REVIEW: Jeff Salyards – “Scourge of the Betrayer”

Jeff Salyards – “Scourge of the Betrayer” – Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy, Book 1

A slow, but strong start — 4 stars

SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER by Jeff Salyards is the first installment in the Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy. It is a showcase of grim, gritty military fantasy following the adventures of an elite mercenary company as seen through the eyes the unfortunate scribe assigned to chronicle their exploits.

This book split me right down the middle. It hit many of my favorite markers for personal taste. Witty. Genuine. Dark and gritty. Sincere in its treatment of the subject matter and the consequences that come from a lifetime of living by the sword.  It captures the essence of life in this Syldoon mercenary band, their bond as brothers in arms, with style and great believability.  Salyards delivers a first-rate combat narrative.  And not as a one-off, a good fight scene here or there.  He does it consistently from start to finish. He leaves your imagination aching with the grinding of broken bone and the wash of hot blood, keeps you flinching with the push and shove of desperate survival.  He takes an iron hammer approach to combat and isn’t afraid to hit you in the teeth with it.

Simply put, I love the bones of this book, I love its foundation, I love its vision.

Its execution was less to my taste though.  For all the great things I can, have, and will say about this book, its pace is not among them.

My buy-in, the point at which I was invested in this book, came hard and fast and right up front. Salyards had me in the palm of his hand. I was in.

Then the pace slowed to a crawl.  Events began to unfold like autumn leaves slowly falling from a tree. In the span of the book’s 320 pages, the number of significant events can be counted on one hand. In between is very much of very little.  Perhaps taking the notion that combat is long stretches of extreme boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror too much to heart.

The world of the Syldoon soldiers and their mission starts as a mystery to the scribe assigned to chronicle their expedition.  And for most of the book, it remains that way.  The scribe, Arkamondos is full of questions. Which is good, because he is the reader’s eyes on Salyards world.  But as often as not, he is given no answers.  A book already bogged down by a slow progression of key events is further frustrated by a lack of information.  Too much is kept mysterious for too long.  My attention began to wane.

SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER is very much Book 1 of a Trilogy.  And by and large, it is used as a setup installment, introducing the reader to key concepts, to snippets of Salyards world, and to things to come.  I was hoping Book 1 would have carried a little more meat on its bones, but with the window it offered on Salyard’s world, I can accept that.

Though I had my ups and down with Book 1, SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER tells me Salyards’ BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC falls in the right place on my spectrum. I will gladly be continuing the trilogy.

Shelve with: Genuinely Grimdark, War is Hell, But let’s get on with it already.

Four Stars


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