Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman #SPFBO


chaosChaos Trims My Beard is the second book I read from the nine finalists I am due to read as part of the #SPFBO and I can say from the outset that this is a very entertaining number.  Not only does it have a crazy title and an equally matched cover but the content absolutely lives up to the expectations created by both.  In other words there is plenty of chaos and a little bit of beard trimming is thrown in for good measure.

Chaos is a crazy book to review and I’m not totally sure that I’m going to do it justice or resist the urge to overcomplicate things, but I’ll give it a go.  The story gets off to a fairly speedy start.  Our main protagonist, Edwayn Sattler  (half dwarf) is working at a society shindig when all hell breaks loose.  One of the partygoers, overrun with magic, has become a human fireball and is tearing the place up.  Edwayn intervenes, chasing the guy down and using the magic stashed in his beard to bring the fireball to a stop (I confess this is all a bit unusual given that Edwayn is part of the catering staff not security – but go with it).  Far from being the hero of the moment Edwayn finds himself an outcast, unemployed and worse, being chased down by local law enforcers.  At this point he makes the acquaintance of two unusual characters, one a suicidal ghost called Elara who needs Edwayn’s help to finally free herself from the world and the other a ratman called Venrick the Unabashed, or ‘This One’ as he likes to call himself, who also enlists Edwayns help.  From here on out the story turns into a fast paced conspiracy, far too many ‘overruns’ are taking place and Edwayn and ‘This One’ are in a race to stop more before the city spirals into chaos.  This is a cheeky blend of noir/urban fantasy that brings a hell of a lot of creativity to the story and is definitely a world that I would return to if future instalments were planned.

To the world building.   This is a fascinating concept, a world where magic was unleashed following a cataclysmic event known as the ‘burst’.  The world is occupied by all sorts of fantasy critters such as orcs, ogres and trolls not to mention many others.  The majority of the action takes place in New Sketlin – which the best description I can come up with is a world on top of a world populated, or held together, by lots of bridges.  Basically Sketlin proper is the original city state, this was built on top of creating New Sketlin, effectively a city in the clouds, and a place for the rich and privileged.  It’s a precarious world full of prejudices and one that threatens to crumble at any moment.  The magic is well thought out and uses elements such as rock and water with people consuming ‘dust’ to help fuel their everyday needs.  To be honest there’s so much more to the world than I could possible fit in – I would suggest that before reading this you flip to the back and scroll through the glossary.  It’s actually relatively short, full of useful explanations and written by Edwayn himself is a witty narrative in itself.

The Characters.  Undoubtedly my favourite aspect of the story.  The way that Edwayn and Venrick play off each other and the resultant dialogue is very amusing.  I also wouldn’t mind making friends with my own ghost if she turned out to be half as useful as Elara.  Basically, I cared about them all – I even cared about Edwayne’s beard, which is practically the fourth character in this scenario.

The plot is a bit chaotic with all sorts of action, arrests, dramatic escapes and other fast fuelled escapades. Strangely enough I think in some respects this is maybe the weakest element of the story – and that isn’t because it’s not a good plot, or interesting or well thought out even – more that it becomes a little bit lost in everything else that is going on here.  There’s such an abundance of invention and creativity that the plot could probably have been simplified a little, it’s just mind boggling fest at times and I almost found myself losing focus on what the story was actually about.  Also, really difficult to explain but there are definitely moments where the tension and the plot just loses momentum – which sounds like a contradiction given all the chaos taking place.  I think overall this could probably be edited to make the story sharper and improve the pace.

Overall I had a really good time with Chaos Trims my beard.  The dialogue is highly amusing, the characters are fun, I wouldn’t mind partaking of a drink or two at the Bawdville and frankly I think this would make a fantastic adaptation onto the screen.  It would be eye catching and dramatic to say the least.

In terms of criticisms and probably what brought the story down in terms of my overall star rating.  I think it’s too ambitious.  It needs to slow down a little bit.  It has the feeling of a series in the making, but one where everything is being crammed into one book and it’s just too much to take on in one sitting.  If you think of other urban fantasy the fantasy world and characters are built upon a little more with each instalment which allows you to get to know things in a more realistic way.  I would definitely recommend you read the glossary and wish that I’d read it before starting the story – but, strictly speaking, you shouldn’t need to read a glossary beforehand (imho) this should be something that grows naturally as the story unfolds and these descriptions of Edwayn’s would be better incorporated into the body of the book.  There are also lulls which had me dragging my feet a little.  I felt like one moment I was tearing through the book, eating up the words as fast as possible only to find that there was then something of a lull – the pacing needs tempering a little bit.

I think with some decent editing to unravel the above issues this could be the start of a winning series.

I’ve rated this a 7, which equates to 3.5 on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a copy of the book.  The above is my own opinion.

12 Responses to “Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman #SPFBO”

  1. Tammy

    I’ve been so curious to read your review of this book, I’m glad it was a fun experience. Needing editing certainly isn’t unusual for a self pub book, so hopefully this gets some attention and more readers.

  2. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    I’d been waiting for this review! Glad that it appears to be as fun and funny as I was hoping! And sounds like it has a lot of potential 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it was good. A couple of niggles but nothing that ruined the read. I hope for more.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    This one sounds hilarious – comedy fantasy is either a car crash or amusing and readable, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between in my experience. I’m glad you enjoyed it Lynn – and once again, an excellent review:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a good read, it did lose momentum every now and again and there was a problem with too much being crammed in but overall a good read and I would definitely read more from this world.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I can see this not being for everyone, but I think it sounds like a ton of fun! A shame about the the pacing though, I find it’s quite common for new authors to want to throw everything into their first book of a series and whenever I see that I just want to say I love the enthusiasm, but slow down!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thankfully the pacing issue wasn’t a continuous issue and yes, this is very ambitious. I would definitely read more from this world, very creative and plenty of fun.
      Lynn 😀

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I can’t stop looking at Mr. Rat on the cover and thinking how much I would like to know more about this character – and since this is a *rat* that’s even more surprising 🙂
    The book sounds like fun, something Helzapoppin-like – which makes me curious…
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. #SPFBO Finalists: My fourth book | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] book for the SPFBO.  The books I’ve read so far are:  The War of Undoing by Alex Perry, Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman and Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan S Pembroke.  The fourth book that I’m […]

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