Blackwood Marauders by K.S. Villoso

Blackwood Marauders is the story of a young man, Luc, as he accidentally gets thrown into a world much darker than the one he’s used to. Villoso uses the coming of age trope  to shove a young innocent man into a crowd of tough mercenaries. By the end of chapter one I’d realised Villoso had no qualms about emotionally abusing her characters, and I eagerly awaited to read more about the torment the characters endured. I wasn’t disappointed. There’s something fascinating about watching a character make a bad decision when they know it’s a bad decision but don’t want to consider the alternative.

Setting
Mysterious woods surround the nearby villages and monsters lurk inside, eating up livestock and the occasional small child. Fear and uneasiness are rife in those villages. Bands of mercenaries are called in to deal with the issue, and this is where our young, naive protagonist, Luc, is brought into the fold. Accidentally throwing himself into the business of the mercenaries, Luc quickly discovers just how different his life can be.

One of the things I really liked about the worldbuilding in this book was that Villoso used monsters from the Filipino horror folklore which I’d never heard of before. It was nice to have some different monsters from the standard ones seen in the fantasy genre.

Characters
Characters have always been Villoso’s strongest point. In this book she takes decent people and puts them in bad situations. Growth and development ensue as the author masterfully manipulates the events so that they throw the characters outside of their comfort zones.
I really loved following the main characters and how they dealt with the tough situations they were in, how the events would change them, if they would remain good people.

Plot
The plot was very well thought through, and had lots of mysterious elements throughout. Despite the focus on the character ensemble for most of the story, the plot still ran together nicely. There were also a few good twists that had me on the edge of my seat.
The beginning of the book managed to draw me in almost instantly, and kept my interest all the way through. I felt that the ending of Blackwood Marauders was done perfectly, and there was really nothing else I could’ve hoped for.

Other Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. It’s set in the same universe as the rest of Villoso’s books, but still stands separately from them. No knowledge of her Agartes Epilogues or Annals of the Bitch Queen is required, but if you’re like me, you might find yourself wanting to read those books once you finish.
Audience
Blackwood Marauders is probably best for people who like:

  • Character-based fantasy
  • Ensemble
  • Coming of age
  • Darker books

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