Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bloodshed, Battle, and "Beasts"

Title: Orcs
Author: Stan Nicholls

The Dish: "Look at me.  Look at the Orc."  Nicholls immediately opens the story of Stryke, captain of a warband of about 20 orcs, and his officers in a battle.  As it is in their world now, there is a battle between two types of humans, those who believe in one god (Unis) and those who believe in the old gods (Manis) just as the elder races believe.  However, even though they fight on the same side, orcs are still viewed as "lower beings" in the eyes of the Manis they fight alongside especially in the opinion of their oppressive queen, Jennesta.  While on a mission to retrieve a special "instrumentality", Stryke and his comrades discover there is more at stake than the battle between the Unis and Manis.  They undertake a journey to retrieve the other "instrumentalities" and in doing so find allies and enemies alike, those either willing to aid or determined to destroy the warband on their search not only for the "instrumentalities" but the search for truth.  

Orcs is one of those novels that can capture readers but also runs the risk of losing the interest of the readers.  One of the features I really love about Orcs is the character development.  I empathize with Stryke and his officers because they are shown as real, almost tangible characters.  Each of the main characters possesses a personality that breathes life within them, bringing the story off the page.  The problem I have with the novel is the dragging pace of the plot.  Sometimes, I felt I had to force myself to read just to get back to part of the story that interested me.  Nicholls hopped around among the different groups of characters, including Stryke's band, Queen Jennesta, a group of bounty hunters in pursuit of Stryke's band, and the zealous leader of an army of Unis.  Although this would usually provide more perspective of the overall story, it seemed to bring the flow of the story down to a crawl rather than putting me on edge to keep reading to find out what would happen next.  

Overall, I did enjoy the story despite the slow points in plot, but I felt the ending lacked that sense of amazement and accomplishment.  I thought that Nicholls really rushed through the ending just to get the characters where he wanted them to be rather than allowing the flow to continue.  There is a sequel called Orcs: Bad Blood which I suppose is the reason Nicholls left the ending rather open to interpretation.  But still, I thought there would be more closure than what was delivered.  Even if Nicholls was already planning a sequel, I felt it unnecessary to leave the story hanging in the air as I believed he did. 

What books of battle fuel your blood?


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