To start, I would probably rate this a 3.5 if allowed. Gloomspite has a lot of promise, and in spots fulfills that potential, but leaves me wondering why the author made certain choices.
Andy Clark is usually an excellent writer. His series on the Knights of Adrastapol is one of my favorites over the past few years, and I enjoyed Labyrinth of the Lost as well. In those books, the characters were well done and the setting stood out.
Gloomspite is no exception to this usual high quality when it comes to the setting. The city of Dracothium is as interesting a place as Excelsis in City of Secrets. So the first half of the book, which largely sets the table for the crazy action of the second half, was my favorite and left my wishing for more. Acid rain, political intrigue, a city without Stormcast are all interesting and feel real.
Where Gloomspite fails for me is with the characters. After thinking about it for a bit, in this novel the setting feels real and deep and the characters feel like vehicles for whatever the author is trying to convey. They don't seem real, and in some ways aren't given a chance as many are killed off at seemingly random moments, or even off screen in one case. The characters aren't acting of their own volition, they are doing what the author needs them to do, or making a point. An example of this might be the engineer, Eleanora. At one point she is reminiscing to herself about her backstory and describes being run out of the Ironweld Arsenal for being a woman. The next sentence she describes how she didn't really care about that, and in general the character is presented as being oblivious to social interactions. I suppose Andy Clark is making a point about gender bias, but not only does it seem like a ham fisted way to do that, but it is jarring in a book where the head of the city watch is female and in the end only female characters are left alive (it is unclear if the wizard is alive or in some near death state). But, the author wanted to make that point, so he made it. The various character deaths make the lack of depth more apparent. Characters die off screen, or abruptly and then new characters step into the role, only we have spent the first part of the novel getting to know other people.
On the other hand, his descriptions of Skagrott are believable and chilling. Clark describes the Gloomspite in a manner that emphasizes the horror aspect of them over the clowny behavior sometimes common in descriptions of goblins.
I hope this is merely a bump in the road for Clark, because I really do think he can write well and particularly describes the setting in a way that is among the top of his peers. I am not sure if I will day one purchase (or preorder) his next novel.
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Games Workshop (1 February 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1789990211
- ISBN-13: 978-1789990218
- Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2 x 13 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 259 g
- Customer Reviews: Be the first to review this item