gritty and ironic novels are a nice palate cleanser from typical secondary world fantasies with protagonists with heroic destinies going about saving the world—and they don’t involve a multiple volume commitment.

7 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

"There’s plenty of corpse-reviving, cannibalism, witch-hunters, prostitutes, and pox along the way", I'm in.

Simon Forster said...

I was eyeing them up the other day. I'm going to have to add to my list now.

Sean Robson said...

These sound like they're right up my alley, thanks, Trey!

Trey said...

@Sean - You're quite welcome. :)

Bard said...

Sounds pretty good -- one more item to add to my ever-growing "to-read" list. :)

Nate said...

I read the Enterprise of Death this summer. I was disappointed by it's pacing. I had a really good start, slows to crawl and never really picks up speed, then falls haphazardly into a climatic ending that tries to tie everything up. Though I thought the character of Manuel was really entertaining. Each one of his lines felt like it was right from the mind of veteran adventurer. The humor was really well done, but the angst was unbearable.

Trey said...

@Nate - I wasn't as bothered by that as you it sounds like, but I'd agree the ending meanders a bit. I think the good things, as you mention, are the characters and humor, but I'd also say I enjoy his turns of phrase. The passage about Awa and Manuel stubbornly refusing to fall in love as is de rigueur for travelling companions is priceless.