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The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart Paperback – November 16, 2009
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The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
With liberal inclusion of vomit, gore and turnips, Bullington's bizarre debut follows two monstrous siblings across 1364 Europe and the Middle East as they seek ever-richer graves to rob. The Crusades, the papal schism and the Black Death all make appearances, as do the obligatory witches, priests and knights. In addition to robbing, torturing and murdering innocent peasants, the brothers dispatch demons and imitation popes while debating theology and the nature of mercy, e.g., finishing a victim off rather than leaving him for the crows. The mix of grimmer-than-Grimm fairy tale tropes, spaghetti Western dialogue (Yeah, can't suffer no traitorous churls to keep on bein traitorous) and medieval history is striking and often funny, but it may not be compelling enough to keep readers slogging along with the brothers' endless travels and copious letting of bodily fluids. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
When the Brothers Grimm published their celebrated folktales, critics took aim at the inclusion of disturbing material unsuitable for children. Modeled after the grimmest of the Grimm tales, Bullington’s debut about a pair of villainous medieval brothers throws aside any concerns for children from the first chapter, aiming instead at gross-out horror fans. Aside from plundering graves and waylaying strangers, Manfried and Hegel Grossbart’s one consuming interest is crossing plague-ridden fourteenth-century Europe to an imagined Egyptian palace, where their grandfather is hoarding stolen treasure. Along the way, the brothers cross paths with assorted brigands, witches, madmen, and fallen priests, robbing when expedient and killing where necessary. In one escapade, the Grossbarts incinerate the family of a neighboring farmer who mistreated them as children. In another, they befriend a priest who recounts his own horrific adventures during the Crusades. Bullington makes little attempt to cast his protagonists as sympathetic anti-heroes; the Grossbarts are cutthroats to the core. Yet Bullington’s masterfully engaging style marks him as a writer of considerable promise. --Carl Hays
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And while it does have that sort of Grimm's Fairy Tale vibe to it, which it seems to obviously be striving for, its overall horror though is amplified with the grotesque descriptions of sex and violence. Plus, on the historical side of things, the book is really missing the mark - particularly in the dialogue. There are some jarring anachronisms (like "truckin'") and just a general vernacular that doesn't work with the time period at all. With all the gore, it just gets repetitive after a while, too. I like the twin language of the brothers, but they just aren't easy characters to root for. While I don't hate them, I don't particularly like them either... It hooked me past my 50 page cutting off point, but I can't say that I am really enjoying it as I continue reading... it just drags on... and on...
And with a cast of characters this large, you would think at least one of them would be likable! Or even fun to hate, but none of them are developed enough to feel anything for them all! The perspective shifts a lot too, which just makes it harder to connect with any of them! And some of the shifts are mid-paragraph! Not just shifts that align with the chapters! In the end, with less than a hundred pages left, I am just setting this one aside - the gross imagery and few moments of humour between its awful characters and directionless plot are all adding up to me not caring about this at all. I like the cover a lot, but I really feel like I have been wasting my time struggling to get this far into it! What a disappointment!
That said, I'm about three-quarters through this book, and I'm not sure whether I'll even bother to finish it. The main characters, the "Brothers Grossbart", are thoroughly unlikeable. Ordinarily, that's not enough to make me put down a book.
The violence is constant and gross in the extreme; brains splashing out, entrails spilled, Bubonic-plague pustules oozing. Ordinarily, that won't make me put down a book.
There is a bit of explicit sex, of an extremely grotesque nature. Explicit sex; not a problem for me. (Though I could do without this particular instance of spell-driven sex between two thoroughly unwholesome characters.)
Profanity? Probably 10% of the words in this book are profane. That's not a problem for me.
The plot is rambling and full of odd and unwholesome monsters and demons, various and nasty, and I don't mind rambling plots if the ride is enjoyable.
Perhaps that last is the biggest problem for me; I'm not really enjoying this mucky, gore-ful, profane, strange tale. It's like a bad episode of the X-Files, set in the 14th century (or whatever year it's supposed to be), with a pair of crude oafs who fancy themselves on a grave-robbing quest blessed by the Virgin Mary Herself, and I get tired of reading five pages of them arguing philosophical fine points with each other in drunken broken English like a pair of brutal stoner hoboes, only to cease arguing when a new opportunity to commit mayhem arises.
It could be funny, but for me at least, it really isn't.