Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Barrow (The Barrow, #1)” as Want to Read:
The Barrow (The Barrow, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt

The Barrow

(The Barrow #1)

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,320 ratings  ·  197 reviews
Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this stand-alone fantasy novel with series potential. Set in the world of the Eisner-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fable
Paperback, 587 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Pyr (first published January 1st 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Barrow, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Mark Smylie Apologies that I missed your question until today. Yes, I've been working on the sequel, but it's been taking a bit longer than expected. With any luc…moreApologies that I missed your question until today. Yes, I've been working on the sequel, but it's been taking a bit longer than expected. With any luck it will be finished this summer and then out next year. Thank you!(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Mark Smylie
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.42  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,320 ratings  ·  197 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Barrow (The Barrow, #1)
mark monday
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it
this heavy tome apparently weighs 1.7 pounds. here's how I would sum up its parts:

0.5 pound Dungeons & Dragons treasure-hunting adventure
+ 0.8 pound dense, George RR Martin-style details
+ 0.2 pound spiky, Joe Abercrombie-style snark
+ 0.2 pound extremely nasty hardcore porn
1.7 pound slab epic fantasy

if you love the so-called "grimdark" subgenre of epic fantasy, then this is probably a 4 or 5 star book for you and you should run out and buy it immediately. run, nerd, run! well I suppose dark epic
Holly (Holly Hearts Books)
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, own
Even though this was dirtier than a frat boys shower mat, it was a SOLID fantasy and I freaking loved it. Watch my full reaction to this book in my reading vlog!

Personal rating: 4.5
mark monday
7th grade in South Bend, Indiana was a good year. I felt pretty top of my game, things were easy, people seemed to love me, and me & my best friend Marc had stopped being enemies and had returned to our bromance. I had heard from my cousins that there was this evil game called "Dungeons & Dragons" that they swore they would never play because it was, I suppose, evil. since they preferred games like "tv tag" and "freeze tag" I realized that Dungeons & Dragons must actually be pretty cool and when ...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

UPDATED: International Giveaway of THE BARROW running from 2/17 to 2/24, no geographical restrictions

Before we begin, I feel I should make it known that this book is not for the faint of heart. If you know you'll feel uncomfortable with things like brutal violence, ear-bendingly foul language, and extremely graphic sex, then you may wish to reconsider having a go at this ... espec
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The Barrow proved to be an unusual and enjoyable read. It had the familiar feel of a grimdark epic fantasy tale while also managing to feel like a straight up horror story at times.

On the surface this tale followed a disparate group of adventurers as they indulged in a bit of treasure hunting and grave robbing! Below the surface we got a glimpse of the complicated politics and religions of the Middle Kingdoms.

The characters were a well drawn and interesting bunch. I liked a few of them, but it i
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-epic
There is definitely a new trend in epic fantasy, one that I first encountered late last year with The Iron Wolves by Andy Remic. It's a trend towards a darker, more mature sort of epic fantasy, one that reaches deep into the genre's pulp sword-and-sorcery roots, but which refuses to hold back on the sex and the violence. It certainly contains elements of grimdark, especially the trend towards anti-heroes, but it chooses to smirk rather than scowl along with the reader.

It doesn't take long for Th
5/19/14 -I got a chance to interview Mark Smylie and ask him about the sexual nature of the story, his take on some of the more controversial scenes, and more. Read it at Fantasy Review Barn

You know those prologues that are long info dumps full of information that won’t have anything to do with the story until the halfway point of the book; at which point you have inevitably forgotten the characters introduced within and therefore miss the important revelation until after you reread the fucking
Mike (the Paladin)
Well, this isn't too bad. It's going to be sort of a been there, done that got the t-shirt for some of you, it ws for me.

Of late "gritty" and "dark" fantasy has become all the "rage". So the shelves are now running over with books that have covers in shades of gray, dark brown and ochre red. They often have one or more characters in worn leathers with savage looking swords and maybe some magic user types.

