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Orcs by Stan Nicholls

I finished Orcs by Stan Nicholls a few days ago. The conclusion of the trilogy very obviously opened the way to a sequel which I confirmed for myself at Nicholls’ website. The site lists a second trilogy called “Orcs: Bad Blood” with volume one, “Weapons of Magical Destruction,” apparently being published in the United States as Orcs: Bad Blood.

My previous post expressed some surprise with the adult themes in the first few chapters of the book. These scenes moderated through the remainder of the text. I suspect the sexual content was largely introduced for shock value and to differentiate it completely from more traditional fantasies such as The Lord of the Rings.

Nicholls turns the traditional on its ear by creating a world where the humans are perceived as evil invaders, and the orcs as misunderstood members of a warrior culture. Orcs, as one of the few exotic races without inherent magic (humans are the other), are born to fight and become mercenaries, hired guards, or almost self-indentured soldiers for others. It is clear, however, that wasn’t always like this.

In the years since humans began crossing the desert beyond, the world’s basic fabric has started to unravel: weather patterns have changed (a rapid ice age is approaching), relationships between the races have deteriorated, the land has been ravaged by deforestation, religious wars have ignited, and the magic tied to the land is being depleted.

Stryke and his Wolverines, a warband of orcs, are sent to capture a relic that their evil mistress wants to obtain. In that quest, they find that they can find freedom and a better life by following their own wills.

The first thing that struck me was the volume of action sequences in the form of skirmishes, battles, and duels. There are surprise attacks and incidental run-ins with other denizens of Nicholls created world every few pages. Surprisingly, they kept my interest even though there are only so many ways to describe them.

There were also several oddities I noticed:

  • World size — The text seemed to give the indication that the orc warband was traveling to the far ends of the land, but everything appeared to be only several days’ walk or ride.
  • Warband speed — The warband of 20 or so orcs seemed to travel extremlely slowly. Bounty hunters, warband sent to find them, and potential allies caught up with them even though the orcs always had a head start.
  • Invinceability — Readers always expect that the main characters will survive to book’s end. But even “red shirt” grunts in the warband survived battle after battle; in many cases surviving overwhelming odds. Admittedly, the orcs are tough. True, many might be wounded. But, it seemed a little unrealistic.

An interesting read, but not the best book I’ve ever read. Not bad for a light read, though….

I did read this entire book on the Kindle 2: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device (Latest Generation). Expect a review shortly!

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