Never let it be said that Paul Kearney takes his time telling a story. In fact, let’s get down to brass tax, and make it very clear from the outset that if you start a book written by Paul Kearney, you better be willing to read straight through till 6am the next morning, because it’s going to be bloody hard to put it down again once you’ve started.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not a problem. If you’re looking for an intricately told story of life, the universe and everything, that takes place over years, if not decades, then look somewhere else, because Kearney is not the guy to give it to you.
Paul Kearney deals in realistic, stark and utterly brutal reality, told to the pace of a fast congo beat; and I absolutely love it.
Corvus tells a story set some 20 years or so after Kearney’s first Macht book, The Ten Thousand. The catch isn’t much of a surprise, but it is a nice one, and you get to see the lives of some of the characters you left behind when you put The Ten Thousand up on the shelf.
I flicked to the back of the book early on to see the last page and whether a certain character makes it through, mainly because I’m a wimp, but also because I didn’t want to get attached to a character who was going to cark it halfway through the book.
You see, I know Paul Kearney’s type of writer, and they’re the sort who have “Murder Your Darlings” in red letters painted on the wall of their writing studio that leaves you hoping to all heavens that it’s written in red paint, and not some other substance. They take a sort of perverse pleasure – or that’s the way it sometimes comes across – with ensuring the characters you start out with aren’t the same ones you finish with.
And it makes for a wonderful gritty realism that leaves you relishing the book you’ve just finished. Kearney doesn’t write in contrivance – except for one glaring exception that pulled me right out of the story and left me very jaded for a few pages. People die, are injured, fall sick, are raped, mercilessly, and you get to see into the lives of what war was probably like during the darker periods of human history.
The story itself is compelling to the point of crazed, and the lack of structure to which character gets a perspective leaves you as jittery as the characters on the page. Everything happens so quickly, with very little time left to sit and ponder ones actions, and before you know it you’re at the walls of yet another city with your blades out.
I can’t recommend a book like Corvus highly enough. Kearney writes with knowledge, not only of the craft of writing, but of the craft of war, and history, and military might. He brings a realism to the story that doesn’t bore, but rather grips you and reminds you of the bloody mess of war. There are characters who are the pinnacle of honour and those who are the scum of the earth. You’ll love and hate, cheer and cry, and be shocked by what happens.
And you’ll love it.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Paul Kearney was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, in 1967. He went to a local grammar school, and then to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Middle English. Shortly after leaving Oxford, he [...]
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