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The Horns of Ruin

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Friday, December 10, 2010

We rarely read any novels from Pyr that could be deemed a “miss.” The number of stellar novels put out by Pyr since its inception is astonishing. But every now and again even they miss the mark. THE HORNS OF RUIN, by Tim Akers, is Sword & Sorcery/Steampunk hybrid. Sounds cool on the surface. In fact a lot of this story sounds fantastic on paper…unfortunately that paper doesn’t include the actual execution of the idea.

We love Sword & Sorcery. We love Steampunk even more. So this love-child of the two was something we were extremely excited about. Our PoV character is Eva Forge, the last Paladin of a betrayed, dead god. She wields a revolver and a Steampunk-looking sword. The gist of the story revolves around her looking for the abducted leader of her dying cult, and protecting a girl who belongs to the tech-centric cult of the god who betrayed Eva’s own cult. Again, in theory it all sounds great.

The story is told by Eva Forge herself in 1st Person PoV, and this is where we have our first problem. To us, 1st Person is used to give us a more immediate and deeper connection to the main character of the novel. When it works—like with Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s series—readers automatically root for the character. We become invested in that character’s struggle. When done poorly, it makes reading the novel a chore. In THE HORNS OF RUIN, the latter is the case. We just don’t like Eva. We found it impossible to care about her or root for her. She is a typical female “tough-girl” written from a male’s perspective. She may as well be a guy. With the exception of another character mentioning Eva’s cup size, there is nothing in this novel that says, “the main character is an awesome chick, not a dude.” On TV the other day on The Human Target, one character says to another something along the lines of, “Look, I don’t want to hear your ‘bad girl’ resume. Just show me some actual competence.” That is exactly how we felt about Eva in this story. Rather than going around like a brainless barbarian saying “Hulk smash!” how about you show some freaking intelligence as befits your position?

The problem is that this is the attitude of the character for the entire novel. No matter what other characters say to her, she does it the stupid and hard way. People save her butt, and then she turns around and hits them in the face for getting in her way. It’s the tough-girl cliché to the extreme.

The other main issue we have with this novel is the lack of setting. 95% of the time, we felt like we were reading about characters in a white, formless room. This had potential to be an awesome showcase of setting much like in Alan Campbell’s SCAR NIGHT (we’ll be reviewing this shortly). Instead we rarely had any idea where we were, or why it mattered.

Dialogue is a mixed bag. Sometimes, mainly when dealing with male characters, everything goes smooth. Yet whenever it is two female characters talking, they get into constant verbal cat-fights. Since 90% of the book deals with two female running around together, you can imagine our frustration. The girl who Eva is “guarding” is Cassandra. She is some sort of super gifted tech-mage from the cult of the Betrayer. We have rarely read a character as wildly inconsistent in speech patterns as her—the other ones all had multiple personalities. Some of the stuff she says comes off as sounding like a woman-hating wife-beater. Really. Again, the problem here is another girl written by a guy as a cliché tough girl freed of her bonds.

The magic is also tedious and, to us, silly. In theory it sounds interesting. You Invoke the power of the god by Invoking its history. Yet in actual practice you get long-winded monologues that kill the pace of action sequences. You also endure the main character pausing every other page to renew her “buffs”. Yeah, we kept thinking, “WTF? Are we in the middle of a Raid in World of Warcraft? This is ridiculous.”

THE HORNS OF RUIN has so much promise that it fails to deliver on. Everything is so abstract that we felt like we were floating along in a void waiting for Eva’s next emotionally-stunted outburst. We’ll also mention here that the ending is way predictable and cliché as far as Eva’s personal journey, and it is inconsistent and disjointed for everything else. Things are seemingly added at random at the end to give half-cocked credibility to people’s intelligence. Ugh.

We didn’t HATE this novel—some of the ideas here were truly awesome—we just didn’t like it at all. So disappointing. Will anyone like it? No doubt. Probably the same people who really liked BONESHAKER. Be we aren't in that group.

Recommended Age: 15 and up.
Language: Here and there. Not over-done.
Violence: There is some, but like the storytelling it is often disjointed and abstract.
Sex: Nope.


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