I went into The Iron Wolves with the expectation that it wouldn’t be exactly my cup of tea. I’ve been feeling a bit burned out on the whole “grimdark” thing and I figured The Iron Wolves would continue that trend. Much to my surprise I found Remic’s latest fantasy novel to be an engaging, almost hypnotic, opus of foul sorcery and violence. I mean that in the best way possible. The Iron Wolves, a titular squad of heroes have since disbanded and most have fallen on hard times. Of course, there is trouble brewing as the sorcerers creature Orlana the Changer has flesh-crafted horrific creatures to serve her and has set about raising an army of vicious Mud Orcs. So it is that the Iron Wolves are needed once again.
Listen if you don’t like the whole grimdark think I don’t think The Iron Wolves isn’t going to change your mind. Few, if any, of the characters (heroes included) are very likable. This isn’t a book about nice things being done my nice people. This is a book about violent things being done by violent people. It isn’t as nuanced as Glen Cook’s Black Company nor is does it have the humor of Joe Abercrombie. However, if you love the grim and gritty and found yourself longing for fantasy fiction reminiscent of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber then really The Iron Wolves is well worth your time.
There is an energy and vitality to the prose in The Iron Wolves that makes some of it’s weaknesses a bit easy to swallow. Remic is a very kinetic writer and his action scenes have a visceral punch; the man can absolutely paint a strikingly vivid set piece from a ridiculously tall Tower of Babel type structure built on the Emperor’s orders to the subterranean lair of a psychopathic serial killer. Even the novel’s opening seen as The Iron Wolves leader Kiki defends herself against members of the City Guard has a certain visual flair that absolutely compelling to read. If you like violent action written well The Iron Wolves is definitely right up your alley.
That being said Remic is less adept at fleshing out the world of The Iron Wolves and nowhere is that more evident than in both the group themselves (the titular Iron Wolves) and in the novel’s closing chapters. The world feels very much like a blank slate and elements of the story, especially the novel’s conclusion, reads more like deus ex machina than the revelation it is likely intended to be. While the Iron Wolves do a lot of cool and exciting things over the course of the novel I can’t really tell you so anything about where they did it or about the culture that produced them.
In the end The Iron Wolves is a gritty, violent, action fantasy that works as a stand alone novel. However, as the opening novel to a series I am not quite sure it works quite as well. There is a lot of potential in The Iron Wolves and the world it depicts but much of it unrealized and while the remainder is certainly exciting it doesn’t feel fleshed out enough to work in the long run. If you like your fantasy really really dark wherein the only vibrant color is blood red than you should definitely give The Iron Wolves a shot.