I should say, right up front that medieval fantasy is not my genre. According to the publisher’s website, that’s exactly what Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1) by Aleksandr Voinov is. Despite that, the story description caught me and I had to read it. It does have a very rich fantasy-like setting, but there is no magic or sorcery and the character journey is not your typical lengthy, save the world quest.
Kendras, the central character is a Scorpion-a warrior, mercenary, squadron that is simultaneously revered, hated, respected, and feared. The Scorpions are hand selected from all walks of life including beggars, criminals, and slaves. They are molded into a cohesive unit with loyalty only to each other and a single minded purpose – never stop fighting. The story begins at the end of a war with Kendras badly injured and unsure of the fate of his unit. Only one thing is certain, he will do whatever it takes to survive and rebuild the Scorpions.
This story isn’t a romance, but it is a love story. Kendras is completely devoted to and in love with his commanding officer–a love that couldn’t be acknowledged as a romantic love in the context of their life as Scorpions. The story does have a satisfying ending, but Kendras goes through hell to get there.
Scorpion paints an enthralling vision of a life filled with violence, abuse, cruelty, and rare moments of comfort stolen and shared among men that have nothing but each other and their traditions. Kendras often has few choices, all of them bad, but he somehow maintains his dignity and makes you care for him beyond the level of an average story hero. He doesn’t seem like a hero at all. Just a man trying to live up to his own expectations. The story was, at times, painful to read and it took me longer than usual to finish the book, but I say that as a compliment to the writer’s skill.
That skill is also evident in the rich and vivid world that is experienced through a complex and compelling plot. There is politics and religion and strange customs and lore and a living sense of history. I wouldn’t say the gist of the story is strikingly fresh, but the way it is told certainly was for me.
The violence of death and killing was not graphic in a gory way, but the violence, indignities, and brutality were often bluntly told and disturbing. Sex is almost a currency in this story, exchanged for favors, need, comfort, and sometimes even love. There is dubious consent and it is portrayed bluntly without seduction to soften it. It isn’t a book I recommend without caution, but I do recommend it for those who are willing to spend some time in a dark, but life affirming story.
Formats: Available in print and ebook
Publication date: 2013 (Publisher’s note: This is a revised edition of Scorpion, originally released in May, 2011)
Publisher: RipTide Publishing
My copy of Scorpion was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions, #1)
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Never stop fighting.
Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever had—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed mercenary offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.
But his true goal is to rebuild the Scorpions. Neither Steel’s possessive nature nor Kendras’s shattered foot can keep him from finding the last of his brothers, or the mysterious leader of the Scorpions, the man who held Kendras’s heart long before Steel tried to take it for himself.
The goal is simple, the situation anything but. To rescue his leader and escape from Steel for good, Kendras must fight through a morass of politics and intrigue where enemies may be allies and even allies have hidden agendas. But Kendras isn’t only fighting for his lost lover and tribe—he soon realizes that nothing less than the birth of an Empire is at stake.