I was provided an audio copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Jari Rockjaw is a simple dwarf who has seen too many battles in his life to count. Tackling job after painful job brings him all the riches and spoils he could ask for, but at the cost of dear friends and allies. Jari wants nothing more than to retire his mercenary group and drink beers at his local tavern but the king of Ekepia has other plans for the Loners. The one thing Jari knows for sure is there will be blood.
I would like to take a moment and acknowledge the amazing job Walt Allen did as the narrator for Loners. Every voice was well defined, powerful, funny, and came to life through my headphones. Walt is definitely a narrator I will be following in future projects. The first thing that excited me about Loners, this is a story about dwarfs and a mercenary company looking for riches. You don’t get too many of these stories in the fantasy genre and it was nice to see a fresh perspective on this classical fantasy troupe.
The band that Jari travels with could be central POV characters in any other story because they are written so well. Traveling with Jari is his right hand man and fellow dwarf Toli Hookhand. Toli is the comic relief of the novel and always put a smile on my facing along the journey. The Loners also includes my favorite character Betha. Betha is a female minotaur with one horn missing and the other broken in half but she will not back down from a fight. We learn that Betha has a troubling past, which she escaped by joining Jari and his mercenary group but the past has a way with catching up with everyone. Although the brute of the Loners, Bertha has a good heart and she will gain your devotion on her journey.
We are thrown into the land of Labrys where the Loners have taken job after job for the past 100 years. They make their livings by hunting and skinning goblins for the local tavern to make a potent brew. Allies have been lost and gained through the years but Jari wants to leave this monotonous life behind. That opportunity presents itself when the king asks a favor of Jari and his band to destroy and the darkest dwarf in the land in exchange for the band retirement. Jari knows that this task will be nearly impossible but he will go once more unto the breech and face this enemy head on.
The writing style and plot moved along smoothly when listening to the audio version but the story has a lot of grit and dark moments. These dark moments really shine through because of the excellent job Walt Allen does in his production and please make sure that you are in the right mental space for this type of story. These aren’t your Typical dwarfs and creatures from Lord of the Rings as they will surprise you on more than one occasion. I had a good time following Jari and his band on this journey and if you are looking for a classical type story about dwarfs with a dark twist to it, Loners is the story for you!