Gallow: The Crimson Shield by Nathan Hawke

(7.0/10) Went along at a breakneck pace; a strong foundation for the rest of the series.

I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

For my king I will travel to the end of the world. I will find the fabled Crimson Shield so that his legions may carry it to battle, and when Sword and Shield must finally clash, there you will find me. I will not make pacts with devils or bargains with demons for I do not believe in such things, and yet I will see them all around me, in men and in their deeds. Remember me then, for I will not suffer such monsters to live.

Even if they are the ones I serve.

Strong words from author Nathan Hawke’s tough creation Gallow, in this the first of a trilogy. Ten out of ten for the cover art, the publishers have boldly gone with just an image, leaving the title for the back page. It certainly is striking and, I am sure will whet the appetite’s of many fans of fantasy fiction.

I found the novel went along at a breakneck pace; this is a strong foundation for the rest of the series. There is a lot of action, (and I know this sounds odd)… perhaps a little too much action. I felt that at times that the fighting swamped the story. Yes it’s all thrilling, epic stuff, but I thought the novel really shone when the focus was on the dialogue and interaction between the many interesting characters. Their observations and world-weary humour made this an enjoyable read for me. I would have preferred more development and depth to another description of a warrior being hacked to pieces.

Gallow is an enigmatic and interesting protagonist, but sadly I never felt that I got to know him beyond the tough warrior exterior. Perhaps this is a deliberate ploy, and the layers will be slowly revealed over the series.

Apart from the disconnected feeling I had, this was the literary equivalent of watching something really exciting but without the investment in those involved. I am sure its target audience will really like this, and I look forward to the next in the series, but hope for more characterization and less random violence next time.
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Gallow: The Crimson Shield by Nathan Hawke
Published 2013 by Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575115088

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