The book centers around a sort of feudal fantasy world, where guns mix with magic-ish swords, and King Herod and other dastardly villains of history plot against Merlin and his brotherhood, who seek to defend the righteous and the innocent. A couple of innocent girls are taken captive by a coalition of villains early on, and we meet a roving cast of heroes who seek to bring down these evildoers.
Nelson has a real gift for action scenes. His action sequences are quick and brutal and carefully plotted out; as the characters run from arrows or crouch to prepare a shot or disarm (often literally) a roomful of weapon carrying warriors, you will feel your breath pound in your chest. It helps that Nelson has painted a brutal world, full of quasi-feudal warriors in service to various degrees of corrupt royalty, a world that only gets more corrupt and darker as the work goes on.
However, the work loses momentum in the dialogue and the character development elements. Nelson uses a pseudo-Elizabethan constructed kind of slang, but it never stops feeling formal and slips into the constructions and the humor of actual slang. I think most readers will have issues connecting with the characters because of the way they talk. I’d have liked to see the slang toned down to a few different phrases. I was especially disappointed because some of the phrases seemed familiar, so I Googled “Ai cully” and a few other phrases and found out they are common slang from Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower.”
Female characters were also a bit thin, with the most important one being a prisoner throughout the majority of the book, although, there was one wicked villainess. The male characters were developed as warriors, but I never quite felt like they were well-rounded, strong characters outside of the battlefield—most of the book focuses on their skills in battle and keeps returning to these gory action scenes.
While this was a fun read for action–it’s obvious that Rory Nelson has potential as a talented writer as shown by his carefully crafted battle scenes, which are known to be difficult to write– I would like to see him bring this unique story concept to its full potential by developing his characters and make them more multi-dimensional along with original dialog to give them voice. Again, “The Brotherhood of Merlin” is an intriguing twist of Arthurian legend fantasy with science fiction elements with a lot of battle action.