Friday, November 4, 2022


Martin Scott
Completed 10/30/2022, Reviewed 10/30/2022
2 stars

Martin Scott is a pseudonym for Martin Millar, the author of the only book I ever gave zero stars, “The Good Fairies of New York”.  It was before I wrote reviews, but on the WWEnd site I gave it ½ a star because there was no way to enter zero.  It was an atrociously written story of Irish fairies that make it to New York get into mischief and throw up a lot from drinking too much.  So I was very hesitant reading this book which won the 2000 World Fantasy Award.  Fortunately, there was only a few hangover and vomit scenes and the elves had an herbal cure for it.  This book wasn’t too bad, a noir PI tale with a fair amount of tongue in cheek humor set in a fantasy world somewhere between ancient Rome and Middle Earth.  But it didn’t grab me the way I expect an award winner to.  

Thraxas is the hard-boiled, overweight, hard drinking PI with a barbarian for a landlord and a female human-elf-orc mix ex-gladiator sidekick.  He owes one of the mobs money he lost gambling on chariot races.  He takes on several clients whose jobs all intertwine in a confusing mix of detail and intrigue.  There’s a box with secret letter in it.  There’s a magic red cloth that deflects magic attacks.  There’s murder and double-crossing and a whole lot of politics.  Somehow Thraxas wades through this to try to solve each case and hopefully collect his fees to pay off his gambling debt.

The world building was interesting to say the least, as was the magic system.  You can only hold a few spells in your head at a given time, and Thraxas being a mediocre sorcerer at best could only hold one.  Casting spells takes a lot of energy unless you are a master sorcerer.  There are dragons, elves, fairies, centaurs, orcs, and humans.  There’s an interesting priesthood of the True Faith which the priests are always trying to promulgate, though it is heresy to try to convert an orc.  The world feels like it’s typical medieval Euro-centric fantasy, but there’s a tinge of ancient Rome with Senators, gladiators, and chariot races.  If it sounds confusing and overwrought, it is, but I found broad mix helped keep my interest.

I didn’t relate to or have empathy for any of the characters.  Thraxas was not exactly likeable nor was he repulsive, he was just kind of meh.  I kind of liked his human-orc-elf sidekick Makri.  She took classes at the local college and was trying to get into university, all the while helping Thraxas get out of jams in his cases.  She was pretty well developed, with her education goals, her gladiator past, and her manipulation of men for tips by wearing chainmail bikinis while serving mead at the local inn.  She was pretty kick-ass, but in the end I felt nothing for her.  There were a lot of cases with a lot of minor characters, none of whom really stood out.  One scene I did like was when Thraxas and Makri go to the Fae enclave in the forest and the fairies and centaurs all were enamored of Makri.  What’s significant is that in the human world, she’s shunned because of her orc blood.  Here she was welcomed and loved.  It almost made me feel something for her.

I give this book two stars out of five.  It’s not bad, just not that good.  The prose, while not as bad as “Good Fairies”, has a lot to be desired.  However, enough people must have enjoyed this book because there are a total of twelve in the Thraxas series.  It’s not my cup of tea, but it obviously sells.

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