Thursday 10 December 2009

Book Review: Stan Nicholas – Orcs

Orc's is a fantasy novel set in the fictional world of Maras Dantia. When you think of Orcs, it's very possible that you think of Tolkien's The Lord of The Ring and this is exactly what this book is not similar to. The book is actually a trilogy, with all three novels in the series (‘Bodyguard of Lightning’, ‘Legion of Thunder’ and ‘Warriors of the Tempest’) in one book without any attempts to make them flow more smoothly (there are lengthy recaps in the beginning of books two and three).

The book seeks to challenge the conventional conception of Orcs as the bad guys and humans as the good guys on a mission to save the world. In Orc's we follow a warband of orcs led by Captain Stryke, a brave and seasoned fighter sent on a mission to attack a human settlement and bring back a mysterious object, or "instrumentality" for the evil Queen Jennesta who is part human and part nyadd (water nymph ). On finding themselves successful in their mission and also having acquired a bag of the much-valued hallucinogenic drug, pellucid, from the raid, the warband decide to rest and try out the drug. This leads to them being attacked by Kobolds, another of the races that inhabit Maras Dantia and divested of the instrumentality, leaving them unable to go back for fear of Jennesta's murderous wrath.

The Orcs track the Kobolds, at the same time knowing that there is no going back and wondering what they can do to save themselves. They recall that they were once free before their race was sold into bondage to serve as formidable fighters. At the same time they have to deal with "Uni's", humans who have crossed a vast desert to reach Maras Dantia and are viewed as fanatical because of their insistent belief in one God in contrast to the belief of the elder races in a trinity or quartet of Gods (Uni's versus Mani's). The humans are pillaging the resources of Maras Dantia and hold the elder races in contempt as heathens who need to be "enlightened".

The book is fast-paced, leaping from battles (though nothing like the scale of LOTR) to mad chases to random carnage to the next battle or punch-up. The tone too is different from the usual fantasy novel, irreverent and laddish almost, with the Orc band often rowdy and belligerent, including the one female member Coilla who is as skilled a fighter as the rest.

I really enjoyed the sense of humour of this book - the way it pokes fun at elves, imps, brownies, centaurs, satyrs, nyadds, mermaids, sirens, trolls, fairies, goblins and just about EVERY other creature you can think of from a fairy story

I also loved the exchanges between two of the characters in the warband: Haskeer, a brave, belligerent but not very bright Orc and the dwarf Jup, the only non-Orc in the band, that run through all three installments of Orcs and are probably the highlight of the book.

At the same time, it is predictable. The villainess, Jennesta, is slightly ridiculous with her exaggeratedly evil, one-dimensional characterisation and the quest formula has bee done so many times before in the fantasy genre, although the Orc perspective was a change. The ending is also rather odd and sits slightly uncomfortably with the rest of the book.

In all this is a good read if you have the stomach or patience for a rowdy, "boy's-style" adventure, perhaps not to everyone's taste, but made more readable by its great sense of humour


  1. Salaams. Loved the review.
    We're big fans of the "Rings" trilogy so, when I saw mention of Orcs my attention was piqued. I love the idea of a story being told from an orc's perspective. Sounds like a romp. It's definitely going into our "to read" list.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Walaikam-assalam Sister,
    I ahve to say thought it can be quite gory at times and has one particularly nasty scene, so if you don't like that, then maybe not the book for you. I have just finished "The Gift" in the Pellinor series by Alison Croggan, which is a lot cleaner and also a LOTR's quest type novel, I would reccommend that a bit more.