Lords of Asylum (The Serpent Knight #1) by Kevin Wright Book Review

Write on: Sat, 21 Dec 2019 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 1841


LORDS OF ASYLUM by Kevin Wright is a book that I picked up on the recommendation of Grimdark Magazine and the Bookwyrm Speaks. As anyone who reads my reviews would know, I'm a huge fan of grimdark fiction and think it's more than edgy tryhard fiction. For me, it is a burgeoning genre that combines noir, horror, and fantasy fiction into a dark existentialist exploration of antihero protagonists in amoral worlds.

If that sounds like a mouthful, I just like books where the heroes are jerks and the world isn't one where the central conflict is good versus evil but where their next meal comes from. I'm a big fan of Joe Abercrombie, Rob J. Hayes, Mark Lawrence, and Anna Smith Sparks. This feels like the kind of book that will mark the start of an author up there. It's solid, entertaining, and dark as hell.

The premise is that Luther Slythe Krait is a former bailiff (calling himself a Justicar) who has lost all of his self-respect and honor. He will gladly kill men, women, or children for coin and is living as a half-bandit. However, when a noblewoman and her entourage take him prisoner, he is given an interesting proposition: find the murderer of her family that may or may not have supernatural power. This leads him to the plague-ridden and war-torn city of Asylum, which is as close to hell on Earth.

Kevin Wright strikes me as someone who is going to be joining the ranks of well-regarded indie grimdark authors (if he hasn't already). Lords of Asylum is a fantastically moody and dark storyline that kept me enraptured from beginning to end. This is definitely a grimdark book with a cynical, uncompromising, and bleak look at both humanity as well as life in the late Middle Ages/early Renaissance but isn't afraid to challenge the principles of such either.

Asylum is a horrible place that has been ravaged by disease and a civil war between the English nobility as well as local lords. I have no idea if it's based on a real place but you can feel the cold desolation as our (anti)hero travels through it. He has few clues to go on and each one seems to lead him to an even worse group of people. Mad Bishops, arrogant fratricidal lords, corrupted handmaids, and psychotic mercenaries.

I actually like how the book challenges a lot of the notions of grimdark as well. While Luther is a traditional nihilist anti-hero, he's repeatedly confronted with people who try to make the world a better place regardless of its horror. It's an interesting twist on the cynicism of the genre that acknowledging the world has no point doesn't actually free you. It just leaves you every bit as miserable as before.

In conclusion, Lords of Asylum is a very solid piece of grimdark fantasy. There's a lot of good characterization, a deeply moody atmosphere, and a fascinating twisting plot. Those who like their fiction without mass graves, horrible abuses of power, and no clear answers should probably stay away. This is a dark book where bad things happen to good people and justice may be an illusion. But that's just how I like it.

Available for purchase here

Last modified on Thursday, 06 May 2021 10:50
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.