Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman #SPFBO

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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.

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#SPFBO Finalists: My second book

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Below is a round up of the ten finalists that have been put forward in this year’s SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off).  A link with more information about the competition can be found here.

finalists

My first book, chosen randomly was The War of Undoing and my review and rating will follow shortly.  My second book is Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman.  This book was Fantasy Faction’s finalist and their review can be found here.   This sounds like an unusual book that’s going to be a lot of fun.

A little bit more about the book:

Chaos Trims my Beard by Brett Herman

chaosEdwayn Sattler is a half-dwarf with a beard and a dead end job. One night when serving drinks to the city’s rich and famous, a fiery playboy loses control of his magic and goes on a burning rampage. After some ill-advised heroics aided by the magic that lives in Edwayn’s beard, he finds himself unemployed and socially exiled. With no other job or friends to fall back to, he signs on with an inscrutable ratman sporting a badge and a fetching hat, and together they dive beard and whiskers first into a magical murder conspiracy that threatens to consume the city.

Armed with sub-par wits, a dry sense of humor, and a handful of magical tricks, Edwayn encounters conflagrating cops, smooth-talking trolls, shadowy corporate enforcers, and an air-headed vixen with a fatalistic streak. When his easy-going life spirals into a thrilling, darkly hilarious tale of intrigue and deception, Edwayn will find out just how close this newfound chaos will trim his beard.