Where Gods Fear to Go (West of West #3) by Angus Watson

WhereGodsWhere Gods Fear to Go is the final instalment in the West of West series and I loved it.  This series is so good, the characters are great fun, the world is crazy, the creatures and the threats they pose intense.  Literally everyone should read this series and take a moment to shout ‘wootah’ as loud as they can into the night.

Plus, I thought that the scary factor couldn’t get much worse than The Land You Never Leave but it seems that Mr Watson was just warming up.

I’m not going to really elaborate on the plot, the whole series is actually a quest that is packed with danger and monsters and I enjoyed reading about the characters and their ever developing relationships so much that it gave me a warm glow.

To be honest the things I really love about this series and that worked so well for me were the setting, the sense of humour and the way that the author managed to surprise me at every turn.  He puts his characters through the wringer and isn’t afraid to kill people off but more often than that his creativity in terms of taking a situation where there seems to be no possible solution and pulling off a ridiculous reprieve for his cast, well, its impressive to say the least.  The second instalment, I admit, I was scared at almost every turn that my favourite characters were about to meet their maker and I didn’t think that the Wootah and Owsla could suffer much more – but I was very wrong.  this ending is just intense.  Slight spoiler – I’d also say the ending is a little bittersweet but still so good and so very apt.

I guess I really need to elaborate on the sense of place. For me it feels like a mashup of The Vikings and The Gladiator.  The Wootah and the Owsla are so different.  The Wootah oddly useless in terms of prowess and skill but full of heart and genuinely fearless.  The Owsla are artificially enhanced warriors, they can run faster and fight harder than anyone else, their hearing and eyesight is better – in fact they’re positively bionic.  Together they both have things to learn from each other and this is part of the beauty of the overall dynamic, for me at least.  The Wootah teach the Owsla about love, about guilt and about compassion, the Owsla help the Wootah to become stronger and more focused. They even each other out or make each other better somehow.  On top of this the creatures are some crazy fubar mix up of badass madness and the conclusion, well, make sure you have time set aside because you won’t be able to put it down when you reach the final stretch.  It’s all so beautifully incongruous and unexpected that it works perfectly.

Now, I feel like this is something of a short review, necessarily so, because I don’t want to say too much about the plot or give away elements from the first two books and so I’m keeping it short, sweet and unspoilery.

In conclusion, this is a series that I loved. I was hooked very early and the adventure and tension were just excellent all the way through.  It was crazy fun, it had me laughing out loud at times and I confess I may have yelled “wootah’ on one occasion. Or maybe two.

All that being said, I must also stress that alongside the humour there is also a lot of fighting and plenty of bloodshed as a result, some of the characters along the way are hideous, some characters die and the ones that live have a way of spouting profanity as though it’s going out of fashion – that’s just a little nod in case those things may not be for you.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Rating 5*

The Land You Never Leave (West of West #2) by Angus Watson

TheLandThe Land you Never Leave is brilliant.  I loved it. Think of a strange mash up that involves a nightmare world of creatures from the Land That Time Forgot, add the bloodthirsty goings on and characters from Apocalypto add in some characters that feel as though they belong on the front of a Marvel comic or Watership Down. What can I say.  It works. This is seriously a riot of a book.  Just one question, why isn’t everyone shouting from the rooftops about this series.  It’s so good.  And Angus Watson – so funny, such hilarious banter and creative cursing, such adventures, such a great cast of characters and such bloodthirsty antagonists that made me fear that everyone would die – but then, after all, you die when you die!  Wootah, just wootah.  Did I just gush a little, I’ll hold back for the rest of the review. Or maybe I won’t.

I’m not going to talk about the plot at all.  Also, this is the second in series and not to beat about the bush you need to read the first, I’m not joking, no diving headfirst into No.2.  You’ll miss so much backstory, history, character development and actually a damned good read so please don’t deny yourself the pleasure.

So, what makes this series so good.  It’s good fun but at the same time it’s bloody awfully terrible.  The writing is really good, you simply fall into the series and become totally embroiled and the characters make you care.  I loved some of them.  I hated some of them, really hated some of them – you’ll know if you’ve read this.  And it is of course gloriously over the top.

The characters, well, we have the Wootah – previously the Hardworkers or Mushroom People, now befriended by the Owsla, prior enemies but now joined in the same quest to save the world as foretold by a young Wootah Boy named Ottar. Finnbogi. what can I say about Finn – he’s like a walking hormone. He does come from a different planet and can’t understand women in the slightest.  The Owsla are a bunch of genetically enhanced female warriors who kick some serious ass.  They are the least likely bunch of misfits that you’ll ever read about but they grow on you so easily and so quickly.

In terms of the writing and style. This isn’t a book that pays attention to olde worlde style dialogue.  It’s not trying to be historically correct, in fact far from it, This book isn’t taking things seriously, but, be warned, at the same time as having some genuinely laugh out loud moments, there are also some bloody and brutal moments.

