TL;DR: DAMN THIS BOOK IS GOOD.
I’ve blogged about S.A. Hunt’s exceptional Outlaw King series before, so I’ll do my best not to waffle. In short, I was recommended aaaaages ago by a friend to read his debut novel The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, but put it off for over a year. By the time I got around to it, book 2 in the series was already out and book 3 was on the way, which meant I was perfectly primed to dive into what I soon discovered was one of the deepest, darkest, most delicious not-quite-fantasy series on the market.
It started as a Dark Tower inspired epic, but has already developed into so much more. A trio of regular folk – Ross Brigham, a veteran just returned from deployment, and two fans of Ross’s father’s epic fantasy series The Fiddler and the Fire, are thrown into the world of Destin, the same world that Ross’s deceased father used as the inspiration for Fiddler.
Destin is a bit of a weird-west sort of place. There are gunslingers roaming the desert and locomotives whizzing over the plains, but there are also colossal sea serpents and maybe-monsters wearing robotic animal masks and LSD trips and demon dimensions accessible only through the subconscious and a looming evil and sweet shootouts and mecha-punchups and DAMN, this series goes some crazy places. By halfway through the second novel – and increasingly throughout the third – Hunt expands his world, his characters and his intricate plotting so far beyond the rote Magical Land tropes that it becomes a struggle to really define Ten Thousand Devils. Fantasy? Sure. Science Fiction? Absolutely. Western? In parts, yep. Action thriller? Hell yes, with all the knobs turned up to 11. Metaphysical exploration of parallel universes and the nature of the creative mind? Yep, that too, in buckets.
Does it sound a little schizophrenic? Maybe, man. Maybe. All I know is that Hunt has crafted a balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-floor adventure where a cast of sympathetic, flawed, three-dimensional arse-kicking characters struggle against exceptional odds in a world that never stopped surprising me. Not once. Thirty years of fantasy books under my belt, and Ten Thousand Devils kept taking me to new places, throwing me into new situations. 10KD isn’t a placid, by the numbers fantasy epic. Hell, I knew that going in – book 2 of The Outlaw King, The Law of the Wolf, was white-knuckle from beginning to end, but 10KD strapped a rocket on to the plot, set it on fire and launched it off a ramp into outer space. It’s just… so… good.
Ross is an amazing lead character, compelling and multi-faceted as he explores a world he thought existed only in his father’s novels. But the supporting cast are… well, not really supporting. Their roles and complexity expand until they’re having their own, equally fascinating adventures in Destin, never playing second fiddle to Ross Brigham. The lore of the world, so dense and yet so accessible, is uncovered by the reader at the same pace as the cast. You explore Destin with them. You live their journey. You come to love them.
In short… and it’s way too late to say in short… The Outlaw King series is essential reading for fans of fantasy, westerns, scifi, roadtrip epics, action adventures and supernatural thrillers, and Ten Thousand Devils is the best novel of the bunch. Grab book 1, The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, and get ready to devour one of the most gripping, tenacious, inventive spec-fic series of the last decade.
Just do it.
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