Title: Lying with Scorpions
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Amazon: Buy Link (Second Edition)
Length: 250 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: An action/adventure story about a mercenary struggling to rebuild his unit after the war which made me hold my breath when I was reading it.
You learn your wisest lessons from your enemies. Assuming, of course, you survive the encounter.
Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever known—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed stranger offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.
But his true goal is to rebuild the Scorpions. Neither Steel’s possessive nature nor Kendras’s shattered foot can keep him from finding the last of his brothers… or the mysterious leader of the Scorpions, a man who held Kendras’s heart long before Steel tried to take it for himself. The goal is simple, the situation anything but. To rescue his leader and escape from Steel for good, Kendras must fight through a morass of politics and intrigue, where enemies are allies and even allies have hidden agendas.
First and foremost, I love the cover. I really, really love the cover. stares at the cover with dreamy eyes 🙂 Okay, back to the book now.
I was excited and curious to read this story because at some point I considered myself a huge fun of this author. However I then realized that while I have read a lot of titles which he co-wrote with others, I was actually not familiar at all with his individual style outside of one short story by him (and that story was actually my least favorite out of all his works). I was looking forward to see if I liked him as much as when paired with someone else.
I did. I could not put this book down. It is a twisty action/adventure, which takes place in the well-drawn fantasy world, and I thought the world building was awesome. It comes out slowly and unexpectedly and not everything is presented to us together in one or several huge information dumps. Some of this world is revealed through the characters’ life stories, some is revealed through cleverly-given information, which totally makes sense in the story, and some is revealed through action itself. I loved it.
It is a story about brotherhood of soldiers, something which I love reading about. Give me comrades who would do anything for each other and I am a happy camper even if those guys are not romantically involved. Kendras, as the blurb tells us, is certainly not a man who would give up until he achieves his goal to rebuild his unit, the Scorpions, after a horrible war. The circumstances he finds himself in could have certainly made a weaker person give up, but Kendras follows the team’s motto “Never Stop Fighting” to the letter. He goes through physical and mental hardships, shows willingness to do anything — literally anything in the name of his comrades — and gets involves in dirty politics, but remains a true Scorpion until the very end.
I really enjoyed how this book was written. It is fast-paced, exciting and a pleasure to read. I felt Kendras’ despair, his never-ending desire to bring back his comrades if they are alive and to release them to death if they are dead. It felt sometimes as if I was watching a movie, but the pictures on the page did not become less complex just because it was cinematic as well:
Kendras shrugged. A Fetinye might not have heard of the Seventeenth or “Scorpions”, and now he likely never would. It seemed pointless to display the symbols now if the people and deeds belonging to them were memories. The tattoos not dark enough against his skin, and the raised scars of the etching remained. He’d worn the scorpion on his gloves, but he didn’t know where they were. The glaive was gone. Not that he could have wielded it now.
Speaking about the storyline in general, the plot turns surprised me at least twice, and I loved that I could not predict what would happen at all in those instances. It was a very welcome diversion from so many predictable plots in this genre. The action in this story was just so much fun.
When I read Scorpion for the first time, I did not notice anything romantic; there was plenty of hot sex, but I did not find much romance. I did not feel that it was a problem because so many other things were happening and characters were really busy fighting for their lives and doing other stuff. However, when I reread it, I realized that the romantic tension definitely was there, just quite subtle and not in your face. That worked for me.
It was not until I had finished the book did I realize I had any issues with it. While brotherhoods of soldiers in general is one of my favorite themes in fiction, I found these particular soldiers , and specifically the Officer who Kendras spent so much time trying to find to be pretty immoral(especially after we are treated to some major revelations about him). This impression of mine does not take away at all from the brilliantly-written characters, but it certainly removes some of my ability to relate to Kendras and his boys. I think I would have wanted to see that something else besides loyalty to each other keep them fighting, and I would have liked for that to have happened before the end. On the other hand, maybe it was their characters arc to realize that there are bigger things than just loyalty to the Scorpions to fight for.
Lastly, I had an issue with the “bad guy.” In light of how I perceived the morality of the Scorpions and their leader, I wondered what exactly the so-called “bad guy” of the story did that the soldiers did not or were not eager to do? All of the characters in this story were deeply flawed and had shades of gray/darkness in them, but I could not shake off the feeling that the author wanted to portray the “bad guy” as such and somehow contrast him to the Scorpions. I guess I am not sure there was something to contrast in the first place as they seemed way too similar to me.
Highly recommended as exciting and powerful read.