What words even begin to describe Sam Sykes... enigma... charlatan... mystical hobgoblin? I could go on, but thankfully Sykes is also a bloody good writer, and in The City Stained Red he has produced an entertaining and subversive tale that the bards (or reviewers, if your feeling modern today) shall speak of for an age.
I loved many things about The City Stained Red. As an avid follower of Sykes on twitter (your life is not complete if you haven't chuckled at Sam's wit and charm at least once a day) I looked forward to a cracking and funny tale filled with bloodsport and laughter. And boy was I not disappointed! Laced with gut wrenching humour, scintillating action and subtle observations, The City Stained Red was one of those books that danced across my eyes and made my heart sing. Lenk and his merry band of misfits were brilliant and interesting, and I especially loved how they interacted with each other and the world around them in different and unique ways. The world building was stunning, and the city of Cier'Djaal was brilliantly portrayed in a familiar, yet at times alien way (giant spiders anyone?). And come on people, Sykes has Dragonmen... and Simians... *punches air in awesomeness.
However The City Stained Red is not just a DnD tale on roids... it's much more then that. Sykes has also managed to weave a fascinating sensitivity and heart into this story, and his examination of well used fantasy tropes makes this book well worth the read. I tore through this book, and before I knew it was over and I was left yearning for the next instalment.
So basically, I loved The City Stained Red, and I have officially been SYKED. If you have a beating heart and operable brain then this is the book for you!
4 out of 5 stars.