Review: Culn by James Lutze

Title: Culn
Author: James Lutze
Publication date: December 10th, 2017
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
I have seen things: abominable horrors that belong to darkness.

I have done things: evil things in the shadows of the mountain, where men dare not go.

But I long for the light: for the memories of happiness and good that were once a part of my world.

So I do what I must to survive, for I know how I was brought here, and that no matter how impossible it seems, there must be a way out.

But I am afraid. Afraid that if I do escape, they will look at me with repulsion. Afraid they will not recognize that I was once one of them, long ago, before I was taken.

More importantly, I am afraid of myself. When you are raised by Evil, does it remain a part of you, or does it simply haunt you?

I'm a stay-at-home dad with the most wonderful, beautiful wife and daughter in existence. I've been telling stories my whole life, and finally decided to write them down. I've been blessed to have traveled the world, and even lived overseas for seven years. When I'm not looking after my daughter, reading or writing, I am teaching myself blacksmithing, playing the piano, etching glass, wood burning, or cooking.

In his chilling and gripping debut, James Lutze's Culn is in essence satisfyingly captivating and thrilling. In the first few lines, the reader is introduced to the mysterious protagonist, Culn, who  claims to have a story worth telling. As the reader steps into his memories, they discover a world of fantasy and idiosyncrasies. Hidden deep within the mountain of Unkeitherhom, Culn has been constantly battling the ramifications of trying to survive in captivity of the orcs, or Orikis. In a tone that is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, the reader discovers that he has been a prisoner since the age of 6, his family perishing in the invasion. 

Taken as the prisoner of the orc, Kreichok, Culn is tortured and beaten as a sport. His suffering is evident, and it seems his sense of self is slipping away. He is forced to perform unspeakable acts, such as fighting to the death Gladiator style and processing human remains leftover from the orcs' attacks. The reader travels through Culn's life as he is tormented every day and it is in many ways dark and gritty. The setting is a composition of fantasy and battle, but the underlying theme is the emotional connection Culn has to the author through his struggle to hold onto any thread of his own humanity.

Culn is well written within the context of dark fantasy. There is a lot of gore, so if that isn't your cup of tea, this book isn't for you. However, if you enjoy a lot of battle and a heavy emphasis on the orc race (one of the lesser races found in fantasy novels), this will be a great choice for you. The book is written within a memory, so it is mostly read experiencing the day-to-day afflictions of the protagonist. I would have preferred a little less time was spent on this, leaving room at the end for a glimpse of life after Culn is a hostage of Unkeitherhom as I expect it would require a certain level of adjusting. However, it also leaves the ending open to a sequel. Overall, a very good book that held my attention.

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