Travis Heermann – Rogues of the Black Fury

When a band of shadowy fanatics abducts Javin Wollstone’s little sister, Bella, from his care, his only hope to bring her home is turning to a hard-bitten band of special warriors, Commander Rusk and the Black Furies.

The Black Furies are infamous for their bloodthirstiness, their amorality, their unconventional tactics—and for their success.

Javin follows Rusk and his men as they charge through a maze of political intrigues, religious fanaticism, and centuries of racial distrust in a headlong chase across the high seas to save the girl’s life. Little do they know that little Bella Wollstone’s fate could be the spark that sets off a war of Armageddon.

A military fantasy adventure in the tradition of The Black Company, albeit far less dark and gritty, Rogues of the Black Fury was a very entertaining read. The story is set in a secondary world where two large and powerful nations face each other in a conflict born of a religious dispute, which enables many parallels to be drawn to the struggles between Christianity and Islam. It’s a book with familiar elements, but done in such a way that it didn’t feel stale and was never boring.

The characters found in Rogues of the Black Fury were all somewhat archetypical. We have the reluctant hero, who sacrifices his position to save his sister, the gruff, hard-bitten mercenary that turns out to be a good man at heart, the noble half-blood, the Mary, the Eve with a good heart, the over-ambitious snake who masquerades as a hound, just to name a few. Nevertheless, these characters are enjoyable and well-written. I really liked Javin, Rusk, Tonin, Sasha and Bella particularly. Javin showed some true growth through the novel, even if at times it seemed incremental. Rusk and Tonin were just very likeable and I took to them immediately. I liked that Sasha and Bella despite being archetypical were strong in their own right. Bella’s virginal maiden character was somewhat softened by her stubborn fight for dignity and survival. Even if for most of the narrative she isn’t in a position to act she remains strong and once the moment comes she tries to take her fate into her own hands. Likewise, Sasha is far more than just the Eve-like character she’s introduced as. I love that she is as competent a fighter as any of the men and they see her as a complete equal. But she manages to be so and still be completely feminine.

Similar to the characters, the plot contains a number of tropes as well, though I liked the twist in the whodunit. However, familiar doesn’t have to mean boring. One thing I would definitely have liked to have seen more of was Javin, Tonin and Maggot’s training; how especially Tonin and Javin grow to trust each other. There are also some plotlines that didn’t work so well, such as Taril’s behaviour. I didn’t know whether that was meant to be a red herring or meant to be a set up for a sequel. I do know that every time I got jarred out of the narrative as I started trying to puzzle it out. Another element that didn’t work for me was the tension between Javin and Maggot. While it was a clear cut and effective way of creating tension, the way it was resolved left me rather deflated, as it felt like it just fizzled out.

My biggest gripe with the narrative was the fact that the social commentary sometimes seemed laid on rather thickly. Or at least it read to me that way. For example, in one scene Javin faces a small Farthi girl and she’s all agog at seeing a foreigner for the first time and he thinks to himself that this is the first time for him too. Furthermore, there are internal dialogues that run along the lines of hey these people are just people and not demons sent from hell to kill us all. Perhaps it says more about my world view than the author’s, but it could still have been put more subtly, even if I agree with the message Heermann seems to want to convey.

Despite the familiarity of the story and the heaviness of the social commentary, Rogues of the Black Fury was still very entertaining and I’d love to see more of Rusk and Javin and the rest. The book was previously released as a podcast and I definitely plan on giving that a listen as well, once I’ve caught up on my podcasts. For fans of Glen Cook or Jeff Salyards Rogues of the Black Fury could be a great read for a dark winter afternoon.

This book was provided for review by the author.