Author: Peter J. Story
Publisher: Paper Newt
Date: November 2014
Format: E-book (334 pages – ARC copy)
Synopsis: Grak hates things. Lots of things. And with a peculiar intensity too.
But of all the things Grak despises, his antipathy for olives takes precedence. In his efforts to be rid of this nuisance, he gets his first taste of power and ignites a series of events with troubling consequences. Unwilling to give up his newfound influence, he sets about honing his only true talent: manipulation. But as his grip tightens, Grak’s naively selfish exterior crumbles to reveal a dark and malicious evil …
This was my first ARC and I would like to thank Peter J. Story and Paper Newt for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review. Peter was very pleasant to deal with and we discussed the book via email first to make sure it was the right fit for me.
The first thing I should say is that this book is not a lazy-Sunday-afternoon-easy-read. It’s a novel designed to make you uncomfortable and force you to think about the darker elements of human nature that you would normally rather avoid. Grak’s behaviour is supposed to be hateful and disturbing and we are encouraged to loathe him as much as he loathes everything else in his life. It’s very character-centric so there isn’t a compelling plot behind it; rather it’s what’s happening inside Grak’s manipulative and narcissistic mind that drives the story forward.
Travelling around in Grak’s head felt a bit claustrophobic and at times I was wishing I could get the perspective of some of the other characters (preferably the ones not involved in torture and executions), but that’s the whole point. I wanted to escape from the narcissistic madman and seek refuge with other characters who appeared more sane and compassionate, but I couldn’t. Even when Grak’s behaviour became so disturbing that I actually felt a bit sick (mounting a dead man’s head on his staff and carrying it around with him as a “friend” springs to mind) I had to stick with him if I wanted to finish the story, which I definitely did.
Grak’s tribe had never had a leader before, or ever needed one, so watching how easily Grak manoeuvres himself into power and then manipulates everyone around him in order to maintain it was both fascinating and frightening. The rules which Grak imposes are often so ridiculous that I actually laughed at some of them, yet the tribe follow them and their leader down a self-destructive path. I kept hoping that someone would stand up to him, but when that finally happened it was not in the way I would have hoped for the tribe.
When you surrender your free will and autonomy it is very difficult to get it back, especially if you don’t even realise you’ve lost it because you’re being skilfully manipulated. The old adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely” came to mind a lot as I was reading. I don’t think Grak was ever a particularly nice person, but once he gained power he became a monster who managed to make his followers believe he was acting in their best interests. Something to think about given the state of politics these days!
If you’re looking for a novel with a lot of action and a range of developed characters, then this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for an intelligent and well thought out exploration of the darker threads of human nature and the corrupting influence of power, then I think you will get a lot out of this book.
Overall Rating: My bookworm rating system is explained here.
Other Works by this Author: This is Peter Story’s debut novel. To find out more about him you can check out his Goodreads page here.