Welcome to another episode of WRITERS REVIEWING THEIR OWN BOOKS!
I’m not sure if JP Ashman suffers some of my own delusions, but it does appear that one of his characters has escaped to write the review for him. Some might view this as cheating, but I say expecting reality from fantasy writers is madness!
Take it away, Longoss!
Longoss’ review of: Black Cross – ‘First book from the tales of the Black Powder Wars’ by J P Ashman
“Erm, what am I doing? A review?” Shrugging, Longoss stares at the tome before him, turning it over in his meaty fists whilst weighing it as if it would solve his stalled start.
“You have read it, haven’t you, Longoss?”
A flash of gold as the former Black Guild assassin smiles. “Course I have, mate. Course I have. It’s just not what I’m usually asked to do now, is it?”
“Just start from the beginning, Longoss.”
“No shit. I’m not gonna start from the end, am I? And ye don’t need to keep saying my name, either.” With a grunt and a scratch of his scar-riddled face, Longoss nods, before taking a deep breath and beginning his review.
“Once upon a time…”
A dangerous glance halted any more protestations.
“Once upon a time, not so long ago, a powerful wizard with good intentions fucked up big time by pissin’ around with arcane magic.” Longoss glances up. “That’s dark magic to normal folk like us. Anyhow, this wizard released ghostly… things, that flew about the city of Wesson, infecting nasty buggers left right and centre. Well, mostly in the shit district that is Dockside, but folk all over the city started to die off, all the same. Buboes spread across ’em, puking their guts up and spreading more of the same across the slums. The City Guard burnt hundreds of bodies, thousands even, and, well, the city went to shit, and royally so! I got fucked over by Poi bastard Son, one of the three masters of the Black Guild, my guild. I lost… the first person I’d ever truly loved.” You could have sworn you saw a glint of a tear in the big man’s sunken eyes. “Someone so innocent ye wouldn’t believe it; I had to gut a man good and proper for her, but it was all for nought in the end, what with Poi Son and his bastard mark on my head.” A deep sigh before he continues. “Anyway, I digress. Sergeant Falchion, the Orismaran lad who actually released the plague – for that’s what they called it – cottoned on to what he’d unintentionally done and had the wizard, and his gnome companion, hauled in front of King Barrison and his high lords. I hear the twat Will Morton was there too, Lord High Constable of Wesson, Duke of Yewdale and whatever other titles the tit goes by these days. Well, they saw fit to punish the wizard, Severun, good and proper.” Longoss barks a laugh. “It’s not like their prissy hands are clean of death and destruction; no noble’s hands are, if ye ask me. But, that’s not what’s happening here, is it? I’m to tell ye what happens in this fat book, not give ye my opinion on Altoln and its politics – of which there is a lot. Course there is, what with noble houses and guilds and gangs at each other’s throats from one week to the next.”
‘Oh aye, the book. Right, well then, another noble enters the shenanigans at one point, stepping in for the captain of the guard, who got fucked over by the plague. This guy, the Constable of Wesson, well he’s not so bad, ye see. He takes a shit load of men and horses and… wait for it… rides on the Samorlian Cathedral of all places! He has a good ol’ scrap with witchunters and inquisitors, all because two guardsmen discovered the Samorlians were torturing innocents in the heart of the city. Which is all linked, but I won’t go into that. Can ye believe that though? Torturing folk under the noses of the City Guard and the Constable of Wesson all that time. No wonder he was pissed.
“Anyhow, I get caught up with the City Guard, or elements of them, and one thing leads to another. I make some unlikely allies and in a bid to kick the fuck out of Poi Son and his bastard assassins, end up meeting a lass I kind of knew previously, to run around Dockside getting up to all sorts of mayhem and violence.” Longoss grunts a laugh. “The book does that bit well, if I do say so myself. It paints me in quite the heroic light… not sure I deserve it, but it made for good reading. Exciting. Nail-biting. That sort of thing. Oh, there’s terrible magic and beasts; goblins and kobolds and fire-breathing men, and The Three knows what else, but it’s the brutal, gritty, in-yer-face scraps that I like! Up close and sticking folk with whatever’s to hand. The hot gush of blood over said hand. The sickly-sweet taste of it over my gold teeth…” He drifts off for a while, clearly reminiscing.
“Where was I?” Longoss asks, eventually. “Ah yes, the plague and the fighting and whatnot. Well, our mages in the tower, Tyndurris, didn’t seem to be able to do anything about this spreading plague. King Barrison quarantined the city and it took Sergeant Falchion, his elf friend, and some others, to escape the city and head on out across the fields and dales to retrieve the elves from Broadleaf Forest. Elves! I ask ye? Oh, I’ve seen one or two in my time, but they wanted a convoy-load of ‘em to come and fix the wizard’s cock up.” Another deep sigh and a twitch of the mouth before Longoss goes on.
“They were some rough times, I can tell ye. Rough as Sir Samorl’s hairy balls they were. I nearly corked it many a time. As did a lot of people, and some that I now care about, believe it or not. Changed me, did those events. Changed a lot of us. Most for the better, I like to think, but some for the worse.” Grunting yet again, Longoss looks up and taps the tome with his index finger. “I lost a lot through this, this book ye would call a story. I lost a hell of a lot, but I reckon ye might gain from it. I did, in some ways. In some damned good ways. But I reckon ye’ll gain a whole world, engrained into yer head it’ll be. A world full of people like you and me. Hard done by, some. Others not so. Vicious, some. Others not so. There’s as varied a folk in these pages, in my world, as there is in any. And you, my friends, get to delve into their heads and histories and antics. You get to see them at their best and worst, their most vulnerable and their most savage. There’s no holds barred. There’s no skipping past the grim bits, I’m afraid, for we had to live those times, and so should you!
“Now go on and fuck off, the lot of ye. I’ve got some bastards to mess up, even if I can’t kill folk no longer.
“I’ve been Longoss, and ye’ve been intrigued! See ye, for now…”