Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington

a review by Steve Cameron

Publisher: Orbit
Year: 2011

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition. But arrive it did, and Renaissance Europe was held in its vice-like grip. Awa, a young African slave to an Egyptian woman. Both are captured, and become unwilling (and on occasions, unwitting) slaves to a necromancer.

Attempts to escape are futile, as spells and curses bind her. That is, until the day when he gives her freedom. There is, of course, a catch. He is leaving the physical plane, but will return in ten years to reclaim her, body and soul. Her only chance of redemption may lie in one of his texts he has hidden somewhere in the world, as he cannot take them with him beyond the physical world.

Awa becomes friends with a painter turned mercenary, a lesbian gunsmith turned brothel madam, and a cast of others, living, dead and undead. Together they embark on an adventure, in search of salvation, not only for Awa but the others also.

The blurb on the cover describes this as “Tarantino crossed with Rabelais”, and I must confirm that as being accurate. It’s dark, very dark. Macabre and profane, taboos broken left, right and centre. It’s everything I’m not, as a writer, and I wasn’t sure whether I would like this book or not simply from the blurbs and reviews on the cover.

I loved it.

Yes, it has blood, perversion and cannibalism (and worse), but it’s also very, very funny. Completely tongue in cheek the whole time, with immensely likeable and believable characters (within the realms of fantasy, anyway), it comfortably crosses genres between horror, fantasy, historical fiction, and comedy. I simply couldn’t put this book down.

Bullington is a writer whose work I’ll be actively seeking out. If his previous books are anything like this one, then count me as a major fan.