Orc Haven by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus is an unexpected delight. I wasn’t sure what to make of the book when I read the description, but I was intrigued and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The story opens after the death of the Dark Queen. We follow Vash, an orc woman on her escape from the breeding pits with a brood of orc children. Her fellow orcs have either fallen in battle, or succumbed to madness following the queen’s death. She must survive and protect the children in a completely alien world. As chance would have it, she happens upon the nascent village of Orc Haven where some sane orcs live in uncomfortable proximity to members of the free races who fought against the Dark Queen and her armies.
Irma is a young dwarf woman and the reluctant hero of the conflict with the Dark Queen. Almost despite herself, she killed the queen and claimed the privilege of building Orc Haven as her reward. Now she must convince the members of the free races (humans, elves, and dwarves) that they can live in harmony with their enemies. When Vash and her brood show up, she takes them in without thinking twice. Quickly and despite their differences, Irma and Vash realize there is something between them, but can they nurture this budding spark when there are crazed orcs outside the village, and those inside who would like nothing better than to see this experiment fail?
Vash is a breeding mother from the orc pits. Vash is the only name she’s known, but it also means simply “orc female.” She has experienced nothing beyond the pits before the death of the queen. She is large and strong, and uses these traits to protect those entrusted to her care. Free of the Dark Queen’s influence, she is free to explore new avenues, and she does. I love her endless capacity for care and her fierce protective instinct.
Irma is the reluctant dwarven hero of the free races. She full of self-doubt that is at odds with the deference and hero-worship that is directed her way as a result of her deeds. Despite her fears, she continues to forge a path toward what she thinks is right. She is also very empathetic to those around her and is doing her best to bring everyone together, despite her young age. I enjoyed watching her grow in confidence as the story progressed.
Dwarves and orcs are about as natural as enemies get, both in the tropes of high fantasy, and this story. Despite that, Vash and Irma work well together. Each is willing to look past the façade of the other and recognizes a kindred spirit.
There are a number of orc children, and I enjoyed getting to know them throughout the course of the story. They go from a faceless group of unruly orc kids who are referred to as “maggots” to well-realized characters in their own right.
The Writing Style
The story is paced well. It isn’t overly long, somewhere between novella and short novel, but it’s long enough to tell the story. The book follows Vash exclusively for the first third. In this time, we get a feel for the harshness of the world and her situation. Irma isn’t introduced until later in the story. The overall tone of the writing is casual, which is unusual for stories in this genre. The writing style is simple, but it works with the characters.
I loved that we got to see the fallout of what happens after an epic conflict. We so rarely get to see that type of story in high fantasy, and I really enjoyed that. The premise was engaging, and I also loved the characters. They’re two hard-working women who are just trying to make the world a better place than they found it. They discover they can lean on each other, though by all rights they should be natural enemies.
There are a few typos throughout the book, not enough that I found them completely intrusive, but they are there. The dialogue tags came through strangely on my Kindle, which I found distracting for a while. Also, the modern tone of the dialogue was sometimes distracting, though I did get used to it fairly quickly.
Not many authors can pull off a story that is a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Little House on the Prairie, but the Brackhauses not only manage, but have created a delightful story unlike any other I’ve read.
I’ve been reading fantasy novels since I was eight, and I appreciated this departure from the well-trodden paths of the genre. Not only did I appreciate getting a glimpse of what might happen after the epic conflict that is the focus of most stories, but I loved getting to know the characters. The romance is sweet and inexplicit, but it slips on like a pair of cozy slippers on a cold night. If you’re game for an unexpected gem that toys with the tropes of high fantasy, this read is for you.
Excerpt from Orc Haven by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus
The happy squeals of the maggots were much too loud. Out here, in the open, it might attract the attention of pits only knew what kind of danger. While Vash hadn’t seen any beasts that might harm them, she had found tracks –huge, clawed footprints. She had no idea what kind of creatures the Dark Queen’s armies had used, but she guessed they would have broken free by now and were probably in search of food as much as she was herself.
She hadn’t seen any other orcs either, but she had heard them. She had heard their howling and shrieking and the sound of metal banging on metal while hiding with the maggots pressed close to her. The orcs sounded as mad as most of the pit guardians had become after Dark Queen Nakuru’s death. Vash had no wish to meet any of them.
And yet, Vash couldn’t bring herself to silence her maggots as they splashed around in the clear water stream they had so unexpectedly come across. It was the cleanest water Vash had ever seen. In the pits, they had drawn up water from deep wells, but even that had been foul, the earth poisoned to the core by the Dark Queen’s magic. But now, the ravaged land they were travelling through was recovering quickly and in surprising ways.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781721617777
- Publisher: Indie author
Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus Online
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