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3 September 2011

Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes
Adventurer. The term has long been synonymous with cutthroat, murderer, savage, zealot, and heathen. And Lenk, an errant young man with only a sword and a decidedly unpleasant voice in his head, counts all five among his best and only associates. Loathed by society and spurned by all merciful gods, he and his band are recruited for only the vilest of jobs. Denaos, the lecherous thug; Asper, the cursed priestess; Dreadaeleon, the pubescent wizard; Gariath, the psychotic dragonman; and Kataria, the savage shict who farts in her sleep, have all followed Lenk out of necessity. But as their companionship increases, so too does their enmity for each other. Thrown together by necessity and motivated by their distrust for each other, it falls to Lenk to keep them from murdering each other long enough to allow something more horrible, the pleasure of killing them. When an esteemed clergyman hires them to track down a missing book stolen by a zealous foulness risen from the depths of the ocean, intent on using the tome to raise its abyssal matron from her hell-bound prison, Lenk finds his skills put to the test. Faced with titanic, fishlike beasts, psychotic purple warrior women, and the ferocity of an ocean that loathes him as much as his own people do, the greatest threat yet may be the company he keeps.Full of razor-sharp wit and characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunge the reader into a vivid world of adventure, this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.

Tome of the Undergates is my August book club read with Fantasy Faction. Before I go into details, I have to say that this isn't the kind of Fantasy novel that people are used to. To really get into this book, you have to understand who Sam Sykes is. If you're not already following him on Twitter at @SamSykesSwears then you really should. The energy and outrageous humour that you see in his tweets are clearly present in this book.

The book begins with a sea battle that lasts a quarter of the book, by far the longest battle scene I've ever read. During this sea battle, the adventurers are introduced. In other stories, readers learn about the characters when they were still young or through deeds that they performed. However Sykes introduces the adventurers in this book by having them constantly argue with each other. It's a different way of introducing the thinking and the believes of the characters to the reader but at times it just became too much and hindered the movement of the plot. I had difficulty remember who's who at certain points as it kept jumping between battle scenes and arguments.

Things began to pick up pace after this as the adventurers are tasked with the responsibility of retrieving the tome from the demons. The fight scenes are vividly described and visceral. At the same time the bantering between the characters become more bearable and I actually find myself enjoying the exchanges. Strangely this part reminds me of my time in boarding school. We had a wide range of characters just like the book and despite how much we might have liked or disliked each other, we were stuck on the same boat so to speak and can't get rid of each other.

I thought that towards the end of the book the quick pace would continue and the book would end with a cliffhanger but the energy that we found earlier died down instead. Despite this, there are some really great writing in the last few scenes that make you forgive the change of direction and makes you rethink if the natures of the characters.

The book is a little rough and pace uneven but when the book is good, it is really good and the series show a lot of promise. I'm sure the story will become tighter as Sykes hones his craft and gain more experience as a writer. I understand the criticisms this book receives and that it may not suit everyone's tastes but if you are looking for something different then do give this book a try! I'm dying to find out who is that voice in Lenk's head, what's up with Asper's arm and what will happen to the rest of the gang.

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