Scourge begins with a bang, like a medieval version of Ghostbusters, as the three Valmonde brothers attempt to banish a ghost haunting her widowed husband. However, there is no proton pack here, as the brothers rely on ancient charms, sigils and rituals to capture the offending spirits. Middle child syndrome means that Rigan gets slightly more attention from the spirits as he can hear their confessions too.
Undertakers by inherited trade, the orphaned siblings live and work in the city of Ravenwood, governed by controlling Guilds, politically crazed, power hungry Lord Mayors and Merchant Princes, each as corrupt as the next. Desperate to maintain the “balance”, someone is controlling homicidal monsters that are working their way through the city and the death toll is rising rapidly.
Told from the perspective of the three brothers, Corran, Rigan and Kell (interspersed with chapters from the epically despicable Lord Mayor Machison), Scourge is an entertaining read. The brothers, driven by tragic loss, are such a tight family unit that you can’t help but root for them. At times their reckless bravery will have you squirming but their brotherly dynamic (aka arguing) keeps them grounded. However, the heavy political chapters featuring Machison feel unnecessarily descriptive and overly complicated. While it is helpful to understand the system of hierarchy, the narrative gets pretty dry during these sequences.
That being said, “dry” definitely can’t be used to describe the rest of the novel. Scourge is certainly not one to dive into whilst eating; there are plenty of gruesomely detailed moments and Gail Z Martin does not scrimp on the gore. The images she manages to conjure up with her words are vivid and delightfully disgusting, leaving no doubt in your mind that Ravenwood is one sick and twisted place to live.