This review was first published by Booklist on March 15, 2016.
Kailen’s Twenty were legendary, undefeatable mercenaries present at some of the most important events in the history of the Old Kingdoms. Now, three decades after they disbanded, someone is killing them off, one by one. Set in a brutal world of subtle magic, clashing empires, and commercial interests, this is an impressive fantasy debut. Selby demonstrates the command of style, character, plotting, and world building of a seasoned author. The tale switches between the first-person perspectives of multiple characters, and Selby’s writing style changes appropriately. The nonchronological narrative is woven through with flashbacks. Selby creates a robust world that’s entirely believable, but he doesn’t get distracted showing it off. He lets the story live in this world in a deeply effective way. Snakewood has much in common with the work of Joe Abercrombie and should appeal to his fans. As a story about the violent world of warriors and magic, Snakewood is reminiscent of Matthew Stover’s Acts of Caine series, but without the science fiction elements.