Sunday, December 11, 2011

REVIEW: Orcs by Stan Nichols

This was a very formulaic fantasy story, with a single twist - it was about the bad guys instead of the good guys. This was a great imagining of what orc culture would be outside of the rather one dimensional interpretation of J.R. Tolkien (no disrespect to the master intended - they were monsters, not characters in Lord of the Rings). They have everything that makes them scary - violence, strength, aggression, anger, and fierce fighting ability - but they also had real feelings, and a deep sense of camaraderie that I really appreciated.

The writing certainly wasn't literary, but it got the point across. The fight scenes were vivid, if a bit repetitious and, dare I say, formulaic? But the simplicity of the writing makes this a very accessible story, and one that would probably be good for beginners to the fantasy genre. The strongest piece of the writing I felt was the dialog, with each character adopting a unique voice that really showcased their personality.

Storywise, Orcs was again straight-forward. The story stuck to the formula - the troop of orcs needed to find a certain treasure, then had to overcome some sort of quest to retrieve it before the evil queen could, and there were two or three battles, with cliffhangers about whether certain characters would die or not. But the formula worked, and I kept reading, whether they were fighting trolls or vicious mer-people or religious fanatics. In the end, I still wanted the world to be saved from the evil queen.

Then I got to the end, and the story fell apart for me. I won't give away exactly what happens, but I was not at all happy with the choice of the main character. I considered it the magical equivalent of deus ex machina combined with a main character fleeing his responsibilities. Sorry, Mr. Nichols, but you copped out on that one.

All in all, I would consider this a good fantasy beach novel. Nothing special, but an enjoyable, mindless read. Follows all the formulas - but you know what? Formulas can work.

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