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The Black Guard

(The Long War #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,810 ratings  ·  154 reviews
The launch of an heroic fantasy saga set in the lands of Ro, an epic landscape of mountain fortresses, vast grasslands, roiling ocean and slumbering gods.

The Black Guard is the first in a major new fantasy series, The Long War, set in an invented world somewhat similar to medieval Europe in terms of technology, heraldry and ethics. Magic features in the world, but is rare
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Head of Zeus (first published July 1st 2013)
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A.J. Smith Plenty of swearing, but not much sex in the Black Guard. Though your question had no implicit judgement, I feel I should reassure you that there is pl…morePlenty of swearing, but not much sex in the Black Guard. Though your question had no implicit judgement, I feel I should reassure you that there is plenty of both in subsequent books. Plus a load of violence... and spiders, there are spiders.

Benedict Heuff Yes every chapter is told by a different character though you do often return to previous characters or the people surrounding them

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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  1,810 ratings  ·  154 reviews

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Start your review of The Black Guard (The Long War, #1)
The reviewer gazed through the large cavern. In front of him towered the Book Giant on his throne made up of book shelves. As the Giant leaned down to him the reviewer could see the mighty chain around his neck crafted of the ten tomes of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
On his left arm the creature had a tatoo of the One Ring, on his right turned the Wheel of Time. Further down the giant wore a Pandora bracelet consisting of 5 A Song of Ice and Fire books leaving two spots on the bracelet painful
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, war, ancient-gods
To give it to you short and sweet? I freaking loved The Black Guard.

Now, on to the ramblings...

What a set we have here… we have the Clerics of various colors (Red, Purple, Black, Gold, Brown, Blue)- each with their own set of rules. Some live a life of abstinence, other drink and shag their way through life as much as they want. Gives for some entertaining dialogue in parts!

We have the assassins (Al Hasim, Rham Jas Rami) who are a joy, truly! Then there are the Seven Sisters (powerfu
Craig Slater
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Black Guard is one of those books you pick up and know by the weight of it that it is a fantasy book, a proper one that you could kill a noisy redneck on the train with, and carry on quietly reading.

It is basically a clever, twisted tale of weak minded people in positions of power (a King for example) being manipulated by unsavory factions, that are not quite what they may appear to be. It’s a tale of how that will affect the lives of various people, and how they may react; perhaps causing
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-epic
Although it does suffer from some pacing issues (a great start, a bit of a slog, a fantastic middle, and a rushed finale), this delivered on everything it promised. The storytelling was strong, and the world-building both deep and thorough. This isn't grimdark in any sense, but it is a realistic world where people have needs, where they get hurt, and where they need the escape of illicit pleasures.

It's become increasingly rare to find admirable, likeable protagonists in the genre, so it was refr
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an exceptional fantasy read and given that this was his debut novel, Mr AJ Smith should be given a standing ovation!

The story flowed perfectly and there was not a single moment in this book that felt slow, boring or bogged down with dialogue. The characters were interesting and there was a nice interrelation between many of the POVs.

I can't wait to read the next book in this series and I would recommend it to all fantasy fans.

Forget GRRM and his lovechild Rothefuss, who cant seem to put
Paul Dunlop
Aug 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Ah this has potential, but is a bit of a way off being a bona fide fantasy classic. Still for 99p I cant complain too much. Its sold as a grimdark novel but is actually pretty much a classic Fantasy novel with groups of disparate people coming together to fight a greater foe. The start doesn't show that but at the end, its what pretty much happens.

Its a bit rough round the edges. The language is a bit terse and functional in places. Short sentences that explain things as an aside in almost a te
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it

The Black Guard by A. J. Smith is a debut that is perhaps the author's tribute to J.R.R. Tolkein & other paragons of world-building. That's the cornerstone of this wonderful debut, the world that's lushly described within: with gorgeous maps, glossaries & much more. The Black Guard doesn't just stop at world-building with a large POV cast & a story format that is very reminiscent of Tolkien's trilogy.

