New Treasures: Servants of War by Larry Correia and Steve Diamond

New Treasures: Servants of War by Larry Correia and Steve Diamond

Servants of War by Larry Correia and Steve Diamond (Baen Books, 2022. 424pages). Cover art by Alan Pollack

Veteran fantasy readers may yawn if they hear about an epic fantasy about a farm boy in a remote village rising to power, and the first few pages of Servants of War dangles that trope before readers. And then horror rushes in like a tidal wave, and before Chapter 1 can end, the worn trope is burning with hellfire billowing alchemical smoke, a Grimdark spirit rises out of the book to slap the reader in the face, crank the head back, and pour gasoline-action down a thirsty throat.

Welcome to Servants of War. The combination of military-fantasy veteran Larry Correria with horror-guru Steve Diamond promises “military fantasy with horror” and you’ll get trenches full of that. Baen released this masterpiece that opens The Age of Ravens series in hardcover and audiobook in March 2022; the paperback is due February 2023.  Without spoiling, this post covers a summary, excerpts, and a small hint as to the forthcoming sequel.

Official Summary

NEW MILITARY FANTASY FROM THE CREATOR OF MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL LARRY CORREIA AND MASTER OF HORROR STEVE DIAMOND

The war between Almacia and the Empire of Kolakolvia is in its hundredth year. Casualties grow on both sides as the conflict leaves no corner of the world untouched.

Illarion Glaskov’s quiet life on the fringes of the empire is thrown into chaos when an impossible tragedy strikes his village. When he is conscripted into the Tsarist military, he is sent to serve in The Wall — an elite regiment that pilots suits of armor made from the husks of dead golems.

But the great war is not the only — or even the worst — danger facing Illarion, as he is caught in a millennia-old conflict between two goddesses. He must survive the ravages of trench warfare, horrific monsters from another world, and the treacherous internal politics of the country he serves.

Milieu & Style

The setting resembles an alternative earth on the Eurasia continent. A never-ending war continues between the Almacian state (West) and the Kolakolvia (East); cities and named battle zones resonate with pseudo-Eastern European flare: Rolmani, Praja, Transellia. Both sides disrespect (or forsake) the old ways and religions which are explicitly and overtly present, albeit repressed. Golems, ghouls, and blood storms haunt both armies. The clearest sacrilege is the repurposing of golem bodies to make Objects, the name for the mechanized war-suits Kolakolvia employs (how else can one defile another species than to tap its magical potential while playing in their corpses?). In short, there are three conflicting entities: the East, the West, and the Others. Each is manipulated by a Sister goddess. The variety of conflicts keeps this interesting, expect: human vs human; state vs state; human vs. state; and heroes vs supernatural.

If a dystopian, war-ravaged alternative earth feels too familiar, don’t worry. You’ll be salivating for a trip to an even darker realm, and you’ll get that too. That jolt reminded me of the beauty of the Silent Hill games in which players experience a terrifying ghost-town for a while until an air siren blares, paint peels off walls, Hell arrives, and players yearn to find a way back to the relative safety of the ghost-town.

Stylistically, this felt like a mashup of Warhammer’s gritty sci-fi battles, with Silent Hill’s weird world-building and exploration-of-Hells, with the demon-confronting Solomon Kane leading the sorties. Somehow the warfare was never portrayed as a giant chess board; instead, the combat was intimate, frontline adventure. Localized views of battle felt like episodes of Sword & Sorcery focused on the hero(ine). I kept thinking, this is what I’d expect if Mary Shelly teamed up with Robert E. Howard to rewrite Frankenstein for BattleTech fans.

Who Are the Servants of War?

One didn’t think about war and politics when you had a mill to run, cows to tend, and crops to plant. The greatest question in Ilyushka every year had been how deep would the ground freeze? – Illarion character’s thoughts

Humans are just the puppets of the Three Sisters, but they comprise the titular servants of war. You’ll be rooting for them in a heartbeat. There are many characters, but the primary ones are below. Their paths intertwine, of course, as some become comrades and others enemies.

