The White Towers by Andy Remic
Please note The White Towers is a direct sequel to The Iron Wolves so it is entirely possible that this review may contain something akin to spoilers. Read on at your own peril…
Vagandrak is broken, and a new threat has arisen that threatens to defeat even the mighty Iron Wolves.
The twisted, deviant Elf Rats have gathered in the toxic realm beyond the White Lion Mountains… swiftly they invade the troubled land of Vagandrak, killing for profit and pleasure.
The now-disgraced Iron Wolves are the realm’s only hope, but there’s a problem: they’ve been sentenced to death by the insane King Yoon for the dark sorcery in their blood.
In the mountains of Zalazar lie the White Towers, pillars of legend said to contain the Heart of the Elves. The Iron Wolves must journey north to steal the Heart, and purify the evil in the land, but the land belongs to the Elves – and they won’t give it up without a fight!
It’s a universal truth that when one evil falls, another will rise to take its place. Orlana the Changer is gone. The Iron Wolves have dealt with her and her army of mud orcs in their own inimitable style. However, no sooner has Orlana been dispatched than the Elf Rats are on the rise.
The Wolves continue to be a thoroughly disreputable, sometimes almost contemptible, bunch and you can’t help but love them for it. There is nothing better than an anti-hero, a character you know you should probably hate but can’t help but enjoy. The great thing is that every single one of the Wolves falls squarely into this category. Think the bastard child of The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen and you’ll be about half way there. In all honesty, I’d be hard pressed to tell you which of them is my favourite. If you put a gun (or should that be axe?) to my head, I’ll admit a soft spot for Narnok. You just can’t beat a gruff warrior with an introspective streak who still manages to get carried away like a maniac in the heat of battle.
Each member of this most dysfunctional of families is flawed, in some cases almost beyond repair. Addiction, violence, jealousy and yet more violence, all help to contribute to the group dynamic. Remic’s writing makes it all but impossible not to get drawn into the group’s adventures. As an extra bonus, on top of all the usual Iron Wolf related mayhem, there is a new character called Mola of the Dogs. Turns out, like the other members of his old platoon, he’s a complete maniac (and damned awesome to boot).
Now I’d imagine some of you will be asking the questions “How do I know if Mr Remic is the right author for me? Should I be reading The White Towers?” Fear not, here are a few key points that you may wish to consider that will allow you to make an informed decision. (1) Things regularly get extremely violent – blood, guts, and gore abound. Seriously, try and imagine the most graphic scene you have ever read. Got it? Good. Multiply that by about a factor of 100 and then add more axes. (2) The adult language used is fruity enough to make the most hardened longshoreman blush. Put it this way, there is a character whose name I can’t even mention in this review because it would probably upset more than a few people. If the swearing in this book had a cinematic rating it would best be described as 18 (hard R) rather than PG 13 (3) There is some nudey mixed-gender wrestling that was explicit enough to make my face go beetroot red. (4) Read The Iron Wolves first. You’ll be missing out on a real treat if you haven’t read the first part of this series. You need to know why this group are the way they, and the first novel offers invaluable insight.
When it comes to all this adult content I count myself a fan of Remic’s raw, often visceral, style. I think it takes genuine skill to know when to go all out and when a moment is best left to a reader’s own imagination. I’ve read more than a few examples from other authors attempting to deliver fictional shocks. More often than not they tend to get this delicate balance wrong. Andy Remic however always manages to tread this fine line with the masterful skill I’ve come to expect.
There is always a concern that the second book in a series will underwhelm. Is it possible to achieve the same lofty heights as book one? I’m pleased to report, that in this case at least, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. There is some great character development and many of the deliberate gaps that existed in various backstories are being filled in. The more I learn about the Wolves history the more it surprises me that the members of this group haven’t ended up hacking one another to bits. Various secrets and grudges keep things bubbling along nicely. As I said before, they are a flawed bunch, but from a reader’s standpoint perfectly so.
Book two of The Rage of Kings series ends on a suitably shocking note, an impressive feat in itself considering there have been pages and pages of chaos and bloodshed already. I now find myself in the midst of a quandary. I need to know what happens next, immediately if not sooner. Like a warrior addicted to the honey leaf, I’m already craving my next Iron Wolves fix. Damn you Remic! Damn you and your sneakily evil, blackest of black hearts, with all your insanely readable stories and your utterly nutty characters. There had better be more and it had better arrive bloody soon or I will be forced to take drastic action*
The White Towers is published by Angry Robot and is available in the US now and as an e-book now. The paperback edition will be available from the 5th June in the UK.
* That’s right I’ll be forced to unleash a sternly worded e-mail. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.