This is one of those and like a few other books I've picked up lately when you open the book
Lea | That_Bookdragon
I'm gonna end up DNF-ing this one. It could have been interesting but it's really not for me. ...more
Greg (adds 2 TBR list daily) Hersom
This books is full of disgusting, perverted, miscreants, who would just as soon cut you as not if you got in their way. It's full of fighting, vigorous sexual intercourse, and, devil-worshiping all through it. One should be ashamed to enjoy the likes of The Barrow.
So I stayed-up to finish it last night.
Wish I could go have a beer with Erim and Blackheart to see if they would include me on their next misadventure. Awesome read. Well done Mr. Smylie. You're a sick b@$+@rd, but wel
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Better than I expected and better than the ratings make it seem.

At first glance at the cover and blurb for Mark Smylie’s prose debut The Barrow, you’ll notice that something sets it apart from a significant portion of recent fantasy. There are no warring states, no fight for the throne. There is no greater evil or battle between light and dark. The Barrow, at its heart, is a treasure hunt – an adventure. Sure, it’s got fae and curses, a band of anti-heroes
Matt Brady
I didn't enjoy this much. Part of it is my fault. I used to love fantasy, but over the years that seems to have faded away. Not in any condescending "oh I only read REAL literature now" way, but my tastes have definitely changed, and it's been a good long while since I really enjoyed a fantasy novel. I still find myself jonesing for a good one every now and then, but that craving doesn't get satisfied much these days. So take that into account.

But I'm not taking all of the blame. I did have some
May 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Oh this book. Where to begin? Well, I tried, I truly did. For a book that would go on endlessly about the most random and irrelevant topics then not even give a background or understanding of the characters. And they could have been an amazing set of characters if we could have been given a chance to know them, to care for them and understand them. Rather than feeling detached and confused. I can sympathize and adore the most heartless characters but I need the author to let me know who they are ...more
A treasure hunting expedition goes horribly wrong when Stjepan Black-Heart steals from the Nameless cults. Violence and horror befalls the group in one of the most thrilling prologues I've ever read. The survivors escape with an even bigger prize than they had ever expected: a map to the Barrow, wherein lies a priceless sword. The journey to the barrow is dangerous and the barrow itself is more so, but Black-Heart and his people are willing—only, the pesky map gets cursed and is lost in the proc ...more
Jack +Books & Bourbon+
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
As soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I knew that The Barrow was going to be one of my "must read next!" books. I'd been on a kind of self-imposed fantasy hiatus for a while after finishing "The Wheel of Time" and the newest of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, along with Joe Abercrombie's books, and was waiting for the right book to pull me back into my favorite genre. And holy crap! What a good choice this was!

As for a proper review...honestly there's not a lot I can say about The
Blodeuedd Finland
Nov 21, 2013 marked it as dnf
I just can't go on. Why torment myself with a book that I will not like more than ok anyway...

Reasons for DNFing it:
I read 200 pages, from those pages all I remember is...someone died. They thought about F**'ing, they f***ed, a LOT of erect peens, honestly I was swimming in erect peens. I read romance but here were more. Incest. Perversions and more erect peens. I guess it was meant to be all dark and gritty and yes it was but all I can think of is that damn, so many erect peens. I want a story.
Writing 4/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 4.5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 4/5

Overall enjoyment 4.5/5

Summing up for experienced fantasy readers I would say that this book is a combination of Malazan Books of the Fallen by Steven Erikson in terms of world building and Joe Abercrombie in terms of grittiness; and, in both world building and grittiness, Mark Smylie is as good as both those huge names and goes even further with elements of provocative sexuality. This book is a major investment as it will immerse you
Somehow, some way, Smylie did the incredible. He made all of the book’s flaws its many incredible strengths, and that’s what makes The Barrow so wonderful. This novel is intense, and gritty, and uncomfortable, and full of blood, cursing, and sex, with characters that are both wonderful and disgusting in the same breath. It is a book with an epic, well-realized, fantastic world so beautifully done, but also just as broken and battered as the people who inhabit it. The Barrow is a book of contrast ...more
Ned Lud
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fantastic read! A very explicit read! Would love to get my hands on the graphics...
John Margaritsanakis
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was an unexpected, excellent read.

Very few fantasy books are as explicit in the situations they describe as The Barrow. Its content is often highly sexualized, its violence rarely less than gory and brutal, the plot resolves fast often with major characters dead.

