Soul Stealers by Andy Remic
Please note this review contains spoilers for those that have not read Kell’s Legend.
When reading anything by Andy Remic you can rest assured that things are going to get brutal and bloody very quickly. I would definitely not recommend Kell’s Legend or it’s sequel, Soul Stealers, to those of you that are faint of heart. The violence is as graphic as it gets. The author doesn’t sugar coat anything. There are seas of blood and everyone, irrespective of age and gender, are a potential victim.
In Kell’s Legend the main protagonist, Kell, is not a terribly nice man. He is an aging warrior who is in a constant battle with the ravages of time. He steadfastly refuses to give in to his inevitable decline, as well as trying to control an almost psychopathic temper. His code of honour would make most people consider him a monster. In fact with a few exceptions most of the characters aren’t that nice.
Personally, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. Quite the reverse in fact. There is a refreshing honesty in the book which I liked. Kell and his main companion Saark are both flawed men. Kell with the dark voices in his head and violence in his heart while Saark is a self destructive hedonist. It makes their relationship an endless back and forth of arguments which is very entertaining.
The villain of the piece is General Graal. He leads the Army of Iron. They in turn are servants of the Vachine. The Vachine are a race of clockwork vampires that use refined blood (blood-oil) to power their mechanical enhancements.
Soul Stealers, published this October by Angry Robot Books, picks up where Kell’s Legend left off. The Army of Iron has crushed the country of Falanor. General Graal finally reveals his true colours, his long planned scheme to restore the ancient Vampire Lords and destroy the corrupt Vachine society. Meanwhile Kell and Saark try to avoid Graal’s forces as they race north in order to find Kell’s missing grand-daughter, Nienna.
As the story races along, both Kell and Saark have to face their inner demons. There is quite a lot of internal dialogue going on so the reader gets to learn the character’s motivations for their actions.
If I could change anything I think I would have liked to have learned more about the characters of the Soul Stealers themselves, especially as the book is named after them. They were not present in the first book, and I think they deserved a bit more exposure in this sequel. They are integral to both of the main strands of the plot, Graal’s betrayal and Kell’s search for his grand-daughter.
Kell’s Legend ends on a rather nice cliffhanger. Soul Stealers takes that excitement to the next level. It ends with what I think they call a ‘game changer’. It certainly left me wanting more.
Based on other reviews I’ve read of Andy Remic’s work I think it’s fair to say that he is the literary equivalent of Marmite due to his extreme brutality, particularly towards his female characters. You read his books and you either love them or hate them. Personally I enjoy everything of his I’ve read. I’ve been a fan since I read his first science fiction novel, Spiral. His move to fantasy novels has been successful. His characters are violent and flawed and can seem to be downright cruel but this always makes for an interesting read.
I look forward to next book in the series.
Soul Stealers will be launched at FantasyCon 2010 and will be on general release in October.