“Looking in those dead grey eyes, Thurstan knew the man was Death made flesh.”
In fantasy short story An Insurrection (A Sword and Shield Short Book 1), assassin-for-hire Desh leads a rebellion against Thurstan the Mighty so that the king might answer for his crimes. Though righteousness has forced Desh to experience a potential change of heart, his past is not far behind him; waiting to ensnare him in its powerful clutches.
A. S. Washington’s An Insurrection is not the kind of tale you want to start when you don’t have time to finish it. I only had a few minutes to kill the first time I picked it up, and I ended up late to my appointment because I literally couldn’t stop reading it. Was Desh going to kill the king? Would Thurstan actually fight his own battle? Would Morn Shademaker ever stop being so f**king badass?
Thanks for making me tardy for my doctor’s visit, Washington. Your pretty words were like tempting baubles for my greedy inner reader – I simply could not resist this short story’s gritty allure.
What Tickled My Fancy
– From the opening to the ending, my eyes didn’t leave the page. A trite thing to say, but so bloody true. The story was fascinating in its depiction of dubious honor, wartime cruelty, and man’s lust for power.
– I heart gory, medieval-type battles. Sword-impaling, heed-chopping, gutting…you name it, I’m into it – fictionally speaking. Real-world violence is never okay (unless, of course, someone’s chasing you with an ax and the only way to defend yourself is to stab them with an ice pick or something). Every time Washington described a character’s grisly end, my inner evil twin beamed with decadent satisfaction.
Example: “He impaled himself on his blade, his body sliding down its length; his hands trying to close the deadly wound in his stomach.”
– The three main characters (Desh, Morn, and the King) were strongly delineated, yet retained a bit of mystery – especially Morn. I appreciate an author who doesn’t talk down to the reader, so it was nice to draw my own conclusions about the motivations of these brutal men. Especially intriguing were Desh and Morn’s interactions. In the beginning of the story, I got the sense that Desh was in charge, but my perception gradually shifted as more details were revealed about his past. Thank you for not making their unique relationship 2-dimensional, Sir Author.
– It certainly didn’t hurt that Morn Shademaker was the epitome of the last guy you’d ever want to lose to in a fight (closely followed by Desh). I grimaced in horror more than a few times as I read what these cold-blooded murderers were capable of doing to other men without batting an eyelash; Desh licking the blood off his sword, no less. *shudder-swoons*
– Unpredictability and plot twists, if well-executed, win major brownie points. Washington definitely succeeded in both of arenas – I never knew who would ultimately seize the day.
– The ending left me hanging, but not in a bad way. If anything, I was impressed that the author managed to keep my interest. I’m easily bored, but I never suffered from the dull ache of monotony during this quick read.
– When the author first introduced me to his work via Twitter, I was a little dubious, mostly because I judged it by its cover. Although the red color stands out, the image of the shield and swords is pretty generic, and the hard-to-read font leaves something to be desired. The cover looks homemade – and not in positive way. I’m more than willing to accept the possibility that I’m in the minority with this opinion; ultimately, the fact that I don’t like the cover did not spoil my eagerness to finish the story.
– Ah, grammar is a tricky beast. Perhaps the errors I came across were mostly typos…but then I wondered why there were more than a couple (I openly admit to committing such typo blasphemy – I certainly hope I’ve corrected them all by now, but it’s always possible a stray one or two got past my obsessive inspection). The editorial carelessness annoyed me more than usual, because I liked this story so much. Washington, why dost thou mar thy comely words with such iniquities?
– On a stylistic note, there are some extremely bloated sentences (“What?” the king said, vocalizing his confusion and looking down at Desh with wild contempt”) that bog the narrative down.
Snip, snip – that’s the sound of my cutting away the excess flesh to reveal the shining bones beneath.
– Additional style nitpick – the unnecessary contractions. If I’m reading a story that takes me to a place where characters say things like, “He would see your children eat scraps and your wives cleave to slain men weeping on the shores,” I’m not going to expect contractions to be present in the descriptive narrative (“The mercenaries he’d hired ended all hope of that outcome”). Again, this reflects my personal preference as a reader.
I’m the first one to admit that I’m anal. If I’m being tough, it’s because I really did love this story. Crossing my fingers Washington will have another look at it to clear away the cobwebs…but don’t let my OCD deter you from taking a peek – it’s worthy of your attention, despite the rough edges. The next entry in the series, Shademaker, is already on my Kindle – I’m hoping to find the same escapist thrills within the second book as I did with the first.
This fantasy series is bursting with potential. The characters are dynamic, the scenery easy to envision; the plot swift-moving and instantly engaging. If you like bloody battles, gory demises, and non-stop action, you will join the insurrection without hesitation.
“Gold, it had a funny way with a man’s heart.” – A. S. Washington
Support an indie author – buy a copy of An Insurrection (A Sword and Shield Short Book 1) for 99 cents on Amazon Kindle.
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Speaking of books, one of mine (“Poison”) is free on Smashwords until 12/31.
However, if gay anti-romance BDSM erotica doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, steer clear – lest I traumatize you for life. 😉