Glad you’re enjoying it!
I actually don’t find these books all that dark. They’re violent, but there are no drawn out scenes of gratuitous torture, no sexual violence at all. All of the characters have a high degree of self-actualization, and the narrative respects their dignity. I never had my heart in my mouth or got a queasy feeling like some other grimdark stuff gets. (Case in point: I recently started the first novel in Anna Stephens’s Godblind trilogy and had to stop reading at a particular extremely rough scene of human sacrifice.)
The final battle scene in the first novel is pretty awesome. And then the second book has another setpiece battle sequence that is maybe the most purely entertaining such scene I’ve ever read–darkly (and hilariously) comic and gruesome and exhilarating. I’ve just finished book 2 and have started book 3. All of the characters are just so great and have such meaty arcs, even while absolutely retaining their sense of self. My favorite character is probably Purna (or maybe Choplicker), but they all really grow on you. I still remain floored by how progressive the social structures are in these books in a way that is somehow subtle enough you almost don’t notice it; characters are male, female, gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever, and it’s just not a thing. People are who they are and are lusty (or not) and like to fuck who they like to fuck and why would that be a thing?
I actually emailed the author (Jesse Bullington–Alex Marshall is a pseudonym) to express my admiration and received a thoughtful and grateful reply. He seems like a great guy. I happened to mention my love of Nathan Balingrud’s work and Bullington both agreed and mentioned that they’re both North Carolina chums and hang out on occasion, which is pretty awesome.
I’d love to see a sorcerer showdown between Hoartrap and Bayaz.