The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart: Oprah, pick this one!

fantasy book review Jesse Bullington The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart audiofantasy book reviews Jesse Bullington The Sad Tale of the Brothers GrossbartThe Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart follows the twin brothers Hegel and Manfried Grossbart. They live in a world full of demons and disease. The woods are full of spirits, and dark magic lurks in the shadowy places where men dare not go. Fortunately for the brothers, they are just as bad as or worse than any of the lot which lurks about the darkness of this world. They murder, steal, and generally wreak havoc wherever they go. Their sad tale is a tale of treachery, violence, stupidity, and a lot of vomit. They completely destroy the lives of everyone they come in contact with. The brothers have set their grave-robbing sights on the tombs of Egypt, and the reader is being brought along for the ride.

The Sad Tale is not a book I would recommend to many people. I would be too afraid that whoever I asked to read it may no longer want to associate with me. Jesse Bullington has worked very hard to be highly offensive in almost every way imaginable, and I loved every minute of it. The plot is fairly easy to see through. The brothers have a destination in mind and it’s no deductive stretch that they will eventually reach their goal. However, it’s how the Grossbarts interact with themselves and the other characters that makes The Sad Tale a truly entertaining read.

The constant bickering and jibing between the brothers provide a lot of comic relief. Their blasphemous religious discussions and their personal dictations on morality are quite entertaining. The brothers often try to out-swear each other, pushing the limits of even Grossbartian sensibilities.  If you are a religious person, I highly recommend you burn this book upon it entering your household. If you don’t want to burn things then just give it to someone you wish to have spend an eternity in hell. The mere possession of this book will quite likely taint your soul.

Now that you are probably not going to read the book, I will tell you that I haven’t been this impressed with a first release by an author since Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. The characters are all fascinating, and you can’t help but be interested in how things turn out. Actually, you hope they meet their demise in some spectacular and painful way; that’s not something you get to do in fantasy very often. I found very little to fault in The Sad Tale. The things that will keep you from enjoying this book are the things Bullington does intentionally. I would quite possibly give everything I own to see this listed on Oprah’s Book Club.

I listened to this on the audio release from Brilliance Audio. Christopher Lane is the voice actor and he does an incredible job. Having distinct voices for every character was essential to making this enjoyable in audio form. I was really impressed with Mr. Lane and will keep an eye out, or ear rather, for any other work he’s done.

The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart — (2009) Publisher: Hegel and Manfried Grossbart may notconsider themselves bad men — but death still stalks them through the dark woods of medieval Europe. The year is 1364, and the brothers Grossbart have embarked on a naïve quest for fortune. Descended from a long line of graverobbers, they are determined to follow their family’s footsteps to the fabled crypts of Gyptland. To get there, they will have to brave dangerous and unknown lands and keep company with all manner of desperate travelers — merchants, priests, and scoundrels alike. For theirs is a world both familiar and distant; a world of living saints and livelier demons, of monsters and madmen. The Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff September 2009 – September 2012) Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

View all posts by Justin Blazier (RETIRED)


  1. This review is hilarious, Justin.

  2. That would be so funny to see on O’s list.
    Great review, Justin. Even though I didn’t like the book, I’m always interested in a good review with an opposing opinion to mine.
    You have some very valid reasons for liking it that made me think twice.

  3. Justin- I almost forgot; since you like the Grossberts, you may want to check-out Ian Graham’s Monument

  4. It’s funny because I was very much expecting to not like the book. I just recently ripped on Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl for not having any likable characters to keep me engaged in the story…..this book changed all that. I kind of feel like a big fat hypocrite…lol Even in Abercrombie’s stuff you like those characters despite themselves, in The Sad Tale there is nothing to like about these two bastards, other than they are funny at times.

  5. Listening to this audiobook was a new experience for me: I recognized how GOOD it was, but it was so BAD that I couldn’t handle it!

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