Luke Scull – The Grim Company

The Grim Company (2013) by Luke Scull is a fantasy novel set in a broken, almost post-apocalyptic, world where things are turning for the worse. What remains are only brutal societies where nobody is on the ‘good’ side as survival is central to life. Unlike other similar novels Scull does not slowly reveal the nature of his world but instead quickly introduces a grand plot with many complexities. He takes little times to build up the story and plunges the reader right in.

The Grim Company has a quick-paced plot that follows several storylines. Events follow in rapid succession and Scull has cut off all the fat he came across. That does mean we sometimes see very little of the events that are occurring or scenes are already over just after they have started. The reader gets little time to get acquainted with the different characters and settings. It is all okay, but not well balanced.

Balance is certainly the central issue in The Grim Company. There is a lot going on and as Scull jumps a lot between storylines and moving them ahead quickly it is hard to get into the story. Scull puts in a lot of different elements into the central conflict with the idea to enrich it and while they entertain they do not manage to create a stable atmosphere or strong flow that drives the reader forth. He makes things complicated and while he does not botch things up, Scull does fail to make something greater out of it. It makes me feel like Scull should have first written something simpler and constricted to practice his skills before he should have set off with this story which would have benefited much from a more experienced writer.

The narrative follows five protagonists, although there are a few incidental. As the plot develops quickly Scull also switches frequently between these narratives. In combination with the multiple storylines there is limited space to develop their characters. He does manage to present them distinctly, but there is one peculiarity. Three of the five characters are very similar in their attitude and perspective although they have very different backgrounds and places in society. So they are in a way made of the same mold and I didn’t like the way Scull presented them. I rather disliked them and I could not connect. Their narratives were more irritating than enjoyable so I mainly focused on their surroundings instead and the characters they interacted with. The two other narratives were very different. One of these has the greatest focal points of the narrative as he was related to several storylines while the others were more independent. This character was however the least original of the five, although he was most likeable. The fifth was the one I enjoyed the most. This character was not that likeable in reality but instead I did like him best as he was the most ambiguous character with more depth than the others.

The Grim Company is a fairly enjoyable albeit somewhat unstable novel. Scull introduces many interesting ideas and concepts although there is much roughness to it all. There is much promise and with experience I think Scull can improve himself. I am not sure if he can do so in the remainder of this series. Most authors need to start with a fresh slate, especially as he is stuck to some characters that simply are not that strong.

The novel leaves open a number of threads and these are interesting enough for me that I will probably pick up the sequel to see where things will go. I will not call this novel great, but it is certainly not mainstream and thus provides some different fare from the usual, so I was not unsatisfied and that is always worthwhile for a novel.

 

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