Fantasy debut plunges viscerally into the depths of medieval nightmare.
Hegel and Manfried Grossbart are sincere (albeit highly unconventional) Mariolaters as well as murderous grave robbers. The German siblings travel across 14th-century Europe toward Egypt, where they believe a multitude of rich infidel tombs await them. Along the way, they confront plague-bearing demons, assorted other evil creatures and treacherous locals. Gaining enemies wherever they go, they beguile their journey with heavy drinking and profanity-laced, profoundly heretical theological debate. A dementedly vengeful farmer whose family the Grossbarts slaughtered follows in dogged pursuit. Deeply rooted in history and folklore, the novel is both earthier and far more cynical than the original versions of Grimms’ fairy tales; it’s a perverse Dark Ages anti-Candide, drenched with bodily fluids—blood, vomit, semen and plague bubo discharge, among others. Whether readers enjoy this amusing, skillfully distasteful experience depends on the strength of their stomachs and the extent of their tolerance for intimate acquaintance with unpleasant characters.
Discomfiting, disgusting and at times as grotesquely pleasurable as picking at a scab.