“You refuse all help, reject all hope, and seem intent on living the most abject existence possible. If anyone is punishing you, look inward, not upward.”
Preface in the name of transparency - I won this book as part of a GoodReads giveaway, courtesy of Inkshares. Free books in any capacity, be they giveaways, ARCs, or what have you, are awesome and I try not to let that influence my review, but I always like to be upfront about it. That said, thank you to GoodReads and Inkshares!!
Abomination is a debut novel by the screenwriter of Book of Eli, Gary Whitta. I liked that movie, and you can feel a lot of the same tone throughout this that he brought to that film. Abomination is a crossbreed of fantasy, horror and historical fiction, set within England in the late 9th century. We spend some time in 888 and then jump 15 years. In 888, King Alfred has reached a level of calm in the country, with Vikings remaining in their settlement, having been defeated by the king's best night, the reluctant but brilliant Sir Wulfric. But he's nervous about what is to come - the old Viking leader is dying, and the result is likely to be renewed attacks on English citizens. Motivated by this fear, Alfred gives the Archbishop of Canterbury free reign to develop and explore the magic he discovered. The priest goes mad with power, creating what the world will come to know as abominations, weird animal/human/demon hybrids that are as powerful as they are merciless. Wulfric, who has retired to his village with his wife and unborn child, is drawn back into service to create the Order, tasked with bringing down the mad priest and destroying the abominations. The mission takes a turn that leads to the necessary time jump, where I will leave you to prevent spoilers.
This isn't a bad first outing, as debut novels go. Whitta, in a surprise to no one, knows his way around language, so the text is confident, if not particularly loquacious. The story itself is nothing new and not particularly surprising - I'm not sure what was intended to be a mystery, because I knew how the whole of it would play out by reading the back cover (which says a little more than my summary, and the sharp will figure out what I did without much effort). I expected every piece of the outcome. That said, I was still interested in the journey because the characters were interesting enough. I cared a great deal for Wulfric, and still more for Indra. I actually prefer their relationship at the beginning, but things change the way their meant to. Indra is a strong female character, something I enjoy that we're seeing more of in fantasy these days.
I will say, this almost read more YA than traditional fantasy - for all the talk of monsters and morals, it just felt a little...light? Not necessarily in a bad way, I have a deep love of YA, especially YA fantasy (I'm anxiously awaiting September's delivery of the final Throne of Glass book), but it's not billed that way, which alters expectations.
I also want to add that while it doesn't beat you over the head with it, it also gives a bit of a Christian lit feel. Wulfric's battle is as much one of faith as it is character, and God and religion are utilized a lot. It never felt preachy to me, which readers of my reviews know I'm quick to call out. It's also part and parcel of the time period, so to an extent it made sense. It just always catches my attention when there's any heavy reliance on deities or religion to motivate story.
What this *isn't* is very good horror. The title, the beetle on the cover, whoever assigned horror to it on GoodReads...I don't know. Yes, they fight monsters. And if the whole book were the first section following the creation of the abominations through to Wulfric's confrontation with the Archbishop, and it ended there? Sure, then you might be able to develop that further and make something truly scary. But the story, the *real* story, is what comes from that, and that's not a horror story, however horrible what has happened to him is. The village massacre is the closest we get, and it's only a couple pages of the whole book.
One other compliment I want to throw the author's way is the description of battle. I work in fights for stage and screen, and as such have done a lot of research and a lot of practice when it comes to battles and fighting. Whitta did a lovely job at describing battles that made sense and that were easy for me to follow.
This book may not set the world on fire, but it's not a bad read to check out if you're looking for a redemption story set in a fictional 9th century England. I look forward to seeing what else Whitta comes up with.
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