Monday , April 15 2024
Cover Savage Legion

Book Review: ‘Savage Legion” by Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace, author of Savage Legion, first entered my radar with his seven wonderful ‘Sin du Jour” novellas which answered the question nobody’d thought to ask before of “where would demons or other denizens of the supernatural community go should they wish to throw a well-catered event?” From the opening chapter of Envy of Angels down to the final chapter of Taste of Wrath his writing had me laughing out loud way too many times as a wonderful mixture of funny and delightfully alive characters answered that question and more as they also guaranteed I’d be reading anything and everything he wrote from that point onward. 

Far from the novella sized fare of the Sin du Jour series, Savage Legion stepped up to my mailbox with a hefty 500 pages of story under its belt. As the saying goes however size doesn’t matter, as I devoured the entire book within one day (much as I did his novellas).

The breakdown on the back cover gives a taste of what tore through my imagination as I read:

“The call them Savages. Brutal. Efficient. Expendable.

The empire relies on them. The greatest weapon they ever developed. Culled from the streets of their cities, they take the ones no one will miss and throw them, by the thousands, at the empire’s enemies. If they live, they fight again. If they die, well, there are always more.

Evie is not a Savage. She’s a warrior with a mission to find the man she once loved, to find the man who holds the key to exposing the secret of the Savage Legion and ending the mass conscription of the empire’s poor and wretched.

But to find him, she must become one of them, to be marked in her blood, to fight in their wars, and to find her purpose. Evie will die a Savage if she has to, but not before showing the world who she really is and what the Savage Legion can do.”

Look. If we’re being honest here that’s a hell of a sell in those three paragraphs and it sold me and sold me hard. The thing is – it’s an undersell. Evie is one hell of a character and well worth the cover space, but this story is not just hers or even about the Legion. It’s about Matt Wallace and his ability to write characters who would never be called heroic in the classic sense of the phrase, and give them lives that are just as vital and believable as any you’ve come across in a fantasy novel.

What was the last novel that not only made you care for a crippled child who steals, begs and glides through her life on the streets on a piece of tin slathered in animal fat and grease found were butchers tossed their waste but also, made you think that their life matters and then, weaves them so deftly into the story of this world that they might very well matter most of all?

If you’d have been the one to read Savage Legion instead of me – you could say answer that question easily because you’d have met Dyeawan.

Trust me, she’s worth meeting.

What was the last novel that took the fragile state of our own cultural inhibitions and fears regarding those that do not (or cannot) identify in the binary world of man or woman and line them with verve and purpose only to open their hands to show you the beautiful and achingly pure of heart character that is Taru, a bonded guardian who seeks only to serve and live their life as they must live it.

Occasionally, I stumble on preferred pronouns such as he/him, she/her, they/them and it was like a soft warm glow of understanding when I realized I was not only keeping up with how Taru was described but also how they described themselves internally – that it clicked and made me realize how stupidly simple my own inability was simply stubbornness on my part.

In fact, Taru was/is my favorite character in this book if you can’t tell? 

There are more and what is even better is that they are all just as well written and complete and alive as are Evie, Taru or Dyeawan. EVERY single character sings the song of their own reality in this book, and it’s one of the things I admire most about Matt Wallace as a writer. Perhaps it comes from his background as a professional wrestler, but for whatever reason, the man gets the importance and beauty of character.

Savage Legion is full of violence and sorrow and beauty and brutal ugliness – both in circumstances and actions – but it is so damned good. My only complaint, truth be told, is that it had to end. Fortunately, the last line seems like the moment where the bard is merely catching their breath before they sing the next part of the story.

I’ll be there to read it when that exhale comes. Count on it.

Savage Legion comes out on 21 July 2020, and I cannot recommend it highly enough if you are a fan of adventurous writing focused on world-building loaded with characters over contrived plot lines.

About Michael Jones

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