Bodyguard of Lightning is the first book in the Orcs: First Blood Trilogy by Stan Nicholls.
Quick Review (read on for full review)
An unusual and surprisingly engrossing fantasy that sees orcs take centre stage; full of action and fast paced, this is an interesting world, full of interesting characters. As soon as I finished the first book in the trilogy, I had to start reading the second. 4 / 5
Summary (from Amazon)
A fast moving, action packed epic that for the first time tells the story of fantasy’s traditional enemy, giving orcs their own heroes, motives and destinies.
An epic quest that takes orc warband leader Stryke and his warriors on a journey to secure five artefacts of power with which they hope they can buy their freedom but which actually hold the key to everything and the explanation of the sudden incursion that is leeching the magic out of Maras-Dantia.
‘…it continues to this day, and grows more fevered. The rounding-up of free-roaming animals for their meat and hides, the overgrazing…’
‘The fouling of rivers,’ Coilla added, ‘the levelling of forests.’
‘Putting villages to the torch,’ Jup contributed.
‘Spreading their foul diseases,’ Alfray said.
(Bodyguard of Light by Stan Nicholls, pg 109)
I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder and Warriors of the Tempest) which also includes a short story, The Taking, and I will be reviewing the books separately.
To begin with, this story takes what we usually find in fantasy stories and turns it on its head. Orcs, while not wholly the good guys (that would be far too simplistic), in terms of this tale, the orcs that make up the Wolverines (the warband led by Stryke) are pretty much the heroes. On the opposite side is nearly everyone else, including humans. So, from the outset we know this isn’t going to be your usual fantasy fare.
I quickly became caught up in the story. It’s strange, because I never thought I would easily find myself supporting orcs, let alone positively liking them. Perhaps they’ve just had too much bad press in fantasy stories…? Hmm… Or perhaps, which I think is most likely, they have never before been portrayed as they have in these stories (at least, not in the stories I have read). Usually they are seen as stupid, mindless, skirmish / battle fodder, yet here they are presented as intelligent, sensible, sensitive to the environment, and even on occasion, capable of mercy and compassion, and not just towards their own kind, but other species of the elder races, and sometimes even humans, albeit, rarely.
I found myself genuinely liking and rooting for some of the characters, Stryke and Coilla especially, but Jup the dwarf and Alfray too. But there are some truly nasty characters peopling the story too, the worst two being Jennesta, the part-human part-nyadd Queen of Cairnbarrow and Kimball Hobrow, the leader of one of the two groups of humans, who are split along religious lines.
The world the author has constructed is fascinating, as is how humans are depicted. If aliens were to stumble across Earth, I wouldn’t be surprised if the conclusions they draw about us are the same, at least in terms of wilfully damaging the environment. I spent a long time studying and appreciating the map of the world – geographer here! 😉 It’s an absorbing, varied landscape, with some interesting sounding place names, such as “Scratch” and “Ladygrove”.
There is much action to be found in the story and as such, the pace is fast. It is also comes across as a bit gory – a bit too much for my liking, hence the losing of a star when I came to rating it. That being said, it held my attention firmly, from start to finish, and, as soon as I finished it, I threw myself straight in the next book in the series. So, overall, I found this book addictive reading.
If you want something different to the usually fantasy read, and enjoy lots of well-written fights and battles, there’s a good chance you would like this.