In The Company Of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez

ogres

It is not often in fantasy that you have heroes with names such as Regina, Ward, Frank, Ace, Miriam, and Tate. It is even odder when the heroes are orcs, goblins, ogres, Amazons, sirens and so forth. But that is the way of the world in “In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez.

However the star of In a Company of Ogres is Never Dead Ned. Ned’s issue is not that he cannot die, he often does and usually in a grim manner, it is that he does not stay dead. He does not come back as a zombie, although zombies do exist in his world, but as a not too motivated human.

In a time of peace, providing troops for ‘emergencies’ and peace keeping is a very profitable business and Ned has found himself assigned to lead Ogre Company in Brute’s Legion. The reason for the promotion is his skill in coming back to life, since the unit, the last stop for misfit soldiers, has been loosing commanding officers.

Ned reluctantly takes over the command of the unit only to discover more death (not surprising), love, the most powerful force ever, conflict, leadership and a whole lot more. There are demons, evil wizards, combat and personal issues all needing to be overcome.

I have always enjoyed humorous books and this one has shot to become a leader of the pack in terms of how much I enjoyed it. The humor is constant and not forced. Not a lot of laugh out loud moments, it just keeps a grin on your face sentence after sentence.

alice

While other books of this style often give a sly wink to other novels in the same genre, but not this one. I had thought maybe a Lords of the Ring, or any of the similar type stories would be somewhere in the book but no, it seemingly blazes its own trail and the only reference, that I caught, was of all things, Arlo Gutherie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.

Overall I really enjoyed the book, enough that I read it twice-the second time on a flight where a little girl in front of me was seemingly enamored or puzzled by the cover.

Just as a side note I recently watched what might be the worst Sword and Sorcery movie from the 1980’s. I was a fan of this type of movie, just for the corny fun, but Deathstalker II may have killed that enjoyment forever.

DSII

The dialog was horrible, the sets and props apparently stolen from a failed Renaissance Faire, and the action scenes some of the worst I have ever seen. The climactic battle between Deathstalker and the evil wizard/swordsman will not bring to mind Errol Flynn versus Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood, or for that matter even the original Deathstalker. The female lead, Monique Gabrielle is possible the worst female actress I have ever watched. They should have made a Krull II, I mean look at the original cast!

The Silverleaf Chronicles by Vincent Trigili

Silver

One of the many blogs and newsletters I read had a low cost offering for this book and that is something I can never resist. I would give a shout out to where I found it but I don’t recall at this moment (Might have been Tor). I had never encountered Trigili but looking at his page on Amazon he has been writing for quite some time.

I enjoyed The Silverleaf Chronicles (The Dragon Masters Book 1) and it was a fast read, but I thought that it had a number of flaws (or perceived flaws) that annoyed me. I should mention that what bothers me in one book I often do not notice in another so all complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.

The book follows a man named Silverleaf, who comes from one of the clans of the Forest People. They look just like humans but some of them are born to control dragons. However dragons went extinct centuries before and so the potential dragon masters slowly go insane. However when they go insane they also become frightening efficient killing machines as well. Silverleaf is a dragonmaster and has fled his home so that he does not inflict harm on those he loves.

As he wanders he reaches a small town and sets up work as a smithy to earn some money. While repairing a rare ax the town is invaded by a foreign army. The one strange thing about the foe is that they have armored, android like troops that have the ability to fire destructive beams from their arms and are mind controlled by humans. Much like the army in the classic bad movie Krull. In many ways the movie had an interesting cast with both Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in supporting roles-I kid you not.

krull
Sadly no dragons

Silverleaf manages to fight his way out, accompanied by Kaylissa, the serving girl from the inn where he was taking his meals. He discovers that she is also from the Forest Clans and returns her to the clans, and then departs again.

The book chronicles their relationship as she follows and reunites with him and his battle with the madness. This is the strongest part of the book, but even here I think there is a problem. Silverleaf has been living as an almost feral animal, and was part of a wolf pack for a time. He no longer remembers his past and seems barely human. One quick battle and he is now a thoughtful teacher, helping Kaylissa on her way to beating the madness. Wow that was fast.

The world building is almost non-existent. No maps or sense of distance. You are told that once a vast civilization existed in that area yet no one seems to ever encounter ruins, aside from one impregnable fortress. Aside from this there are forests, a few isolated villages and a rumor of cities to the south.

That fortress, Drac’nor, is where all of the clans of the Forest People retreat at the first onset of the foreign army. The scenario where they decide to go does not ring true. Silverleaf meets the ruler of one of the clans. The leader asks what they should do. Silverleaf says retreat to the fortress. “Ok stranger that we have never met, we will follow your instructions and off they go with nary a word raised about abandoning their ancestral homeland.  It seems that many decisions in the book are made this way. No arguments raised. Also where do they get the food and other supplies when they are in the fortress? Once in the fort, they seem unconcerned about what the enemy is doing away from its borders.

Another odd item is that when Silverleaf comes out of berserker (madness) mode he is ravenous. Nothing odd about that, but it is that he says he needs simple sugars then roots and insects (basically carbs) before he goes on to proteins. All that was missing was a complaint against trans fats.

I did enjoy the writing and the portrayal of the main two characters. The book ends with a lot of unanswered questions and I am interested to see how the author resolves them. There are a number of interesting twists in The Silverleaf Chronicle and so I would expect there to be more in future books. I think that in hindsight the book was probably more targeted at a YA audience, which might explain some of my perceived shortcomings in the book.