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Book Review

Book Cover

The Spider (Hardback)


Author: Leo Carew
Publisher: Wildfire
493 pages
RRP: £18.99
ISBN: 978 1 4722 4703 2
Publication Date: 27 June 2019

Roper, The Black Lord, having defeated the Southern army at the battle of Harstathur, should feel contented, but he is not. Pondering on his new kingdom and the diminishing numbers in the legions he realises that the Anakim are a dying people, even if they are unaware of their inevitable fate. The only course he can see is to finally finish the war by invading the south and driving out every Sutherners once and for all….

The Spider (2019. 493 pages) is the second book in the Under the Northern Sky series of fantasy novels, written by Leo Carew.

Although the story follows directly on from the first novel, The Wolf, the book is self-contained enough to work as a standalone tale.

The world that the novel inhabits is not unlike a medieval Britain, even the map at the beginning of the book is a stylised version of that land. Some of the book's history mirrors our own. The Sutherners, who are not natives to the land are monotheists, In the world of the novel they are the peoples which most resemble human beings. The Anglo-Saxon language is referenced more than once, further indicating a shared history.

The North is peopled by the Anakim, larger than the Sutherners, they prefer the wilds, rather than the tamed fields of the south. They have no writing, but there are dedicated members of their society which keeps knowledge alive. While they may be bigger and stronger, their numbers are dwindling. They also have a secret society of spies and assassins which can remove a bad king at will.

The Wolf told the tale of Roper's rise to power. I thought that his character was one of a man who gained power more by accident than intent. King Roper in The Spider is a more mature and thoughtful character. As a peace time King he lacks the concentration to deal with the minutia of running a country, but thankfully he is now aided by his new wife, the very able Keturah. Carew makes a good case for his decision to risk the future of his people in one last major invasion of the south. If he wins, he guarantees his peoples future. Failure means extinction.

Not all is peace in his kingdom and a growing number of people are aiding the Sutherners in his downfall.

The book is split into two locations, the first follows Roper and his army as they make their way south. Aware of their low numbers, Roper approaches the Unheiru, a giant race, to join his ranks.

The second location is a school where his two brothers are in training. One of his brothers is assassinated and three of his people are tasked to protect the remaining brother and catch the assassin. I did have a bit of a problem with this section, as with a little bit of rejigging it could have been left out of the book.

The only thing it really contributes is to uncover the identity of the traitor in Roper's camp. The problem is, that his identity is so well posted that the revelation doesn’t come as a surprise. Which is my second criticism, I am not sure why Carew felt that he had to signpost the traitor’s duplicity, it drained any surprise out of the final reveal.

On the plus side, I really warmed to Roper. He is more introspective this time, but also wiser, willing to gamble all, he is at his best as a battlefield commander. We spend most of the book with Roper as the POV character and unlike the first book, I was ok to spend time with him on the road.

Stylistically the book has many short chapters. Carew brings the reader along the road with deep descriptive passages, placing you in the moment. He continues to expand on his world building and for once in a fantasy novel you will not be rooting for the humans, who are corrupt and dissolute.

Given that the second book is always the difficult one, as the writer moves his pieces on the board ready for the final denouement, Carew has created a novel which is entertaining in and of itself.


Charles Packer

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