Paul reviews The Captain, book two in Casey Hollingshead’s Battle Brothers series.
Thank you to Casey for providing an ARC of The Captain.
|Series: Battle Brothers #2||Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: April 15, 2023||Trigger Warnings: All of them|
|Page count: 618||Publisher: Self Published|
“You wish to talk rumors? Where would I even begin? I have heard of direwolves, lindwurms, dragons, nachzehrers, webknechts, and a wiederganger at the hip of a black clad cultist. Hells, I once received a tale that the trees themselves came alive and skewered men dead with branches shaped like spears! Richter, please, the laity love to talk about all the ghouls and ghosts these woods hold, but until you see it with your own eyes…”
Now captain of a struggling mercenary company, Richter von Dagentear takes on a dangerous brigand known as Kantorek, ‘the King of Dragons.’ But bandits and thieves are not all that roam the forests. With a witch hunter’s hat atop his head and a sellsword’s blade at his hip, Richter must recruit and equip a ragtag group of fighters to not only complete contracts, but survive what evils lurk beyond the trees.
‘Frozen eyes. Gaping mouths. Flesh mottled with flies blackly dancing in their frenzied eating. Between bodies, a litter of shattered shields and spears and staked arrows standing whose fletching rustled like flowers. As the sun broke through the clouds, all the armor glinted, bright and white and blinding, and the grass glistened nothing but red.’
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the SPFBO8 posts at Queen’s Book Asylum, you’ll probably know that I really, really enjoyed our semi-final nomination, The Witch Hunter by Casey Hollingshead. So, when Casey offered me the chance to read an ARC of book two, The Captain, there was no way I was saying no.
The Captain picks up immediately after the conclusion of The Witch Hunter and sees Richter adjusting to life as captain of a mercenary company, as well as continuing his unexpected, yet not wholly unwanted, position of father figure to young Hobbs.
Now, if you’re contemplating picking up The Captain, you’ve obviously read The Witch Hunter and know what you’re getting into; Hollingshead’s world is dark as fuck, dripping in gore, and 100% unapologetic with it. But book two dials it back a little. It might still, at times, feel as though someone is trying to hack your leg off with a rusty cleaver, but they have been a pal and given you a sniff of morphine, so it’s ever so slightly softer and warmer. Lovers of the darkness, be ye not perturbed, there are still plenty of very dark moments, particularly those involving a returning character whose scenes alternate between terrifying and, well… ‘MOAR TERRIFYING,’ there’s plenty still around these parts to have you wincing like you’ve gotten lemon juice on your arsehole.
For me, The Witch Hunter was a book of two parts, the first half was more serious and gratuitous, and the second was tremendous battle scenes, tar black humour, and some of the finest dialogue I’ve ever read. From the off, The Captain falls into the latter and never takes its foot off the gas.
It’s odd to say, given how dark the book is, but I’ve genuinely never laughed so much while reading. The dialogue is delicious, dripping in caustic wit, almost always delivered with god-tier timing, and every single line is a fucking pearl.
The camaraderie between the company is, again, masterfully done, a thing of wonder. It might not be for everyone, but the dysfunctional-found-family nature of their terribly complicated and often volatile relationships kept me enthralled. Every character is fully fleshed, and partially maimed, with believable motivations and boundless depth.
(Shout out to my boy Quinn who continues to be the star of the show and possibly one of the greatest characters in anything I’ve ever read.)
Honestly, everything that was good in book one is exponentially better here; I’ve touched upon the character work, but there’s also so much more world-building and the most intense action sequences. Casey’s writing style is also far more lyrical than I remembered, and the language weaves itself beautifully through the meat and the gristle.
If you’re a fan of Grimdark and haven’t picked up this series, I implore you to do so, it’s filthy, nihilistic, and provides 1000% of your RDA of gallows humour.
Casey Hollingshead is, without a doubt, one of my insta-buy authors, and his stuff deserves to be included among Grimdark’s finest.
Get amongst it!!
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