  • Illarion Glazkov – a farm boy who evolves into an awesome soldier; he’s trailed by ravens as he seeks atonement
  • Scout Specialist Natalya Baston (once in the 17th Sniper Division) – she’s an outstanding rogue motivated to free her family
  • Arnost Chankov – a ghoul-tattooed, low-ranking officer over Illarion
  • Oprichnik Kristoph Vals – Secret Service Agent under Chancellor and Tsar of Kolakolvia – no one can trust this guy, and all fear crossing him
  • Amos Lowe – a mysterious prisoner seeking to remain anonymous and lost

Excerpts Reveal What to Expect

Mechanized Melee:

…More soldiers rushed out of the fog, swarming his legs. The hatch rattled as soldiers tried to pry it open. If they got that open he’d end up a red, oozing skeleton like the last pilot he’d seen.

Only Illarion’s Object did not react in the lumbering, clumsy fashion they’d come to expect. He brought the empty cannon barrel down on the head of one, crushing his skull and snapping his spine. Inside the coffin of rapidly dwindling air, Illarion twisted the controls. 12 spun and kicked. Frail bodies were crushed underfoot. Instinctively, he crouched as low as the braces around his legs allowed, then launched his body up. He’d never seen anyone jump in the suits before, and didn’t know if it was at all possible, be he had to try something.

12 was briefly airborne. The ground shook when he landed, and most of the soldiers were thrown free. He stomped down, popping skulls and driving bodies deep into the mud. A punch from his gun arm caved in a chest. A sweep of his halberd cut three bodies into six pieces. The last man hanging onto the latches was hurled free, but unfortunately for him, he left one of his gloves behind. He hit the ground, flesh already smoking, and quickly tried to bury his hand in the mud to save it. Illarion would’ve killed him, but that would’ve taken another second or two worth of air….

Horrors of War, Confronting Weird Creatures:

The doors were being torn to splinters. Kristoph watched, fascinated and appalled, as a monstrous head snapped through a window and bit off a trencher’s face off. A scorpion tail, but big around as his arm, zipped through a window lightning quick and stabbed another soldier in the chest. He fell near Kristoph’s feet. Kicking and twitching.

Kristoph looked up to see the monster trying to squeeze through the gap nearest him, despite two other soldiers spearing it with their bayonets. Somehow, its body was still slick and pale, as if the blood snow slid right off. Jaws snapped at him. Spittle hit him. Kristoph aimed his pistol and shot through the gap, and another immediately took its place.

As he looked down to reload, the man who had been stung was grasping at Kristoph’s boots. It was hard to understand him, with all the foam coming out of his mouth, but Kristoph suspected he was begging for a quick and merciful death. Anything to be spared the torture of this poison. It was so piteous that even Kristoph was tempted to aid him, but he might need the ammo, so he kicked the dying man’s hand away….

 

Need More of The Age of Ravens?

Noir Fatale, an anthology edited by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell (Baen, 2019), has a prequel to Servants of War called “The Privileges of Violence” by Steve Diamond. It’s a grim homage to the Maltese Falcon featuring at least three of the same characters. Highly recommended.

Servants of War focused on the machinations of two of the three Sisters. Subsequent books promise to highlight the remaining goddess as all the servants of war resolve their tension with the Tsar of Kolakolvia and the Sisters.  Book 2 in The Age of Ravens is forthcoming and has a tentative title of Instruments of Violence.

 

Author Bios

About Larry Correia

“Correia piles on the intrigue, action, and cliffhangers in the invigorating second Saga of the Forgotten Warrior epic fantasy. . . . Correia also weaves in elements that question the value of belief and the cost of giving authority to those who find more profit in preying on the weak. . . . Brisk fight scenes, lively characters, and plenty of black humor continue to make this series a real pleasure.”  — Publishers Weekly

About Steve Diamond

“An intense, high-energy, what-lurks-in-the-shadows take of monsters, both men and otherwise. Steve Diamond can make you shiver.”  — Terry Brooks, NYT Bestselling Author of the Shannara Chronicles, on Diamond’s Residue

Larry Correia is the Dragon Award-winning, best-selling author of the Monster Hunter International series, the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series, the Grimnoir Chronicles, and the Dead Six series of military thrillers.

