Review: Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes
Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Tome of the Undergates
Sam Sykes (Twitter)
Gollancz (UK)/Pyr (US), 2010

Sam Sykes plays or has played D&D.  I don’t know if this is true but I’m going to believe it anyway.  While your average roleplayer might hope that their party of adventurers  is something like the companions from Dragonlance, or Drizzt and his coterie, what they end up with is something more like the adventurers of Tome of the Undergates; a group whose only commonalities seems to be their contempt for one another and a willingness to kill just about anyone or anything.   At least that is the case in any game I’ve played in or ran; which, if I think about it too hard, might say something more about me and my friends.

As Lenk, the nominal leader of the group in Tome of the Undergates, writes in the opening of the novel being an adventurer boils down to being the lowest of the low.  Skyes casts adventuring as something one does when all other options are exhausted; a task undertaken by people who typically lack the moral fortitude for other work and whose personalities exist at the borderline of psychotic and beyond.  There is a slight tongue-in-cheek quality to that portrayal, or at least a deadpan sell of the idea, that what the reader thinks they know about adventurers is completely and horribly wrong.  Skyes takes that idea and runs with it.  There is no-one in this novel that I would ever really want to know and their banter, near constant, oscillates between amusing and grating.

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