Over the past several months, I’ve connected with a new author known as I, Anonymous. I was honored when he offered me an ARC of his new book, Gurzil, the first in the Wars of Wrath series. Gurzil just came out two weeks ago, and it’s a book I wholly recommend, whether you’re an avid reader of historical fantasy or, like me, are new to the genre.
Let me preface this review by expressing my sincere gratitude to I, Anonymous for sending me an ARC of Gurzil. I’ve been so happy to connect over the past few months and was honored to get an early look at this marvelous book.
Gurzil starts off in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire. It’s 543 AD (or CE), and the dragon Gurzil has been dormant for years before seeking to gain power in northern Africa. In Libya, King Alba of Saline has lost control of his kingdom, now little more than a puppet ruler as a sordid new cult takes over. Gurzil wants Alba’s daughter Sabra for his bride, so Alba does what any good father would do: He sends Sabra to safety. Meanwhile, in Britain, George Bertilack engages in war and politics despite his strange dreams. But his fate my lay further south where a dragon wreaks havoc through his cult followers.
This book weaves in numerous sources of inspiration, offering a complex retelling of well-known legends, myths, and real history. If you’re well-versed in these, you’ll certainly recognize many names. Several characters come from Arthurian legends, like Morgana, Gawain, and Merlin. There are also numerous groups of people – like the Britons, Saxons, Vandals, and Amazigh – and their interrelated conflicts. Readers familiar with the legends and history may glean more in this book than I did; personally, I only know the basics and rarely read books set this far in the past. I thus had a bit of a learning curve, and it took me a few chapters to get situated, but once I got there, I was all in. Ultimately I found Gurzil to be thoroughly engrossing.
In all honesty, this is not a book I would have picked out for myself – it’s a bit of a different genre and style than I normally read, and I probably would have shied away from it at a bookstore. But this is why I’m so happy to be involved with different book communities: It gets me out of my comfort zone, and in cases like this one here, that can be a wonderful thing, because I often find that I like these other books! Gurzil is an example of a book that I wasn’t sure what to expect but ended up loving.
There are several point-of-view characters in Gurzil, and the author moves between them from chapter to chapter. Each time a new character is introduced, we also get a few pages of their backstory – their history, their motivations, their relationships with other characters. On the one hand, this can be rather helpful in fully understanding each character. As I went into this without much “working knowledge,” it was valuable for me. But on the other hand, it does also slow down the pace, especially in the first half of the book. Now that the introductions seem to have all been made, I expect future books in the series will be more to-the-point and focused on the action.
Indeed, in some ways, Gurzil does feel like a lot of setup for the rest of the series. It’s not a long book – under 250 pages – and with so much backstory and world-building here, it very much feels that it’s paving the way for something much bigger in the upcoming books. This makes me even more excited to keep reading the series.
What I liked most about Gurzil is the distinct characterization. The people here range from likable to rather unlikeable. For example, Gunthuris is a slave trafficker who, despite his own childhood, has little sympathy for enslaved peoples. At first I thought I’d like Unahild… but then learned how twisted she is now. King Alba is weak but has my sympathies. His daughter Sabra, though, is a strong and intelligent woman and easily one of my favorite characters. I also quite enjoy her uncle Kaboan. Up north in Britain, George seems set up as the perfect, classic hero, even if it’s as yet unclear how he’ll become connected with all that’s going on in Libya. Morgana is another woman who stands out, though I worry where her story arc will lead in the next book.
And big romance reader that I am, I confess that I was also particularly drawn to the potential relationships forming in Gurzil. Connected only by dreams so far, might George and Sabra have a romance awaiting them in book number two? And what will that mean for Morgana and her current situation with George? My curiosity is certainly piqued.
I also love the magic that is in display in Gurzil. Of course the titular dragon is an obvious example, but there is also witchcraft and an amazing dream sequence (one of my favorite scenes in the book!) and some shape-shifting hyenas that I find quite fascinating. The cult surrounding Gurzil is bolstered by their leader’s magic, insidious as that is.
The book ends on a cliffhanger with a surprising character at its center, and it will leave you ready for the next installment in the series. Badon Hill comes out in late August, and I believe there’s at least one more book to look forward to after that.
Gurzil is a complex and captivating story that weaves together legend and history. It offers magic and a wide cast of characters, and whether you’re well-versed in the genre or are a newcomer like me, it can appeal to anyone looking for a fantastical ride. Gurzil is a wonderful start and a book I fully recommend. It is also just the first in the Wars of Wrath series, with Badon Hill coming next this August. Stay tuned for my review of that this summer!
Get the Book
You can buy Gurzil here – it’s available in paperback and as an ebook, and an audiobook is coming out soon!
You can also pre-order its sequel, Badon Hill, here.
Please note that the above links are Amazon affiliate links and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|Gurzil by I, Anonymous|
|Series||The Wars of Wrath (#1)|
|Genre||Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction|
|Number of Pages||232|
|Format I Read||Paperback (ARC)|
|Original Publication Date||March 2, 2022|
WITH THE FALL AND SACK OF ROME, the barbarian hordes of the east claimed the lands of the Western Empire and brought forth an age of tyranny.
AGAINST THIS DARKNESS, TWO HEROES WILL RISE
THEY COME FROM WORLDS APART
BOUND TOGETHER BY MAGIC AND CURSED BY FATE
ON THE WAR-RAVAGED ISLAND of Britain, King Cedric of Wessex, launches a treacherous blitz attack against the kingdoms of the Romano Britons. Hopelessly outnumbered, the last descendent of King Lear, George of Bertilack must hold the Saxon advance long enough for his sworn enemy, Arthur Pendragon of Camelot, to unite the Britons in common cause.
FAR TO THE SOUTH, in the deserts of Libya, Princess Sabra of Saline fights against a more insidious foe. However, the shadowy cult that holds her people in bondage is more formidable than she realizes. For the god they worship is no idol of dead stone or gold.
HE IS THE LAST of his kind, an ancient evil, a relic of an age when fallen angels and nephilim ruled over mankind. For centuries, he has waited, but now the dragon Gurzil is ready to make his move.
FOR THIS HAS BEEN FORETOLD
AND THIS WILL COME TO PASS
About the Author
I write to preserve the legends of yesterday, in hopes that others to come will record the legends of today.
I am Outis, I am No Man, I am Nemo.