The Iron Wolves by Andy Remic
Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, an led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain.
Now, a new terror stalks the realm. Orlana the Changer, has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from the slime and heading north to battle the mighty region of Vagandrak where, it is said, the king has gone insane…
General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be there finally battle. But Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer the heroes of legend, and they might just be more dangerous than the invading hordes…
Since their heroic heyday the various members of the Iron Wolves have fallen, and in most cases they have fallen pretty far. Drug abuse, psychopathic acts of violence, gambling and pit fighting are just a select few of the various vices on offer. I like this approach. Too often in fantasy heroes appear utterly indomitable, and it just gets so damn boring after a while; those holier-than-thou types with not a single chink in their armour, all flawless and shiny. I’ll be honest, it does my nut. Not so in the case of the Iron Wolves however, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and their flaws in full view.
In previous novels, I’ve always enjoyed that Remic’s writing takes time to get under the skin of his various characters and the same is true again here. Each of the Wolves has their own demons to vanquish. Their ferocious captain, Kiki, is troubled by her shady past, her raging addictions and is also haunted by the ghost of her sister. Brothers, Dek and Ragorek, are more interested in beating the living tar out of one another than anyone else. Elsewhere, the once handsome Narnok teeters on the brink of sanity as he struggles to come to terms with his problems. Don’t even get me started on Zastarte and Trista, both are maniacs. Rounding things off is General Dalgoran. He faces off against the trickiest opponent of all – the inevitable march of time. How best to sum them up? Think the Not So Magnificent Seven. The irony is not lost on me that these are the heroes of the piece.
Their nemesis, Orlana the Changer, is pure unadulterated evil. To her, humans are little more than an irrelevance, a resource to be used, abused and then discarded. She uses her dark magicks to create an army of spliced creatures. Humans and animals are melded together to form new nightmarish hybrids. As I’ve come to expect from Mr Remic, the author doesn’t shy away from describing the awfulness of the splicing process. In fact, be warned those with a nervous disposition, things veer off into the realms of body horror on a number of occasions. It’s one of my favourite things about this particular author’s writing. Nobody does brutal violent chaos better than Andy Remic. You want to know exactly what happens when a lion and a man are merged together to form a four legged warrior mutant? Of course you do! If you enjoy a book full of that sort of outlandish shocks then I can guarantee that you aren’t going to be disappointed with The Iron Wolves.
Don’t get the wrong idea though, it’s not all horror. There is plenty of action as well. When the mud-orcs and spliced finally come face to face with human forces, it kicks off in graphic style. Things build to a climactic siege that is particularly exciting. In order to eke out the tension, Remic counterpoints this by also capturing the other side of this conflict. In the hours before leading up to the final battle there are a host of little introspective moments offering insight into the thoughts and minds of the soldiers waiting to face their foe.
As ever, I advise caution when it comes to Mr Remic’s work. His writing is gory as hell and has a raw unstrained quality that isn’t going to be for everyone. Personally, I love it. Often brutal, but in the same moment introspective; hugely violent but also thoughtful. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover if you were to venture beyond the realms of Grimdark and out the other side you’d find Andy Remic sat there waiting for you. He’d probably ask you what took you so bloody long.
This novel is the first part in a series called The Rage of Kings. The Iron Wolves is a perfect introduction to a new hardcore fantasy series. It feels like we’re getting the band back together. I suspect we’ve only just begun when it comes to unleashing bloody mayhem. Based on the evidence displayed, you can count me in. Bring it on!
The Iron Wolves is published by Angry Robot and is 31st December (US) and 1st January (UK).