And yet for all that it doesn't rely on cheap gimmicks to deliver its thrills. The plot is robust, detailed and intricate so that each of the other elements fit right into it rather than be there to fill the pages; this isn't grimd
Mar 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
If I was being facile (moi? jamais!), I might describe The Barrow as the HBO adaptation of a D&D module -- one of those longer ones, that is, with multiple sections intended to fill a whole campaign.

The book opens with a raid on a lost temple that, essentially, is the story of the cover of the 1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook, if everything had gone very, very badly. But Stjepan Black-Heart and the other survivors come out with a map that should lead them to the barrow of a long-dead wizard-ki
Twerking To Beethoven
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think this is, by far, the most sexually-graphic fantasy novel I've ever read. Also, there are plenty of beheadings, blood & guts. Alright, that said, I - being nothing but a wretched human being - love this sort of vileness so I am compelled to rate "The Barrow" five disgusting & filthy stars. ...more
Scott  Hitchcock
Jan 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf, grimdark
1.5* there were parts that were ok. The plot and characters just didn't interest me and the world was built around listing a lot of complicated names with no synergy. A lot of off center sex trying to cover up for the rest. ...more
Colleen Fauchelle
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I enjoyed this story at the beginning but it got much darker towards the end. It may have taken me most of the year but I did finish this story. I confess I didn't read the last 5%. ...more
Jan 15, 2014 added it
Shelves: arc, couldn-t-finish

Thank you Prometheus Books and edelweis for this advance copy for review.

I just could not finish this one. I thought the premise of this fantasy sounded great. I don’t think I’m particularly prudish in my reading nor am I all that squeamish about violence. I don’t go seeking extremely violent books, nor do I read erotica, but some gore and some kinky sex aren’t going to turn me off a book.

I can say without a doubt I’m a feminist and I really don’t have th
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
A strong prologue and finish saved it somewhat, but unfortunately that left 3/4ths of the book to go through.

Most of the reviews highlight the sex issue (it's a bit beyond my threshold), but I kind of figured that going in. The real back-breaker for me however, was the pacing issues. After the introductions, the cast goes on a long trek stopping at various points. You'd think it'd be a great time to do some nice characterization, but you don't really understand the characters any better at the e
Dec 14, 2016 marked it as to-read
Started this last night, not sure if its worth the time to read it. Felt like I was reading a book 2, especially with the way its written.
Selim Ahm
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry...I just was soooo slow. Filthy and wonderful in the ways of other things, but so terribly slow...DNF, I couldn't bring myself to want to pick it back up and finish it. ...more
Sajal  Khan
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Definitely one of the must read fantasy novel of 2014. Mark Smylie has written a terrific novel.If you are looking for a tradition fantasy book this ain't it. The novel is very gripping and contains all sorts of violence, rape, prostitution, extreme gore, sex and lots of swearing. After reading the complete book, still trying to figure out whether the protagonist, Stjepan Black-Heart(awesome name) is a hero, anti-hero or somewhere in between.

The book is divided i
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2)
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master, #1)
  • The Shadows Between Us
  • Pickard County Atlas
  • Apprentice Quest (Ozel the Wizard #1)
  • Before the Ruins
  • Scourge of the Betrayer (Bloodsounder's Arc, #1)
  • Warsworn  (Chronicles of the Warlands, #2)
  • Tiana: The Stolen Jewel
  • Warlord  (Chronicles of the Warlands, #3)
  • The Long Way Down (Daniel Faust, #1)
  • Contact Front (Drop Trooper #1)
  • Lamentation (Psalms of Isaak, #1)
  • Kinetic Strike (Drop Trooper #2)
  • Eight Will Fall
  • Heart of Glass (A-List, #8)
  • A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
See similar books…
While The Barrow marks his first published prose novel, Mark Smylie has worked as a writer, illustrator, editor, and publisher for over a decade.

His epic military fantasy comic book, Artesia, was first published by Sirius Entertainment in 1999, and then later by Archaia, a publishing company that he founded. He was nominated for the Russ Manning Award for Best Newcomer in 1999, and for an Eisner A

Other books in the series

The Barrow (2 books)
  • Black Heart

Related Articles

  Whether you love the horror genre or just tiptoe into it ahead of Halloween, we have book picks for every level of scared you want to...
453 likes · 281 comments