Rebellion of the Black Militia by Richard Nell


Rating: 6/10

I would like to start by thanking the author for providing a copy of his novella in exchange for an honest opinion.

Johann must leave the safety and comfort of the Scribery, where he spent most of his life studying demonology and natural philosophy, in order to trap a dangerous demon and bring it to the tower. His quest is tricky and perilous but he’s not alone. Lamorak, a rude, irreverent fellow but who seems to have a way with weapons, is accompanying him to kill the demon and ensure that Johann captures it.

I really liked the premise of this novella. The first chapters were extremely easy to get into and I found both the magic and Johann’s quest to be very intriguing. I liked the fact that I wasn’t lost upon starting it (which, let’s face it, is a risk when diving into a new Fantasy world). The writing flowed easily, with just enough context at first to get the reader interested instantly.

However, I would have loved to see more background for the characters and more world development after the first promising chapters. The reader will guess that the world is way larger than the few locations in which the plot was told and that the history is much, much richer. But with no map and with little history and world-building, it wasn’t enough to make me fully interested in the story and the world.

“Every man has two voices. […] The first will say you’ve had enough. It will tell you that you’ve done all you can, that the task is too hard. It will tell you this is impossible, it will give you every excuse, every chance to quit—that you’re not good enough, that you will die, that your muscles will tear, that it’s no longer up to you. You will ignore it. That voice is a liar, and a coward, it’s the devil himself. It’s not good enough.

My main issue however was with the characters. I just couldn’t connect to anyone and the relationship between Johann and Lamorak didn’t work for me because it oscillated constantly between awe and disgust/disillusionment from Johann’s POV and between jeering and unexpected support from Lam’s. I wish there was a more progressive building of their relationship instead of this back and forth. The only times I came to appreciate their interactions were the ones where Lamorak opened up about his past (and delivered precious historical tidbits) and the training and fighting scenes, which were great and pretty well narrated!

I truly wish I had liked RotBM more than I did! 😦 I think its size (around 130 pages) was both a good thing (because it reads fast and easily) and a disadvantage (because it doesn’t allow for a lot of world-building, plot and character-development all at the same time).

Review by Haïfa.

Read in February, 2018.

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