The main character, Jorg, is a self-proclaimed villain. Throughout the book we see his character grow and change based on his experiences and discoveries. These discoveries/revelations were really what made the book a winner in my opinion. The author has weaved a tale that has so many little gems sprinkled throughout that, once I was finished, I felt that I had enjoyed myself and hadn't wasted my time.
I was afraid I wouldn't enjoy this book because at the start Jorg tells us he is evil instead of showing us, which at first came off as the author trying too hard to paint Jorg as a villain. Now I wonder if the author did this on purpose so that readers wouldn't claim he was using violence/rape for titillation (seems he failed at that bit based on some reader reviews) OR if this was Jorg's way of manipulating the reader (this is told in first person after all).
I like that this book has left me questioning these (and other) things... it wasn't just a read to escape like so many other cookie-cutter fantasy books. I really liked the character of Sageous (one of Jorg's enemies)... his description painted an awesome picture in my mind and as for his actions, I found myself hating him so much which was great because it made me feel a little more connected to Jorg's character. The mutant characters were also a nice addition, just enough information about them to let your imagination run wild with their possible histories.
There isn't much of the great parts that I can divulge without spoiling... just trust that there are some neat surprises, twists and turns, that will leave you liking, and even sometimes sympathising, with Jorg. Oh, the world building was pretty good too... I was able to easily imagine the world and how the 'magic' evolved. My favourite part was definitely the journey to Castle Red.
On to the ugly and the reasons I gave this book a 3.5 rating.
There was much telling going on... which might very well have just been part of the narrative style/mode. Not many of the secondary characters really stuck out as amazing. I even got the feeling of race stereotypes/tropes with some of them which always makes me cringe a bit. I also found myself thinking about Alex from A Clockwork Orange many times... I don't know if this is because he refers to his gang as 'brothers' or what... but it sort of irked me. Another annoyance was the repetitive use of "did -insert name-" like "He had a talent for getting dirty, did Makin." or "He died hard, did Kane." because it just seemed unnatural/amiss even though I knew it was for stylistic purposes.
In closing, it's unfortunate that the revelations are so far into the book that many readers could be turned off early on... I myself found it hard to believe that a nine -> thirteen year old could do what he (Jorg) did, even in a war-torn world. You just have to keep reading! It all makes sense in the end, at least it did for me. :)
Read: 2014, January 01 - 02
83k words, 1.7k words per chapter (averages)