The characterization while focussing on most of the good guys also a bit characteristically si
kartik narayanan
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read the full review at Fantasy Faction

The Long War series is an epic fantasy/dark fantasy quadrilogy which deals with courtroom intrigue, politics, magic and gods in a world similar to ours but set during the medieval period. It consists of the following books: The Black Guard, The Dark Blood, The Red Prince and The World Raven. These four books have a complexity and style that is a mix of George R.R. Martin and Steven Eriksson with a dash of H. P. Lovecraft.

Read the full review at Fantasy Fact
Another DNF...I really don't have any luck recently in picking up new books...

What's wrong with this book? Well, the writing style is bad. There is also plenty of swearing...while I am not really very sensitive about it usually, it just got on my nerves in this book, since it was bad writing plus swearing...oh, and for the first 15% of the book or so, the only characters I got to meet were male...again, normally that's not an issue with me too, I can wait...but it was just male characters talkin
Ned Lud
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5*. Hard to believe this is a debut! And a remarkable one at that! How did I not know the story had a Viking influence? Really enjoyed this. And to think this was one of my DNFs. Go figure...
Elliott  Austin
Sep 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Did not finish at 90 pages. Horrible writing combined with bad pacing and bad characters
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grimdark, fantasy
An abrupt ending kept this from five stars, yet I highly recommend book #1 of this series by A.J. Smith. I'm looking forward to staying in his world and imagination some more. His characters are multi-faceted, especially Bronwyn, and I have a feeling this is just the beginning, as the Seven Sisters are only now starting to unfold their diabolical plans. Comparisons to Tolkien are not spot-on as those to Steve Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, and Gemmell-Award winner, John Gwynne (That Faithful and the ...more
Fr. Jedidiah Tritle
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
More and more, it seems to me that the ability to write beautiful prose while also telling a tremendous story is abandoned to authors like Tolkien or Hobb--in favor of one or the other. However, some few authors succeed at both (like Gwynne, Staveley, or Rothfuss). So, after recently finishing a great story with pathetically bad prose, The Black Guard was quite a welcomed surprise. The writing is quite good, even very good at its best, but never distracting at it's worst. The story, while certai ...more
Russell Brown
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant start to what looks like it's going to turn out to be an amazing series. Already started the next one. ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably good .debut novel. Hopefully the next novel "The Dark Blood" continues at this high level. An amazingly crafted world ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing

So ive finished this bundle of well interconnected words after weeks of hacking away at its pages.This was due not to a lack of interest but from having to be interrupted from the in depth journey i was clearly sharing by mundane task of everyday life.

As an aspiring writer, i must comment that this book should be used as a fine example of how third person limited should be utilized. It is flaunted about with skill akin to the assassin Rhas Jam who ive come to depend on about as much as the c
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, maps, ebook
“They’ll just assume we’ll go into the wilds and lie low. The idea of us going to Tiris is so stupid it won’t occur to them.” “So, our stupidity is what’s going to keep us alive?” “Precisely … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Engaging epic fantasy. Good world building. Touted for being Lovecraftian, but I didn’t feel it. In fact, Smith’s supernatural dimension felt more organic to his world. Prose was easy to read. A little humor.

Numerous non sequiturs: “He was flabby, with little muscle, thoug
Robin Carter
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
2013 seems to be a year for Debut fantasy novels for me, and they have all been fantastic books so far (Luke Scull, Stella Gemmell, Nathan Hawke), so how does the Black Guard stand up against those other debuts?

Like The City by Stella Gemmell it took me a little while to get into this book, maybe its the risk of a debut author landing such a hefty tome in my lap, at 640 pages its a serious expression of trust from the publisher Head of Zeus, and an announcement that they think they have a real w
Paul Rossi
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When a friend at HoZ sent me a review copy of this particular book; I was sceptical. Fantasy was rapidly becoming something that I had grown weary of and the allure of Dan Abnett's work in the thirty-first millennium of a certain other universe was pulling me hard into science-fiction again after the SW EU derailed. But what the hell, right? They were nice enough to send it to me so the least I could do was give it a whirl.

