Japanese Jidaigeki meets Grimdark fantasy. James Alderdice, the pen name of David J. West channels Akira Kurosawa in this fantastic first installment of his latest grimdark sword and sorcery Brutal, which lives up to its namesake and inspiration.
Echoing Kurosawa’s Yojimbo in both its opening scene and thematic plot, we are immediately introduced to a wandering unemployed warrior known simply as the Sellsword. Our demure anti-hero makes his way into the forsaken city of Aldreth, where he becomes entangled in a criminal civil war between two sinister wizards. Priestesses and Princesses are met, heads are severed, limbs separated, temples burned, and the streets flood with the blood of his enemies and even a giant lizard. Everything one craves from a proper piece of grimdark Sword and Sorcery.
Brutal shines the brightest where it departs from its source of inspiration and embraces its Howardian and Lovecraftian elements. The highlight is the sinister cult of an evil goddess of perversion and debauchery that I hope will return in the upcoming installments. Several scenes and motifs were very interesting, riffing on some great primitive iconography and symbolism.
If you like dark, action-packed, Sword and Sorcery, Brutal is a must read. I guarantee that you will be lining up to read the sequel as soon as it comes out.