He Who Fights by Mike Morris

Series: Nathaniel Rane #1 Rating: 3.5/5
Date of Publishing: October 5th 2017 Genre: fantasy, dark fantasy
Publisher: self-published Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 384 Author’s website: https://www.mikemorrisauthor.com/

Quote of the Book

“He shifted his stance, dropped Kibon lower. The leading Bracke was ten feet away, nine, eight, six. The Bracke leaped, claws outstretched. Rane moved fast and furiously, sidestepping the Bracke as he swung Kibon. Energy flowed through the steel as the blade cleaved the beast’s flesh.

He turned as another Bracke attacked. The claws cut his chest, but they were nothing the more than rain in fire. He separated the Bracke’s head from its shoulders and moved on to the next, gutting it from left to right.”

Blurb

Sometimes it’s the monster within you should fear the most. 
Faced with defeat at the hands of a demon army, Nathaniel Rane and his fellow soldiers in the fabled Legion Of Swords use outlawed magic to fuse their souls with their blades. Faster, stronger and all but impossible to kill, they turn the tide of the war and emerge victorious. 
But magic demands a terrible price and Rane's battle has only just begun. 
Fans of David Gemmell will love HE WHO FIGHTS. 
Discover a new legendary hero today.

Personal notes

SPFBO 4 entry.

Song of the Book

Gary Jules Mad World with it’s melancholy sound felt like it fit with the whole dark tone to this story.

Review

This cover, caught my eye when I saw it on the list for SPFBO 4, with its John Wick movie poster feel to it. Which I think is appropriate because this book felt like a love letter to all the best fight movies.

It may be no secret by now if you have read any of my reviews but, ever since Bruce Lee reruns appeared on our tv screen, back when I was way too young to be watching that sort of thing (my subtle way of saying I’m not that old), I have had a huge love for fight scenes in books, tv, and movies. Especially close contact stuff, hands, body, blades, doesn’t matter – love it all. And if you like the fight genre stuff, then this one is likely going to work for you.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that there is a bit of an art to fight scenes – too much detail and they bog down and don’t feel fast and actiony, not enough detail and they lose their intensity, and so on… these ones were good – they’re fast, direct, and brutal. Also spaced well enough that they didn’t blur together.

In a lot of ways this book shares similarities to films like the Raid, and John Wick. Sometimes the stringing together of the plot in those type of stories can feel simple, and trying to keep a MC connectable to the viewer/reader while showcasing ruthless fight scenes – the blood is spurting, bones are breaking, people are dying, it’s gory and unmerciful – is tough.

The summary tells you everything you need to know so I’m not going to recap it and I really can’t say too much without spoiling things, since a lot of the plot is wrapped up in the character.

But I will just go on to say I loved the idea behind having their souls fused to their weapons and I loved that the price they pay, for being stronger, faster, better, gave an entire other aspect to Rane’s fight for survival. He’s not just trying to stay alive in a fight, the price the magic demands up’s the ante to a whole different level, adding some substance outside of it being just a ‘battle to the death’ and keeps the plot from feeling over-simplified.

The Magic Price not only works as the string between the fight scenes but it is also giving us that link to Rane that is needed, especially in a book as fight-heavy and dark as this, where we don’t have many light moments, humor, or other really good characters (as in non-murderers) for him to play off of and show his humanity or lack thereof. Also, the author opted out of that ‘snarky lead character’ to fall back on to endear us to Rane, making for a harder character-sell all around.

So, the balance is shown with three important characters which works for us understanding what is happening to him but unfortunately does not always work for endearing us to him.

His wife Kara, who softens him. Makes him relatable. This is one place where I wished for more of something, I’m not even sure what though. Maybe, more of them together being happy and in love (though the author did have quite a few thoughts about her and him) or perhaps, all I really needed was more of something to do with why the locket was important to her which was being used as a talisman of sorts to help us empathise with Rane (much like the puppy did in John Wick)? Seeing why it had meaning outside of just her wearing it, would possibly have strengthened that emotional tie that I was missing in the ‘remembering them together scenes’ (this is my opinion of course).

Myri – who he travels with and is a fellow Legionnaire. The magic price has affected her more than Rane (great job of showing the decline and struggle due to the price with her too) and so she helps to show how far he hasn’t gone yet, and to show us how close he is to falling over that edge, if he’s not careful. I liked Myri. She’s kind of angry and very jaded, but has these soft moments she shows to Rayne that let you see glimmers of their friendship and people they were before the war.

And finally, there is the teen girl Zee, who gives Rane a reason to try and come back from that edge when all else seems to fail. This was a good character move because she worked as a link to the ‘here and now’ when I was questioning why Rane keeps fighting when he appears to have nothing left.

After thinking about this book for a few days and what worked for me, the little bit that didn’t, and why… I mostly ended up touching on what did work because I like talking about the fun stuff more and I really didn’t have any huge complaints.

So, while I didn’t always like Rayne I did understand the battle with himself – I mean it’s not like his life was a barrel of fun and monkeys, not exactly the easiest POV and liking him, and understanding his struggles, are two different things. I did enjoy the journey and I quite liked a lot of the ideas in this story. And the fights. I really enjoyed the fights, and after my recent binge of fight movies, I felt I knew some of the moves they were pulling off, which is always cool. I will be curious to see where things go in later books, if there are any.

Other Notes

Loved the visual of Rane’s blade and Kara’s necklace around his wrist (made me think of Boondock Saints poster with the Rosaries).

I was glad Kara wasn’t the perfect little wife and actually got mad at him for what he did, when he deserved to be called out on it.

Souls fused to weapons seems to be a thing with me lately (a very cool thing). Recently had a small amount of that in Jesse Teller’s Song and Hemlock.

This review was written by Jennifer (BunnyReads)

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