I won't copy and paste the preface of the book. You can turn it up with a
Stephen Ursell
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Black Guard is an excellent novel and a riveting first installment in The Long War fantasy series created by debut author AJ Smith. The book is set in the fatastical lands of Ro, Karesia and Ranen. I was plunged headlong into a believable, highly detailed world of thriving cities, sprawling landscapes, wars, politics, multi-ordered warrior priests, Kings, enchantresses, squires, knights, giants and gods.

The Black Guard starts off confidently and moves forward with real purpose. Smith clever
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Pleasantly surprised by how good this book was. It isn't from a major publisher, and I've never heard of it outside of a list on this site, but I have to say that I really liked it. It's actually the first book in a while where I was disappointed when I was within 25% of finishing it because I wanted more to read. I think that the viewpoint changes were well done, as the author tended not to switch to someone unless they had already been introduced, so it was easy to keep track of who they were ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
So the cover blurb touted this book as a cross between GRR Martin and Lovecraft which I kind of snorted at when I read it, but hey I picked it up so you could say it worked. And if I had to pick a description of the book the blurb would be very apt.
Varying races of men/creatures, political machinations, some horror elements, plenty of action and adventure. While the Lovecraft angle isn't developed fully yet the method used to integrate the mythos into the story is interesting and the author did
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm being very honest when I say this book puts Smith in the same league as George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, with one exception...Smith has finished his series. After reading book one of four, I am completely hooked and I am so glad I already have book two, because waiting is not something I do. ...more
Barry Cosgrave
Jul 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Really disappointing.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
The Black Guard by A.J. Smith is a book one finds if he digs through Goodreads hours on end, searching for more fantasy books to be devoured. However, it is no hidden treasure.

The book constantly hovers between being a good one and a bad one, leaning more towards the latter than the former. Despite it's flaws however, it was still interesting enough to read till the end.

Plot: The story is about the long war of the Giants. Gods in their own right who have lived thousands of years and now have ret
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This could have been a whole lot better if it had fewer points of view. The first seven chapters introduce seven (main) characters, some we don’t really get to know at all until they disappear from view (mostly because they are, in some cases thankfully, killed). And it doesn’t end there. Chapter eight brings you back to a character you already know, but (much) later on in the novel you are introduced to more pov’s. This is such a shame, because not many characters get enough “screen time” for m ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Black Guard by A.J. Smith, is a book I picked up while browsing through John Gwynne’s social media. A fantasy novel that is possibly a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. In this novel, the city of Ro Canarn has been invaded by the Knights of the Red. Influenced by the Karesian Witches of the Seven Sisters for The Long War designed to destroy worship of the Gods of Men.
The execution of the Duke of Canarn, commanded by the King, brought death, chaos and tyranny to its people. I
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
As I type this, we’re past the midpoint of 2013, which is shaping up to be a great year for Epic Fantasy. When I started at the beginning of the year, like 2012, I had great hopes for the genre. There were some debut writers who I hoped would set a standard, but was generally disappointed by what I read.

I’m pleased to type that The Black Guard is an entertaining debut from an author I want to read more from. From the publicity blurb:

The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King's decree. The
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to receive a preview copy of unknown author A.J.Smiths first novel, The Black Guard; the first part of the new fantasy saga 'The Long War'. The book was already garnering some buzz, and, as a lover of all things fantastical, I couldn't wait to delve into this new world.

The first thing that struck me was it is a weighty tome, weighing in at near 600 pages (though this includes world maps plus a gazetteer of notable characters and creatures). That being said, the novel is split
Jawad Khan
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This debut book by A.J. Smith was clearly inspired by some of the known great like martine or tolkien with a healthy dash of abercmobie thrown in and in doing so the author created something that vies to reach their greatness and with great effort too.
The story is uniquely written with the whole book divided into 2 parts and with different events described in first person by different point of views so that in vein of a song of ice and fire their are no main protagonists or even a proper band o
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Writing is the only thing I do that doesn't make me feel like I should be doing something else.

Fantasy author of The Long War. Owner of 24 goblins (one too many).

Other books in the series

The Long War (4 books)
  • The Dark Blood (The Long War, #2)
  • The Red Prince (The Long War, #3)
  • The World Raven (The Long War, #4)

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