Fierce (The Brutal Trilogy #2) by James Alderdice Book Review

Write on: Thu, 20 Sep 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 4595


FIERCE, the second book of the BRUTAL TRILOGY, is an unapologetic homage of Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard with many homages not only to the original stories but also the L. Sprague De Camp pastiches. There are many original twists and turns with the Sellword turned king, Gathelaus, having some differences with Cimmeria's most famous son. It is a great sword and sorcery from beginning to end.

The premise of the book is that Gathelaus is known as the Usurper King. Having strangled a tyrant and assumed his crown, the mercenary finds himself under assault by the corrupt nobility that wishes for one of their own to sit on the throne instead. Similar to the "The Scarlet Citadel", Gathelaus loses his throne and sold into slavery. He soon finds himself across the sea in a world similar to the New World during the height of the Mayans. Gathelaus soon finds himself faced aganst the gods of the New World and must slay them all to find his way back to his home in order to enact his vengeance.

Gathelaus is a great character who is skeptical of gods, hardened, but possessed of a softer side that allows him to bond with multiple characters. He has quite a few similarities to Conan but is a (slightly) more civilized individual who is actually closer to the Howardian depiction of the man than the typical treatment of the Cimmerian in adaptations. He is intelligent and learned, for example, but self-educated across a very hard road. Gathelaus also surprised me by revealing himself to have a lot more intimate relationship with the gods than Conan ever did. He's not a barbarian as far as I can see, either, just a civilized man who has been through the school of hard knocks a few hundred times.

I did have one objection to the story and that was the treatment of a character from the previous novel that I was quite fond of and was hoping to see more of. Still, that didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of the book. James Alderice weaves a fascinating tale of blood, revenge, savages, corrupt aristocracy, pirates, and demigods. I think anyone who loves tales involving mighty thews and swinging blades will enjoy this work. I'm a big fan of hardened muggles against overwhelming alien gods, it's why I wrote CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON, so this was definitely up my alley.

I really appreciated a large portion of this story takes place in a stand-in for Central America as opposed to traditional European fantasy. I'm not entirely down with the fact he uses real-life deities as extra-dimensional demons and Gathelaus as assumed to be an avatar of the god Kulukan (Quetzecoatl). However, the use of such elements as human sacrifice, ball games, and the complicated relationship between city-states set against a Sword and Sorcery backdrop is surprisingly well researched. The villains are suitably hateable but there's a lot of moral ambiguity among the characters as well. Everyone has a reason for why they're doing what they're doing and sometimes they're quite convincing.

Were there flaws in this novel? I would say yes. Gathelaus seems to be a somewhat invincible hero and the level of how dangerous a human being he is tends to vary from scene to scene. There are times he can slay monsters as large as King Kong or Godzilla but other times when he's overwhelmed by a dozen men. I also never entirely bought the relationship between Coco and the Sellsword despite the fact the two of them are both individually enjoyable characters. Galelaus betrays her a number of times to get his freedom while she risks nothing to help him--yet both of them fall in love? Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm not buying it.

Despite these flaws, actually enjoyed this book more than I did the original BRUTAL novel. Supporting characters like Coco and Hawkwind add a lot to the story. The action is intense, the monsters are well-designed, and the intrigues are a twist a minute. It feels like a nice compilation of a dozen Conan-esque adventures and if you love classic Pulp fantasy then you'll probably love this.

Available here

Last modified on Thursday, 22 April 2021 23:43
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.