It took me quite some time to read this debut novel from Luke Scull, but don't let that fool you. I plough through books that just barely interest me, my mind wandering as I realise this is another 2 or 3 star read at best. In those cases, there is little to compel me to read every sentence closely; to understand each nuance as it is revealed.
But with novels like The Grim Company, it's a different story (if you'll pardon the very obvious pun). This is grimdark fantasy done well. Detailed enough with the world-building to be intriguing, but fast-paced enough with the action to keep the reader turning the pages, wanting more. There s no getting bogged down in lengthy descriptions of trees in a particular set of woods, or belaboured back-stories filled with unimportant information, just so a character can seem so rounded they should probably roll down any hill they happen upon.
Comparisons to Joe Abercrombie's writing have been many and loudly voiced, and I agree with them to a point. Because The Grim Company is more Abercrombie-lite. It's not as brutal or as unwavering in its dedication to most everybody being an anti-hero. There are more idealistic characters on display in this first book in the trilogy than there are in all of Abercrombie's works put together. And that's not at all a bad thing - it's just different. Abercrombie's voice is also harsher; his perspective of the world more jaded. Scull's, by comparison, seems to be somewhat lighter.
Brodar Kayne is a fun, very familiar character from other fantasy novels; Davarus Cole is enjoyable as the wannabe hero who everyone else views as only slightly better than an ass; and the half-mage Eremul provides a nicely varied POV of someone with a major disability in amongst people who live or die seemingly without the ability to be badly wounded and suffer the consequences of this for the rest of their days. Most of these characters could again be likened to those from Abercrombie's world (Logen Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar, and Sand dan Glotka respectively), but they are varied enough in at least two out of three instances to stand on their own.
In short, this was a very promising beginning from a new writer, and I'm extremely keen to get my hands on the second book in the series after some of what is promised in the last 15 pages of this one. And for me, that's a very rare thing.
4 Better The Devils You Know for The Grim Company.