Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Snakewood by Adrian Selby
Snakewood by Adrian Selby. This edition Orbit 2017

My, oh my. That was one hell of a read, and definitely not what I expected. Snakewood is a very different approach to fantasy, and offers up a refreshingly original setting for a deliciously dark tale of betrayal, murder, comradeship, and found family.

This book really wants you to make an effort. The narrative drops you head first into a world of fightbrews, drudha, fieldsmen (and women), and a slang that feels both organic and familiar, and at no point does the author provide the normally obligatory infodump to bring the reader up to speed with all this new lingo. You have to work it out for yourself as you go along, and that, for me, just made this debut novel from Adrian Selby feel more alive and lived-in than many of the other books I’ve read recently. And for the first time in a long time, there’s even a twist that I didn’t see coming in the last few chapters.

To be clear, this probably isn’t for everyone. Few, if any, of the characters are what you’d call likeable, and most of them are simply despicable in every way you can imagine. It’s like knocking back a refreshing pint of ale, only to find out the barman cut it with a handful of broken glass while you weren’t looking. But if you like your fantasy fresh and original, and more than a little dark, you really should give this one a chance.

There are two more books out there by the same author, and I will be moving both of them up my to-read list after this.

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