I just spent the last couple of months wading through Orcs by Stan Nicholls.  On the surface, the conceit of this book is quite inventive: let’s tell a fantasy story from the point of view of orcs.  Of course, the moment you delve into the book, the orcs aren’t the orcs of Tolkien or other authors, these orcs are noble warriors who live for battle and only do evil because they are conscripted into the service of a dark sorceress.  So, immediately the book is less inventive than originally thought.  More so once the featured warband, the Wolverines, go off on their own in defiance of their mistress.

Overall, the book is a decent fantasy tale.  Typical, almost, which was a let down when prior to picking it up I was led to believe it was going to break the mold.  As the book wore on, and part of the reason it took me so long to slog through it, parts of the prose just feels like filler, as if the author wanted to get to the “cool” part but didn’t want to just jump cut straight to it between chapters and instead wrote a chapter or two to bridge the events.  It detracted from the book, for me.  I think the same story could have been told with greater effect if it had been half as long, tighter.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to others.  Perhaps if they were die hard fantasy fans who regularly read mediocre novels they might find this to be excellent.  But for me, it was just okay.


  1. Jacqueline Carey did a two volume series (Banewreaker, Godslayer) that are an attempt to write a LotR-ish story from the perspective of the “bad guy”. Not my favorite of her books, but I enjoyed them, and they might be a bit more of what you were hoping from out of Orcs.

  2. There are a few books I’ve encountered written from the Orc point of view. For one that I would recommend as preserving some of the original Tolkien wickedness – embellished with a lot more graphic violence and profanity – I’d recommend “Grunts” by Mary Gentle. Caveat: it does diverge from traditional fantasy, embracing elements of military fiction and sci-fi. Farcical but vicious.

  3. After reading the descriptions, I’m not sure about the Jacqueline Carey books, but I may have to give Mary Gentle’s “Grunts” a try.

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