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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ Slaine: The Exile

Slaine - the Exile
Slaine: The Exile
Steven Savile

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What to Expect: You know the drill- warp spasms, smart-arse dwarf, big axe, lots of gore.

Review by Richmond Clements
6th December 06

This review was always going to be a bit of a sticky one. On one level, there’s the instant reaction of the ‘comic fan’- that is that Slaine is a Pat Mills character and only Pat should be writing it. This is not the place for me to debate the rights and wrongs of this viewpoint, but nevertheless, it is one that comes to mind when presented with this book.

For me though, there was a feeling of trepidation when this book arrived through the door.

The writer, Steven Savile, was subjected to some pretty shameful personal attacks on the main 2000AD board some months ago when news of this book first come to light, and I for one was desperate for this novel to be nothing short of awesome, just to stick two fingers up at those who wrote this book off before it was probably even written.

So, let’s see who comes out on top- the author or the tiny but loud group of internet naysayers?

Let’s start at the beginning, or the front, shall we?

The cover is a bit poor. Having said that, it’s ridiculous to use this fact as a stick to beat the book with- Savile has no say in the cover of the book, I’m sure. And such as it is, this cover will probably attract plenty of attention on the shelf, ticking many of the ‘fantasy art’ boxes as it does.

On to the book itself. It’s a long one. At 400 pages, the longest in the 2000AD range that Black Flame has published to date. And this length is to it’s advantage, giving things time to unfold at their own pace, rather than crammed into 270 pages with a hurried conclusion as happens all to often in these books.

What we get is a telling, and in some places retelling, of Slaine’s early years. Retelling, because a lot of what takes place here has already been seen in the comic strips. If you’ve read the strips, then this can seem a bit pointless at times, and in the places it contradicts the comics, mystifying as to why. It also means that the book itself is an uneven read because of the episodic nature of the story.

But it may be worth bearing in mind that this book has a good chance of being picked up and read by your average fantasy novel reader, and they will have no prior knowledge of the strip.

The big question though is can Savile cut it as a writer? And I’d say yes, he can. He has a nice style to his prose. The writing flows well and it’s an easy, and quick, read. While this novel isn’t up there with Bishops Fiends and Dante books, or Evans’ Durham Red ones, it’s head and shoulders above the bad and average books in the range. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but frankly, I don’t care. A lot of you will probably have written this book off already, so what I say here will not matter one bit.

For the rest of you, give it a go. Make up your own mind. You might even like it.

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).