This isn’t going to be a long review and that is not in any way a negative thing or a reflection of my feelings. Basically, this is a great read and I can’t wait to pick up the third.  In fact I actually listened to the audio for this one and it was so, so good. I highly recommend it.

This series is the crazy over the top historical adventure that I didn’t know I wanted in my life. Vikings, crazy creatures, an insane plot and lots of death defying.  I can’t remember bursting into so much spontaneous laughter for a long time whilst genuinely feeling over the top worried about the central characters.

Read this series. I implore you.

I bought my copy from Audible.

5 stars

 

 

 

You Die When You Die (West of West #1) by Angus Watson

youdieI know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but, the cover for You Die When You Die is awesomely cool and, in this particular instance, I think it’s safe to say ‘be that person’ because the content of this book is just excellent.  I loved this.  My only regret is not picking it up sooner, although in my endless search for silver linings at least I now don’t have to wait for book 2.  Angus Watson has discovered a way to fill his books with death and bloodshed and yet at the same time provide you with enough banter and heart to stop it becoming stomach churning.  He creates characters that you just fall in love with and in this book we have a group of refugees who will warm the cockles of even the most stony constitution.

Basically the story involves a prophecy, a death warrant for an entire village and a number of people on the run after a village boy foretells the death of everyone in the tribe.

As with his Iron Age series Watson has cast back into history for inspiration.  The setting is North America, the time approximately 1,000 years ago when Vikings, with their ‘you die when you die’ philosophy and desire for adventure had travelled far and wide and a small tribe of them were established amongst the native Americans in a village known as Hardwork.  Known as the ‘Mushroom Men (because of their fair hair and skin) they lead an almost slothful lifestyle.  When they arrived in Goachica territory the locals believed them to be favoured by the Gods and so look after their every need – giving a lie to the name of the Hardwork village and people.

The Calnian Empire, in which Goachica lies, is ruthless, impressive and magical.  Following a series of disturbing dreams the Empress seeks advice from her chief warlock who predicts that the dreams contain a dire warning of pale skinned invaders destroying the world.  The result is a decree that the entire Hardwork people be slaughtered and their village razed.  The Empress sends her feared Owsla to undertake the task.

I don’t think I need to say too much more about the plot although in a really surreal way I couldn’t help thinking of Watership Down when I was reading this.  Bear with me now, Watership Down starts with a young rabbit predicting the end of the warren, a group of rabbits running away and then being chased by the rabbit ‘police’ – the Owsla – although that’s pretty much where that train of thought ends it gave me a smile.  Anyway, following their narrow escape there follows a cat and mouse style chase over hostile territory (hostile mainly due to the Empress decreeing that any tribe supporting the Mushroom Men will also be wiped out), skirmishes, captures, wild creatures of the most dramatic nature and help where it’s least expected.

What I really loved about this story is the characters.  The Mushroom Men are just great and they have the most outrageous names (nicknamed as children the names simply stuck) which really do lend some of the scenes an unexpected dose of humour that is most welcome and helps to prevent certain scenes from becoming too unpalatable.  The thing is these vikings, they have such strength of character, they’re courageous and they all care for each other – well, there are a few less likeable characters but Watson is pretty ruthless and the pen being mightier than the sword a fair few fall foul of his bloodthirsty prose.  I like that the author isn’t shy of killing off his characters, don’t get me wrong, I had a moment where I thought we were going to run out of people to continue the story with, but, it all helps to raise the tension.  Then there’s the Owsla – all women with enhanced abilities.  You’re not supposed to like them and yet what do you know – they just grow on you, particularly as the story progresses and we learn more of their history and how they come to be so magically endowed.  Finnbogi the Boggy is the main character and he’s basically a rather lovable young man.  He’s a bit of a coward, he over estimates his own mental prowess and he’s also a tiny bit (by which I mean completely) ruled by his hormones, which see him fall in and out of love with some of his female tribe members during which he becomes a tad obsessive.  His current obsession is Thyri Treelegs.  He’s pretty useless in a tight spot, I would probably be more helpful – and that’s really saying something given that I’m such a raging coward that I don’t even have my ears pierced.  What can I say though, Watson is consistent, in spite of a few revelations along the way, he doesn’t suddenly convert Finnbogi into the ‘chosen one’ even though you can see changes for the good by the end of the story.   I guess the constant threat of death and running for your life across country will serve to bring your head out of the clouds.

The writing is really good.  I have to applaud an author who can balance the bloodshed with humour – it’s not an easy thing to accomplish and can go quite wrong but here I think it’s spot on.  The pace is fast and the action plentiful but there is also respite in between which gives you space to form attachments.

To be honest, I don’t think I can say too much more other than to say if you haven’t read Angus Watson then I implore you to do so.  I love his fantasy.  His stories are highly entertaining, he knows enough about history to make everything feel vaguely familiar and yet he writes in a modern and accessible style.

I can’t wait to read the second instalment of West of West and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that the characters hold their own.  Yep, can’t deny that I’m a bit nervous on their behalf.  It sounds like they’re about to head into seriously dangerous territory (as if the Calnian Empire wasn’t bad enough).

