The world is a shitty place full of shitty people doing shitty things to each other for shitty pay. Brutal is grimdark. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are bad, and the folk caught in the middle are probably bad, but lack enough back story for an accurate assessment.
The town of Aldreth (lovingly nicknamed Alldeath) is an old mining town gone belly up when the mines ran dry. Luckily for the town, there's a wizard who says he can wizard up some alchemy to replenish said mines and get the whole town working again. Actually, there's two wizards. Both are promising the same thing, but neither one is willing to do a damned thing until the other is swimming with the worms. Then along came a sellsword with no name. This giant of a man, known as the Sellsword, is handy with a blade and likes to dream up convoluted ways to solve problems... despite the fact that he is clearly quite capable of ending all world conflict with his swordmanship skills.
Brutal is full of action set pieces, combat, severed limbs, sexy time, and a loose grasp on the word loyalty. As the Sellsword meets more and more of the players in this faltering town, things get more and more convoluted, and soon enough there's something of a shadow war consuming the whole place.
The book is basically a western. The unnamed swordsman (gunslinger) rolls into town and finds himself in the center of war between the opposing powers, and must decide who to help, who to kill, and who to screw. The western vibe comes across strongly, and the setting evoked a feeling similar to Mad Max to me. People are struggling to survive in a crapsack world, and the people in charge are murdering bastards with only their own profits in mind.
But the whole thing felt a bit shallow to me. The Sellsword came across as nigh on invincible, able to dispatch countless foes at will, and was a typical grimdark antihero only without much in the way of charisma. Dialogue is a bit of a sticking point to me, and it felt a bit unnatural throughout the book, as though most of the characters had information to give and it doesn't matter if they got there realistically or not. Adding onto that the number of times the Sellsword seems to change sides (I actually forgot who he was pretending to help once or twice), and the book just felt like it could have used a bit of cutting down. It's a short book, but it felt long to me.
So the thing is, there is a market for this type of book. A big market. If you like violent romps full of action, swordplay, and sex this book is probably for you. Unfortunately, I like my books a little deeper and more complex.