Bailey’s writing is clean and very readable, though his highly detailed descriptions and historically accurate measurements (such as the use of “one hundred eighty parts” to mean 10 minutes) slow the story. The familiar narrative is expanded more by Noah’s family arguments and Malluch’s men partying and scheming in Enoch than by action or plot twists. The setting is fleshed out with both historical fact and vivid imagination: an altar in debauched Enoch is littered with bones, its streets are full of drunks, and its thieves are torn apart by lions.
Bailey often relies on narration to describe characters’ thoughts and feelings. However, the dialogue is fluid and evocative, showing both the warmth and kindness of Noah’s family and the suspicious, anxious nature of Malluch’s cohorts. Malluch’s conflicted lieutenant, Shechem, is particularly well drawn. The frequent scenes and mentions of violent death, sexual assault, and forced prostitution—with men, women, and children as victims—will feel incongruous to anyone expecting a G-rated Bible story, but readers looking for a grimdark fantasy novel based loosely on a familiar legend will find this hits all the expected notes.
Takeaway: This bloodthirsty sword-and-sandal novel based on the tale of Noah’s ark will appeal to fans of darker epic fantasy.
Great for fans of Glen Cook’s Black Company series, Joe Abercrombie.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+