Carnifex: A Portent of Blood by D.P. Prior
Warning: Blood and violence and potential spoiler
Carnifex: A Portent of Blood is not my usual genre. I never really got into sword and sorcery books, but dwarves have always interested me, and the premise caught my attention, so I decided to give this novel a shot.
The title character, Carnifex, is a dwarf, just like everyone else in their hidden, unchanged city, Arx Gravis. He’s a Ravine Guard, and on most days, has a fairly easy job. Until a homunculus breaks into the Scriptorium and tampers with one of the books, setting in motion a series of events that will change Carnifex forever.
I finished this book over the course of a week, which is a bit long for me. I also waited a day or two to gather my thoughts before writing this review. While I found this book to be interesting and well-written, I found the descriptions and history lessons to be a bit overwhelming. Not only is there a lot of history to cover, the descriptions of buildings get a bit long. Descriptions were necessary; Arx Gravis is a big place, and having an underground mining city does take a lot of description to paint an accurate picture, but going back and forth between history and descriptions with no action to break it up was a little too much for me.
The book starts out a little slow for me, but the tension builds in a subtle way that had me flipping pages faster as events unfold. Carnifex is a good choice for a protagonist, but his brother, Lucius, becomes more than just a supporting character, drops all sorts of clues that don’t make much sense until the very end. All of the characters are well-developed, and Carnifex’s (d)evolution is carefully crafted and especially believable at the end. There’s no usual “big bad” but something far more confusing and sinister. Aristodeus is a shady and not so helpful philosopher, and I still have mixed feelings about him. There’s a lot of gore, but it’s not gratuitous, and there’s quite a bit of humor mixed in as well.
Which brings me to the end. I’m going to give you my rating first, and then at the very, very end of this post, after my picture, I’l post my very spoilery thoughts about the ending, because I’m super conflicted and confused. You can read them if you wish, or if you’d rather buy the book and find out for yourself, DON’T SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM. But if you do read the book and have any clarification, I would welcome it, as I have many questions.
My Rating: 4.1/5
If you’re interested in this book, you can get it on Amazon for only $3.99.
Thanks for reading!
DANGER! SPOILERS AHEAD!
SCROLL UP IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO RUIN THE ENDING OF THIS BOOK!
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!
As promised, my slightly confused ramblings about some aspects of this book, mainly the ending, which is part of the reason I’m giving the plot a lower score.
So first of all, Aristodeus. I don’t like or trust him. So when he took Carnifex’s mother’s helmet, I knew it was going to be huge later on. But at the end, after Carnifex finds the ax and slaughters the demons posing as dwarves (I WARNED YOU) but stops when he gets to his friends and is captured, the helmet is different from the one Aristodeus took from Carnifex’s home. Wearing it makes Carnifex weak and nameless, and as long as he’s wearing it, nulls the power of the ax. HUGE RED FLAG. But is the ax a trustworthy source of information? Are those dwarves he killed actually demons or was it all an exhausted, grief-ridden hallucination? I suppose I’ll have to read the next book to find out…