Five Bloody Heads
The sleep gods beat that plan out of me by cursing me with insomnia. Not the productive kind, but the kind where you keep waking up all night long.
But I’ve been talking about a mysterious book for a long time and I want to say something about it even if I feel like someone just kicked the stuffing out of me. By necessity, I’ll keep it short.
Five Blood Heads is a grimdark tale of sword-and-sorcery shot through with veins of heroism and hope. I don’t like my sword-and-sorcery quite as dark as some modern practitioners, and writer Peter Fugazzoto is just on my side of the line. I’m glad, because he knows how to craft an action scene, and how to pace, and how to get you invested in characters you probably shouldn’t be caring that much about. Sometimes they have even more decency in them than they’re willing to admit in their inner dialogues, for they find themselves acting against their own stated philosophies.
And then of course you have some pretty terrible bad guys who aren’t hindered by their morality whatsoever, although their leader has his own issues.
Five Blood Heads is low-fantasy. There aren’t kings and kingdoms at stake, although the rulership of a lonely outpost may be. Instead, the action rolls when the young survivor of a massacre turns to the only people she thinks can help her to avenge the murders of her family — the bandits who’d robbed that family only a few hours before. She promises to give them five gems if they deliver the heads of the five slayers.
Fugazzoto knows his chops. At first it’s not entirely clear that the bandits are that much different from the murderers, but bit by bit their characters are revealed, and as the action keeps coming so does character revelation. It’s got to be one of the finest self-published books I’ve ever read, marred only by some typographical errors. I’m honestly not sure why Fugazzoto hasn’t been snapped up by a major publishing house yet.
The book is a standalone set in the same world as some of his previous novels, but you don’t have to have read them to enjoy this one. Although my guess is that if you read this one you’ll want to look into his other material. I know I do.