Brother Red by Adrian Selby was a thrilling, bloody, unforgiving, and emotional read. This was the first Adrian Selby novel I have read and most likely not the last.
The story is told from the POV of Driwna Marghoster who is part of a guild known as “The Post”. Essentially, The Post are a guild made up of individuals who protect trade caravans that travel across the world to various locations. What makes members of the guild stand out from others is their red uniform, hence the name of the title. On one particular job, the trade caravan Driwna is protecting is ambushed and attacked by mercenaries. Although Driwna and Cal who is her best friend and fellow Red are able to kill the attackers, they discover a dead body of a baby within one of the containers. The significance of this is that the baby is from the Oskoro tribe which is a very rare find due these people keeping to themselves. What also makes the Oskoro tribe intriguing is the fact that they use seeds and plants to somewhat enhance their body and mind. Thus, we follow Driwna as she begins her investigation into where the body was headed and who was going to take it. Driwna’s journey will uncover deceit and betrayal that goes all the way to the top of the hierarchy.
For me this was an absolutely fantastic read and the fact that their are two books that connects within the same world really has me excited to read them! The world of Brother Red his phenomenal and reminded me a lot of Assassins Creed and The Witcher due to how rich it was. I loved the whole idea of The Post and their creeds motto “Help the helpless. Honour the purse. peace through trade. this is the creed.” really hits you. The Post consists of different departments from agents to fieldsman (basically spies). What i also loved was how Adrian Selby describes the places Driwna visits. Everything is so detailed that you can picture it in your mind. I also absolutely loved the political elements. The novel was definitely part grimdark fantasy part thriller for me. Driwna leaves no stone unturned as she attempts to discover why the Ososi clan and Oskoro are going missing. The more she uncovers the more intense things became and to be honest, the more worried i became for Driwna. There are those within The Post itself that wish to see its downfall and when you discover why you can’t help but feel sad about it.
What i also loved were the bloody, brutal, and highly intense fight sequences. If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, The Witcher Three, and Assassins Creed you’ll know what i am talking about. It is basically an art that requires precision and awareness of staying a step ahead of your enemy. One thing that blew me away was the fact that at the beginning of the story when Cal and Driw are scouting they use sign language so they aren’t detected. As well as that, there are special potions or in the case of Brother Red, brews that increase strength, agility, and making one more aware of their surroundings. Also, like The Witcher and Assassins Creed, it is not just the mighty sword that is ones primary weapon, there are bows, throwing knives, and even throwing objects known as “spores” that release a gas that can posion or blind enemies.
When considering the writing, i did like the writing as it was very detailed and you could picture everything in your mind. I do feel however that it took a while to get accustomed to some of the wording and phrasing. I did feel as well that some of the chapters were so dense at times which made me a bit annoyed. But honestly after finishing the book this was just a mediocre matter for me. I think a book like this requires a lot of detail and density to get to grips of what was going on in the world.
Finally, when considering the characters, i really loved the character of Driwna. She was highly likable and you can’t help but want her to push on and discover the secrets and lies that are occurring. But you end up having such a strong bond with her that you don’t want her to uncover anything because it is a matter of life and death. But this is why i loved her because doesn’t give a shit which beast she wakes up, she is all about doing the right thing for The Post and the Ososi and Oskoro clans. She is driven and has so much heart that you just want her to succeed. Driwna meets many side characters and each has a distinct voice that allows you tell each of them apart. Driwna meets many allies and foes throughout her journey and i would say favourites were Cal, Bray, and Ufra. Cal has basically grown with Driwna within The Post and their bond was just so wholesome. I loved their banter and when they cussed each other. You can really tell they have been through thick and thin together.
“Come on, let’s get you in that bath. I’m sick of seeing your bare arse.”
I felt this bond with Ufra and Driwna as well and they inevitably fall in love. Ufra was such a badass and I love her overall vibe. They end up having this strong body and soul connection which was just beautiful. I also felt Bray was a phenomenal side character as he grows as a person in the novel. I can’t say too much without spoiling, but think Rocky Balboa coming out of retirement.
“I thought you strong! I thought you fast! Who is this *****!” He shouts this to all watching. “A fat old man, I’s beatin’ you without sword or spear!
Overall, a phenomenal and unique standalone fantasy story that I really enjoyed. I loved the world and characters so much and hope i can read the other two books so i can return to it and hopefully learn more. Adrian Selby is a phenomenal writer who grips you with the way he writes and makes you want to keep reading until you’re shattered. Also, the ending was so unexpected and very impactful as a reader. My heart genuinely sank after finishing the book. Thank you so much to Angela and Orbit for gifting me a copy. I can’t wait to read more books by Adrian Selby now 😊