Review: Only the Guilty Live by Robert Mammone

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Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

The Dirty Dozen meets The Exorcist in this exciting chase across a war-ravaged empire!

Marduk, the hero of the siege of Skalak’s Pass, is a nearly broken figure. But when his general commands him to lead one final mission deep into enemy territory, he cannot say no. Leading a rag-tag group of misfits, including the demon-possessed corpse of a child, he must overcome his own fears and venture into the besieged capital of the enemy to fulfill his mad Imperator’s demands.

Betrayal lurks in every corner, and not everyone gets out alive.

Sword and sorcery at its darkest, as blackest magic and highest ideals clash in this exciting novella that will tear at your heart while burying its fangs in your throat!

Mammone spins a taut tale, painted in deep shades of black, from which, by the end, all light has been removed.’ Fletcher Vredenburgh, Black Gate Online

[P.S: Amazon and Goodreads have different synopsis and I liked the Goodreads version provided as above better!]

Review

It was short but well written and absorbing novella. Quite short at just over 70 pages, but utterly gripping and definitely worth the read! The cover (hooded person with sword) really did capture my attention too!

Writing/Plot/Prose: +8/10

Despite being a short book, the writing style is stark yet quite immersive. The way the scenes are described, the setting is established…is just fabulous. It just felt very real. The book has no pacing issues and just starts off to the races from get go all the way to a proper smashing climax. In situations involving the Child, the author dials up the creepiness factor straight to high.

For a novella it manages to establish the world and backstory pretty well. By the time, first 20 odd pages are done, we know about the world, the setting, the protagonist…all of which feel quite complete and detailed.

We get to follow a disillusioned hero after a particularly bloody battle trying to drown in alcohol, but is then conscripted again for one last mission. Saddled with set of brand new team of characters ranging from a ex-slave to a demon child, he tries to navigate the mission while bigger forces are at play elsewhere….and this serves as the last straw leading to the finale!

It certainly is serious read with lots of gruesome battles, bloody killings and overall violence, but all that has been done tastefully without moving into the ‘gore’ category.

Characters: +8/10

There really isn’t much time to establish the characters properly, but it’s amazing what Robert has done with them still. Though they appear in brief, the soldier who looks up to his hero, the ex-slave with a vendetta, the blue blood who has lost his lifestyle and a demon child all stand out in contrast and when thrown into a simmering pot of plot stew, the chemistry just bubbles to the fore interestingly.

The MC especially is quite well captured and we get to see his idealism match with reality and his path to climax just very realistically captuerd!

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