Steve Diamond is a Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction author for Baen, Wordfire Press, Gallant Knight Games, and numerous other small publications. His two most recent works are a collection of short fiction, WHAT HELLHOUNDS DREAM, and a Dark Fantasy/Horror novel co-written with Larry Correia, SERVANTS OF WAR.


S.E. Lindberg is a Managing Editor at Black Gate, regularly reviewing books and interviewing authors on the topic of “Beauty & Art in Weird-Fantasy Fiction.” He is also the lead moderator of the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group and an intern for Tales from the Magician’s Skull magazine. As for crafting stories, he has contributed six entries across Perseid Press’s Heroes in Hell and Heroika series, has an entry in Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies  He independently publishes novels under the banner Dyscrasia Fiction; short stories of Dyscrasia Fiction have appeared in WhetstoneSwords & Sorcery online magazine, Rogue In the House Podcast’s A Book of Blades, DMR’s Terra Incognita, and (soon) the 9th issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.

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Steve A Oerkfitz

No thanks! Trie reading one of Correia’s books and found it to be poorly written. Just awful.

Alan Ziebarth

During the Puppy debacle, I tried to read the book of his that was nominated for a Hugo Award. It was worse than awful. Few words over three syllables and practically no descriptive adjectives or adverbs. And so predictable and boring.

Last edited 1 month ago by Alan Ziebarth
Greg Gagnon

I agree with the excellent review. I also actually read the book. The book delivers on all of the awesomeness that the review suggests. If you like this kind of thing, here it is. This is not Narnia, unless it had been written by a horror guru and a mil sci-fi author. Well written, with developed characters and a novel approach to this kind of plot.

silentdante

i liked LARRY CORREIA noir super hero series, but then there is so much controversy around him too i just kind of stay away. maybe i have the wrong of it, but there are so many books out there i ust didnt bother to look into it much.

60guilders

You do have the wrong of it–he’s mostly controversial for the right (there’s a pun there) reasons.
I mean, there is a lot to read out there, but if you liked Grimnoir you’ll probably like Saga of the Forgotten Warrior or Dead Six regardless of your politics. The Monster Hunter International series is probably his most overtly political work, so if you don’t lean right-wing libertarian you might want to steer clear of it.

Joelle Presby

It’s going to be interesting to see how this Age of Ravens series develops.

Adam

Surprised at some of these comments where people avoid any books based on personal politics. You all are missing out on about 50% of literature. This is a great story. I love that the authors have created an entirely new system of magic. Put your politics aside and approach it with an open mind. If you like this genre I’d be shocked if you didn’t enjoy this novel. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel(s)!

Ingmar

I’ve looked at Larry Correia’s rambling and defending stuff that I think is indefendable and decided for myself that I will not buy any more books from him.

I liked Grimnoir myself, but then I looked at the Baen’s Bar controversy, and checking the publicly available information I came to the conclusion that I would not want to support someone who supports calling out for killng anyone from “the left” that did happen (and dismissing all of that as anti-right propaganda).

Larry Correia is a good author, but there are way more other good authors out there than I will ever have a time to read, so it’s a small price to pay.

Everyone really has to make that decision for themselves, though.

Greg Gagnon

Not just based on politics, but based on second hand politics that are easily shown to be false accusations. You do you, boo.

There are plenty of good books out there.

Sean CW Korsgaard

It does my heart well to not only see a review of a Baen Book here again, but to see one so artfully done!

Servants of War is an outstanding book, and you delivered an outstanding review!

Terry

Sold. I enjoy MHI; his other stuff did not appeal to me, but I will try this.

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