Hello Bookish Folk!
I am writing my review of Adrian Selby’s debut novel Snakewood. First off a huge thank you to Dan for putting this book and author on my radar back in October 2020!
A few facts about this book:
- Title: Snakewood
- Author: Adrian Selby
- Series: Standalone but he has to other books set in the same world
- Published by Orbit
- Pages: 544
Here are a few things you can expect from this book:
- A gloriously grim and dark mercenary fantasy;
- An ambitious and unique world which you will love;
- Fight brews and biological warfare;
- Gruff, battered and grizzled mercs with quite the past; and
- A risky but brilliant debut.
On to the full review…
I want to start off this review and just explain that this book a little bit of an epistolary, which if I am remembering correctly, is a novel made up of letters and accounts of others to tell a story. Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is an example of such works, but anyway my point is these types of books can feel jarring. I personally didn’t really have a huge issue with this in Snakewood, admittedly it did, at one point, seem a little disjointed and I had to think where I was in the timeline but generally I followed it well and the plot flowed well because there is a dominant POV to keep you grounded.
Snakewood is such a suspense filled story with so much tension and it is filled with all the intrigue and mystery you could ask for. I had such fun unraveling the twists and turns and Selby does an incredible job at redirecting your thoughts on things you feel fairly confident about. Selby writes really well and I had such joy reading his prose. The battles and the fighting in this book was so vivid and captivating to read. He also managed to create really unique and distinguishable voices for his characters which is even more incredible when you know this is a debut and in such a risky format.
Selby also did the whole ambiguous character really well, none of the characters in this have a a well-aligned morale compass. Some are bad yet still relatable, some are a mix and others your are rooting for but they by no means have a clean track record! But what they all are is utterly compelling, well written and complex. For some it is slower than others but you really begin to care for these characters and become totally invested in their journeys, relationships and more.
Also, the brews! The whole biological warfare in this book was just incredible, and that doesn’t even aptly describe this element. It was magic, well it wasn’t in the traditional sense but it was such a refreshing way to represent a magic in a new way, it had limitations and it had consequences both with a more immediate effect and a lifelong consequences of its use. It was utterly unique and incredible to see in action within this world and used by the characters.
Snakewood is also dark, I didn’t really see it until a certain way through it, yes it has dark elements but holy damn it gets grim. It is ruthless in parts.
I can understand a few of the critiques around this book, it does have a unique writing style and the author has created certain phrases that are completely new, but I really felt like he introduced you to them well and then explained them through their use.
Overall, this is a great debut and one I am so so glad I read it. Now a quick note, I asked Dan my go to Selby expert and he said to read these book in the order they were published. If you were to read Brother Red before this is spoils one of the biggest twists in Snakewood. Plus, after speaking to another friend they tried Brother Red and found the language confusing, so for several reasons I would say read this first.
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I really liked this book and I can not wait to read Winer Road and then Brother Red!