Book Review

Book Review: Cold Counsel

Cold Counsel
By Chris Sharp

Not My Edition:
Paperback, 270 pages
2017, Tor
ISBN: 9780765393296

Slud is one of the last trolls after his clan was slaughtered by enemy elves. But he was spirited away as an infant by Aunt Agnes, who took him into hiding and trained him to become a weapon against all who stood against the Blood Claw Clan. After Agnes’s death, Slud is set upon the path to revenge, starting with the nearby goblin clan, the Rock Wolves. With a remarkably unkillable goblin assassin at his side (via blackmail), Slud plans to take down the thousands of goblins who would claim his old home as their own.

This book was so much fun!

Slud, our…hero…is a blunt, violent and foul-mouthed troll (though he is definitely out-foul-mouthed by his unwilling goblin companion, Neither-Nor) and he was so refreshing! Its been a long time since I read a book with a completely non-human cast and reading about primarily trolls and goblins was certainly a first.

Slud is nearly the last of his kind, except for his bizarre Aunt (who isn’t really his aunt) Agnes. She’s been torturing training him for combat without his knowledge by giving him strange drugs, starving him, making him sleep outside in the snow, burying him alive and telling him to perform other strange tasks. When she’s killed by a pack of goblins while Slud is away from their home, he begins his quest for revenge. Little does he know, Agnes had plans for him all along. Little does she know, Slud doesn’t give a fuck.

Neither-Nor is another lone wanderer, his clan having been wiped out by the Rock Wolves some years ago. He makes his living slaughtering them when he can and coming back to life whenever killed, thanks to the handy runes carved into almost every inch of his body. When Slud discovers Neither-Nor’s powers after murdering him, he decides to force the goblin to help him for his quest for revenge. The two become an awesome duo and form a weird frenemyship. Neither-Nor is one of the swearingest (yep) characters I’ve ever encountered and I love it. Here’s some of his dialogue, across just two pages:

“What fuckin’ day is it?”
“The fuck’s all this then?”
“The fuck does that mean?”
“That fuckin’ troll’s the one who killed me last four times, by my count.”
“The fuck?”
“Fuckin’  troll.”
“Dumbest fuckin’ thing I ever done.”

The rest of the cast is just as colorful. Aunt Agnes is clearly a woman of many lives and incarnations, judging by the glimpses of her past we’re given. I’d love a book about her, actually. There are references to Nordic gods (like Hel and Thor) and there’s even a giant talking wolf, Luther. There’s a little Renfield-esque goblin named Dingle who grew on me (like a fungus, I suppose, but still) and the rest of the goblins have some pretty awesome names like: Flogga, Hat-Trick, Skinny Karl, Long-Pig, Short-Fuse and Hot-Shot. I wondered, did these goblins name themselves?

I flew through this book (once I stopped reading The Sparrow) and enjoyed Sharp’s descriptions like, “The muck smelled like rotting death with a lump of shit on top, but still, for some reason, he put it on his tongue and swallowed,” and his semi-morbid outlook, “Like was about will and luck, and the rest was just suffering, and the fleeting illusion that the suffering abated for a few stolen minutes here and there.”

If you’re looking for a fun fantasy read with uncommon characters, lots of f-bombs, violence, ancient gods and an unrelatable but awesome protagonist, definitely give this book a chance. I certainly hope this will turn into a series!

Sharp’s Twitter

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