Thursday, November 05, 2009

Brothers Grossbart

I was lucky enough to read THE SAD TALE OF THE BROTHER GROSSBART by Jesse Bullington back in September; now that the book is officially released, I would like to encourage everyone to buy a copy. It is actually very, very good.

As you might've heard, the book is bloody and grim, the protagonists have no redeeming qualities apart from their heretical and often hilarious theological views, and people get murdered left and right. This is not why this book is good, and not even because of its Terry Gilliam-esque Medieval mud and grime, although that one is delightful. I recommend it because it does such a wonderful job capturing that fevered worldview, apparently common in the Dark Ages, most familiar from works like Malleus Maleficarum -- the ease of coexistence between things quite mundane and the monsters so horrifying and obscene as to evoke paintings of Bosch and Bruegel the Elder. All of that against the backdrop of plague-ridden Medieval Europe, crime sprees and grave-robbing.

Another element I enjoyed quite a bit was the Brothers' complete lack of awareness that they are doing anything untoward -- in fact, they react to any resistance from their victims with a kind of hilarious hurt indignation, which I found spot-on and fascinating.

Of course, the book is not without some issues -- there were parts that dragged a bit for my taste, and I was displeased about the fate of the only interesting female character. Yes yes, I know, Medieval Europe was not the epicenter of racial and gender equality; still. On balance though, I find it easy to recommend this book -- it's a terrifying, visceral fantasy that does justice to the Medieval sensibilities and finds its roots in Thyl Ulenspiegel and Brothers Grimm more than in Terry Brooks and other bland, extruded feudal worship. It was named one of the Amazon's top ten SF books of the year, and I have to agree that its place is well-earned.

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