A great read.
The first in a new sword and sorcery series, "Tome Of The Undergates" is about a group of adventurers, led by a human named Lenk, who get hired to retrieve a powerful book stolen by demons which holds the power to threaten the planet. A motley crew indeed, our adventurers include four humans, a schict, and a dragon man, none of whom are necessarily admirable but all of whom are deeply flawed.
Sykes basically takes two large set pieces -- an opening battle and a closing battle, and connects the dots with a few scenes. The book is told from the POVs of his band of adventurers, whom we only come to know a little over the course of the book. Instead, the focus is on action and grit, both of which Sykes gives us in abundance. He's clearly a master of descriptive verbage, and some of that verbage might not work for those easily offended. But it does serve to make his battle scenes more realistic than most and it also makes them more powerful and effective at drawing you into the world he's creating.
His world building is strong but he can certainly do a lot more with it and the same can be said for the characters. I would have liked to see the character arcs developed a bit more. We get their backstories in bits and pieces, some not even given until the very end. And while these bits and pieces of world building and characterization are strong, they amount altogether to very little parts of the whole. We still have a lot to learn, but it's a small quibble because Sykes is in this for the long haul. He's already written a sequel, "Black Halo," which comes out in Spring 2011, and I'm sure we'll learn a lot more about these heroes and their world in the further adventures to follow.
A strong and entertaining story, Sykes invests his characters with distinct personalities and makes good use of humor. Despite their flaws, we like them, and we root for them, and it's a fun ride to join their journey. If you like adventure fantasy, you'll love this. Recommended. I look forward to more to come from Sykes in the future.