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Feb 16

SPFBO | What Remains of Heroes – David Benem

About the Book

Lannick deVeers used to be somebody. A hero, even. Then, he ran afoul of the kingdom’s most powerful general and the cost he paid was nearly too much to bear. In the years that followed, his grief turned him into a shadow of his former self, and he spent his days drowning his regrets in tankards of ale.

But now an unexpected encounter casts Lannick upon an unlikely path to revenge. If he can just find the strength to overcome the many mistakes of his past, he can seize the chance to become a hero once more.

And with an ancient enemy lurking at the kingdom’s doorstep, he’d better…

486 pages (kindle)
Published on April 17, 2015
Author’s webpage
Buy the book

This book was part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.

I’m going to be honest here. It almost takes an act of God to get me interested in grimdark these days. The grimdark subgenre feels so flooded to me. There are so many books in it, and so much of it feels like it’s trying so hard to be so edgy that it ends up feels just like the book next to it on the shelf, which is trying to do the same thing. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some true gems out there, and, like urban fantasy, when I find a book or series in grimdark that I love, I love it hard, but it’s getting to be harder and harder for the books to really impress me.

So, in a lot of ways, this is an, “It’s not you, it’s me,” letter to What Remains of Heroes.

The problem really is with the tropes. Now, they will work for some readers, but they just didn’t really work for me. Benem tries to subvert tropes, to take typical characters or plotlines and twist them into something different. Now, in some ways this really works, but I don’t think it worked as well as the author was hoping it would. We have the old hero who is drinking his days away, the naive cleric who uncovers a plot, a hired killer who felt incredibly two-dimensional to me and a bunch of villains who enjoyed sitting around twirling their mustaches. Backstories exist, but never really sharp enough to make me feel incredibly attached to anyone. Benem twists things a bit, and he does manage to make the characters different than I expected them to be, but they were still the typical group of characters I’d expect in a book like this, which is unfortunate.

One big problem I had was how women were portrayed in this book. While there isn’t any explicit rape scenes depicted, just about every woman referred to has had some sort of painful sexual abuse happen at some time in their life. Fine (not really), but the issue is, most times when things like this are used in books, they aren’t necessary and I’m just about 100% sure that the book could have progressed just as well if all the women hadn’t been sexually abused at some point in their lives. And perhaps I am exaggerating a bit here, but that point really bothered me on a very visceral level.

This is a dark, rather bloody novel and sometimes it can feel a bit gratuitous. I kind of expected it, but there were points when I felt people went violent just because they could, and it wasn’t exactly necessary to advance the plot. However, it is a grimdark book, and if it’s blood and dark plots you’re after, this one has it in spades. Despite my niggling, this is probably one of the points where Benem really shines. He manages to make this blood, and violence realistic, even if it does feel gratuitous at points.

Aside from that, the writing was really good, and the plot flowed at a fast pace. The world building left a little to be desired, but otherwise things were pretty interesting, if predictable. This is a pretty standard heroic fantasy, and if you’re into that kind of thing, then this will probably amaze you. As for me, it was… typical. It had a whole lot of interesting elements thrown into a story that wandered in and out of compelling. There were plenty of well thought out points, but ultimately the attempt to subvert tropes fell a bit flat to me. What Remains of Heroes was well written, and the story was entertaining but at the end of the day, this one just didn’t work for me.

 

2/5 stars
4/10 SPFBO rating

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