I was intrigued by this right away because of the cover, that’s a nice god damn cover. I read the blurb and it sounded like a fairly standard epic fantasy about going on a questing adventure. I was in the mood for one of those, it had a discounted audio if I had the cheap kindle version, so off I went.
This is a story about a girl trying to get her baby sister across a war torn land to the safety behind the Iron Gates. Her parents are dead and she needs an escort to take her through disputed lands that are riddled with battles. She headed to a place known as The Hollows, it’s an underground city that’s populated with those who have no where else to go. It’s dirty, it’s crime ridden, it’s dangerous, and it’s where you can find someone who knows how to swing an axe. It takes some convincing, but a giant of a man named Balak agreed to help Arda and her sister make it to safety. That’s basically the entirety of the plot, it’s a lot of exploring/walking and fighting bad guys they meet along the way.
I had a lot of difficulty latching onto the plot in a meaningful way because there wasn’t a lot of background to why these nations were fighting each other. I have no idea who the rulers were, what the cultures were like, why there are killing fields that were so bloody that there were pools of blood big enough that they ripple in the wind. That’s a lot of casualties, and if you’re going to be throwing away that kind of manpower there’s got to be a good reason, nations will eventually run out of people to send into war. There were bits and pieces of background info given, but nothing I could really sink my teeth into and engage with. In the blurb for the book it said it was based around Caucasian history and mythology, but I know nothing about that so I couldn’t tell you how closely it followed the myths. The magic was old school undefined mystical kind of magic, it did take a while for it to come into play, though. At first I thought this was going to be a low fantasy and I was slightly disappointed since I wanted some magic, but high fantasy elements played a bigger and bigger part as time went on.
I always like an odd couple pairing, and I did warm up to both of these guys as the story went on. Arda was a bit to naive at the start of the book, those kinds of characters tend to annoy me, but by the end she had matured and become more wise to the world. Balak goes through changes of his own where he lets down his walls and allows Arda in. He’s been a secluded solitary person for a while and it shows, he’s too gruff and angry and stubborn for me at the beginning but he got better for me as the story continued.
The narrative prose I thought was serviceable, it had a lot of similes and metaphors and for the most part I enjoyed it. However, the dialogue needs some work imho… much of it felt forced, stilted, or over-done. There were also certain words that got used over and over and it started to grate on me – I’m very sensitive to the overuse of a word, I pick up on it quickly and each time it’s repeated it gets under my skin. Pet peeves are what they are, so your mileage may vary there.
I feel like this story has a lot of potential and has good bones and structure to it. However, I think it needs an editing pass and maybe some beta readers for the next installment.
- Plot: 9/15
- Characters 10/15
- World Building: 9/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 12/15
- Originality: 10/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 5/10
Final Score: 65/100 or 3.25/5 on Goodreads