The Enterprise of Death


Author: Jesse Bullington
Genre(s): Historical, Fantasy, Horror
Publisher: Orbit
Available Formats: Trade paperback
Description: As the witch-pyres of the Spanish Inquisition blanket Renaissance Europe in a moral haze, a young African slave finds herself the unwilling apprentice of an ancient necromancer. Unfortunately, quitting his company proves even more hazardous than remaining his pupil when she is afflicted with a terrible curse. Yet salvation may lie in a mysterious tome her tutor has hidden somewhere on the war-torn continent.
She sets out on a seemingly impossible journey to find the book, never suspecting her fate is tied to three strangers: the artist Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, the alchemist Dr. Paracelsus, and a gun-slinging Dutch mercenary. As Manuel paints her macabre story on canvas, plank, and church wall, the young apprentice becomes increasingly aware that death might be the least of her concerns.
I was a huge fan of Bullington’s previous book, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, (the story follows two sadistic brothers as they murder and pillage their way through medieval Europe), because his use of brutality, humor, and sheer unadulterated perversion was throughly addictive. It spent nearly a month on my bedside table, and I’m pretty sure I must’ve read it at least two or three times. Sure, the bashed in skulls, roving cannibals, f-bombs, and copious amounts of sex and vomit (yep, Bullington finds a way to combine the two) may not be for everyone, but I honestly fell in love with those two dastardly bastards after reading the first few pages.  
So with that said, I was very excited when The Enterprise of Death finally came out. I honestly thought that it would be somewhat similar murderous romp through Europe (one that would give me plenty of nightmares), but instead it was a meandering collection of flashbacks that left me feeling rather unattached. I never felt as connected with Awa (the African Slave) as I did with the Brothers Grossbart, and Bullington honestly had difficulty with his timing. The beginning (or what feels like it) stretches on for nearly 250 pages, despite the fact that the book is only around 470 pages long. After that point, I expected the story to progress a little more quickly, but it never did. There were no interesting plot twists and no unique character developments–it actually felt like Bullington wanted this story to be much longer, but his publishers pushed him to cut it drastically. The ending just suddenly pops up, and is rather unexpected (and not in a satisfying way either). 
Overall, I was disappointed. And although I will still give Bullington the benefit of the doubt on his next book, The Enterprise of Death gets pretty low marks from me. 

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