My thanks to the publisher, through Netgalley, for granting me a copy.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Waiting on Wednesday : You Die When You Die (West of West #1) by Angus Watson

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : You Die When You Die (West of West #1) by Angus Watson.  I really like the sound of this one – it’s already released in the US (yesterday I think) – just a couple more weeks and then I can grab a copy of this.

you die whenYou can’t change your fate – so throw yourself into battle, because you’ll either win or wake up drinking mead in the halls of your ancestors. That’s what Finn’s tribe believe.

But when their settlement is massacred by a hostile tribe and Finn and several friends, companions and rivals make their escape across a brutal, unfamiliar landscape, Finn will fight harder than he’s ever fought in his life. He wants to live – even if he only lives long enough to tell Thyri Treelegs how he feels about her.

The David Gemmell Award nominated author of Age of Iron returns with You Die When You Die – in which a mismatched group of refugees battle animals and monsters, determined assassins, depraved tribes, an unforgiving land and each other as they cross a continent to fulfil a prophecy.

Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Just finished reading Age of Iron by Angus Watson – which I loved. I just really liked this – it’s very entertaining and it kept me glued to the page.  Literally, I’ve read this in 2 days or maybe even less because I didn’t want to put it down!  Anyway, I get ahead of myself.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Age of Iron other than three unusual characters who come together out of need.  Dug, Spring and Lowa – the most unlikely set of companions that you could imagine!

At the start of the story Dug, a warrior for hire, has been roped into help defend the town and hillfort of Barton against King Zadar’s army.   Having already completely annihilatied the town of Boddingham Zadar’s army are going to swing by Barton on the way back to Maidum Castle.  At this point, there is still a debate about whether a battle will actually take place or not or whether this will be simply a display of strength and chariots.  After all, Barton pays its taxes and tributes!  Well, we don’t sit on a knife edge for long before a simple whim that could have gone either way brings Zadar’s army charging across the field to slaughter Barton’s defences  At the same time, Lowa is helping Zadar achieve victory – one of his favoured she is a warrior and expert with a longbow.  Whilst, awaiting the outcome of the battle and ready to move onto the field and collect the spoils of war is a rag tag bunch of misfits led by a man called Ogre and accompanied by a young girl called Spring.  As mentioned, the three come together in unusual circumstances involving a lucky knock to the head rendering Dug unconscious during the massacre, Lowa being betrayed by Zadar and escaping with her life and ideas of revenge and Spring attaching herself to Dug who finds himself unable to forsake her!

What really worked for me with this story were the pacing, which is just constant and almost immediate and boils down to a fairly narrow time frame overall.  The author’s style of writing which seems to casually and effortlessly set the scene without the use of long wieldy descriptions, difficult names and families/relationships.  And the characters.  Not only did I really like the three main characters but I also equally disliked some of the baddies!  I love it when I get some proper nasty characters who I can really genuinely dislike!  That being said, there are no really simple black and white characters here.  Dug is a great character but he’s far from perfect.  He’s not above walking away from a situation if it puts him in danger.  He’s definitely a bit dictated to by his ‘little man’ and, on top of this – let’s not forget he’s a mercenary for hire and was originally intending joining the ranks of Zadar’s army.  Similarly, Lowa has a very brutal and bloodthirsty past which she has time to reflect on once she’s on the other side of the fence.  Spring is a very mysterious character.  She’s only young, I think about 10 years old maybe, and yet she seems to be one of those people who things seem to come together for.  I really liked her.  If pushed though, I’m not sure I could name a favourite – they all have their own individual roles to play in this story and they all have their moments to shine.

On top of this the story itself is entertaining.  It’s a strange mix of bloody warfare, torture and truly horrible nastiness but it’s all wrapped up in a humourous style package that prevents it from becoming too grisly.  Darkly humourous I guess.  Although, if you are a bit squeamish I’m just going to chuck in here that this might not be for you.  Just saying.  For me, I like that this isn’t too grim and takes a slightly less serious stance on what could become a very dark tale indeed.

In terms of the fantasy element – this is only very lightly done and comes in the form of the magic used by the druids of the period.  Of course, some of them are simply charlatans but there are others who are truly capable.

Now I’m not a historian but I don’t think I really need to be to know that certain elements of this are not maybe factually accurate – for example the manner of speech which is modern.  Personally, I like the modern take on the historical story and find the use of this type of language much easier in terms of the flow of the story.  Others might have a different opinion but it certainly wasn’t an issue for me.

If you like a good romping adventure, a tale of revenge, a tale of comradeship and you can stomach the more grisly side (which has been tempered by a slightly humourous take not to mention some very inventive cursing) add to this a sprinkling of magic, some good old arena style games and an old fashioned tale involving difficult situations and heroic solutions then this could be the very book you’ve been waiting for.

Frankly, I really enjoyed this and have no hesitation in recommending it.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which I give my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.