Snakewood by Adrian Selby book review

A group of mercenaries get down and dirty in Snakewood

Snakewood Adrian Selby

Some writers are incredibly gifted when it comes to creating tension, atmosphere and suspense. Adrian Selby can trump all of this, and as well as all of the above, he can make you feel grubby too.

It’s not often that a book can have you running for the bath, but the sheer level of filth, sweat and shit that Selby’s numerous characters endure is enough to put Anthea Turner in rehab for the rest of her days.

Bowel movements are not very often considered in literature – Harry Potter doesn’t put his patronus on hold while he nips for a quick dump, and heaven forbid that Mr Darcy is late for a tea dance because he is a little constipated.

But as we all know in reality, bathroom breaks are essential, and Selby addresses the need to defecate frequently – and frankly. “My ass was stinging, I needed a shit.” Needless to say this is a read that requires a strong stomach. Or, at the very least, a love of brutally honest accounts of what it’s like to really need to take a dump.

Toileting aside, Snakewood tells the tale of Kailen’s Twenty, a long disbanded group of brutal mercenaries, reliant on the fightbrews of plants and herbs that taint their skin and gift them superhuman powers. Now way past their prime, they are being hunted down and assassinated one by one. What Kailen cannot quite work out is who, after all these retirement years, is coming after them and why.

Told from varying points of view in the form of letters, historic battle reports and accounts, as well as character narratives, this is not an easy book to get to grips with. In the same vein as A Clockwork Orange, each voice has a dialect of their own; it takes time and significant page flicking to decipher time frame, words and meanings, and let us not even get started on working out whether said word is a person, place or plant.

The fog does lift the deeper you get into the 410-page abyss of confusion, but it may be a little too late in the day for some.