ORCS and ORCS: BAD BLOOD by Stan Nicholls… revisiting my childhood

Orcs (Orcs: First Blood, #1-3)Orcs by Stan Nicholls
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Orcs and Orcs: Bad Blood

Orcs (Orcs  First Blood, #1-3) by Stan Nicholls

Orcs  Bad Blood by Stan Nicholls

These books are oddly nostalgic of the kind of fantasy I read when I was 14, and for that reason, I enjoyed it, for the most part. The novel is part of a longer series which apparently is bundled together in various collections, so you will find them under a variety of names. I read ORCS (the Origin story) and ORCS: BAD BLOOD, which follows up some years after the first story.

The world of the ORCS series is classic Basic Dungeons and Dragons, circa 1980s. An Orc band, led by gruff Stryke, is in the service of one classic evil Queen Jenesta. They are sent on a mission that initially succeeds but later encounters disaster, which causes the band to abruptly leave Jenesta’s service in search of the big boojum that has been stolen. A quest ensues, to get the 5 boojums (actually they are called instrumentalities). These are scattered all over the landscape in the keeping of various fantasy archetypes– I counte d Orcs, Goblins, Centaurs, Neirads, Merfolk, Brownies, Dragons, Elves, Trolls, and Dwarves in the first novel, and Zombies and animated Vampire Skeletons in the second.

All this stuff would be a delightful romp indeed, were the writing a bit above the juvenile level. The characters are stereotypes– from the evil sexually sadistic queen, to the manly soldierly Stryke, the sarcastic Coella, the Bluff and Stupid Haskir, the mystical Aelfred, and the Pugnacious Jupp the Dwarf, who has problems of his own being a dwarf in an orc band. The dialogue is exquisitely repetitious and unoriginal– author Nicholls goes back to the trough again and again to the same dialogue to bookend scenes. For instance, if I had a dollar for every time racist dwarf-hatin’ Haskir picks a fight with angry Dwarf Jupp, only to be broken up by a loud “SHUT IT!” from Stryke, well.. I’d have a lot of dollars.

With all that said… I know, I know.. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I found myself liking these orcs. They, at least, are realized well. They are intelligent (enough), possess a sense of honor, love to fight, but aren’t stupid about it. They aren’t creatures of evil, rather a decent enough bunch who have been enslaved into service to previously mentioned evil Queen. Humans, in contrast, come off as mostly evil, stupid and fanatical. Which was kind of refreshing!

In summary– ehhhh this series isn’t exactly a classic and will be largely forgettable, but isn’t without enjoyable spots. If you want a decent popcorn read that probably should be labelled a “Young Adult” fiction, you might like Orcs.

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