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Jan 17

Tome of the Undergates – Sam Sykes

About the Book
Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they’re not insulting each other’s religions they’re arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don’t go very well.

They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates – a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don’t want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. 
Thanks to Pyr for sending me a review copy of this book.
Author’s website
First, I should start this review by profoundly apologizing to Sam Sykes. I think I promised him this review about five times before I actually got around to writing/posting it. You see, my New Years goal of no surprise diagnoses only lasted until January 5, when my body decided having cancer wasn’t fun enough. It wanted to surprise me with a pregnancy as well. The combined one-two punch of dealing with the thyroid stuff and the pregnancy stuff has thrown me under the bus mentally and physically. I just, quite honestly, haven’t felt up to reading and/or writing for a while now. When I have tried to review a book it’s been so fragmented and nonsensical that I figured the author deserves better from me than that so I delete the review and have been waiting until I felt halfway decent before I tried again.
Anyway, onto the review.
Tome of the Undergates was a book that I’ve actually been quite nervous about reading and weighing in on. It seems to be a rather divisive book, meaning people either love it or hate it. The other thing this book has managed is to generate a lot of discussion. Everyone who has read it has an opinion about it and wants to talk about their opinion with someone else who has read it. It’s actually quite impressive.
One of the reasons this book has generated so much discussion is because it’s different than almost any other book in the genre in pacing and characterization. Case and point, nearly half the book is taken up with a battle scene. Not only is this impressive because of its sheer length and detail, but also because Sykes manages to use this battle to introduce his characters. The fact that he can manage writing about a battle for that length of time really proves that Sykes has some incredible stamina as an author.
It should be noted that Tome of the Undergates is a book that the faint of heart probably don’t want to read. Sykes spares no graphic details or adult language. While it is rare for me to complain about the graphic and gory details in a book, I do feel that, at times, Sykes went a little over the top with his detailed descriptions and curse filled dialogue, though it was nothing that I felt bogged the book down too much.
While the plot is gripping and the book does leave the reader with an overall feel of wonder about what is going to happen next, there were issues with the pacing that should be addressed. The battle, while eventful, interesting and important to the development of characters and the book, felt as though it dragged on quite a bit causing the book to lag in its pace. It was impressive how unrelentingly detailed Sykes was, while using that time to show the relationship (or lack thereof) between characters. 
Another fact I should mention that became an issue was dealing with perspective. When the group of adventurers got together for dialogue it quickly became almost impossible for me to tell who was slinging what insult at whom. The catty dialogue, while entertaining at first, was another aspect of the book that could become rather old, as well. It was interesting to see how Sykes managed to string together his characters, which all largely hated each other. He worked well within their relationships and developed them well within the bounds he set for them. While I did feel that characterization suffered from the near constant battle of wits and swords, there were some moments toward the end that really showed some great and intriguing character development.
While, from this review, it sounds as though the book has a lot of problems, it did succeed in leaving the reader with a sense of wonder as to what will happen next. None of these problems are issues that should keep the reader looking for a unique action-adventure tale from enjoying it for what it is. Furthermore, Tome of the Undergates shows quite a bit of promise. Sykes has managed to make a debut work that has caught the attention of many and I fully expect the next book in the series to be just as attention grabbing as this. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you are in the mood for dark humor and detailed battles, you might want to check this one out.
3.5/5 stars 

5 comments

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  1. icebergink

    Currently reading this, only about 50 pages into said battle sequence, but I am enjoying so far. I'll likely get a review up by weeks end on it.

    Great review again Sarah!

  2. redhead

    I've really been looking forward to this review, I'm happy you were feeling better (chilled out? relaxed? not sure what the best word is?) enough to write it. I had similar issues as you did, but you were far more polite about the books weaknesses than I was.

  3. Sarah (Bookworm Blues)

    I think the weaknesses I noticed seem to be fairly common among reviewers. Thanks for the compliments though.

    As for how I'm feeling…. I'm doing better. Gotta take each day as it comes.

  4. sjhigbee

    Hope you feel better soon. It's my first time visiting the site – enjoyable, intelligent review. I shall be back!

  5. Jared

    Sykes gets a lot of credit from me for taking an extremely traditional story arc and then making it interesting with a very different take on the characters involved.

    Even down to the racial tension, which goes far beyond the Gimli/Legolas banter…

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