SPFBO 8: A Bitter Drink Azalea Forrest

Posted by

Allllrighty folks, it’s time for another Weatherdrifter review! I went into this one cold, and to be brutally honest, I was looking for cuts. The cover did nothing to inspire me to read this and despite my best efforts not to judge a book by its cover, it’s hard to get excited about a book when all you know is the cover and title and you’re not a huge fan.

It’s a good thing I read it though because this was great.

Rowan is a Dahlseid, which is a type of plant person. They tend to be a peaceful vegetarian people and he’s been working as an ambassador among the other races, which are the traditional fairytale races, elves, dwarves and humans with centaurs being the big baddies in this world. I wouldn’t say Rowan super loves humans or his job, but it is what it is. He finds ways of amusing himself by dallying with all the lords and ladies of the court — he’s a bisexual plant person, okay? He really enjoys the court and all the genitals therein. He enjoys needling his enemies at the court, too. There’s a lot of politics going on and that’s kind of the glue of the story. People may be plotting against him and his country and he needs to figure it out before it’s too late. No reason wine can’t be involved, though.

The world itself felt old school fantasy with taverns instead of bars, horses instead of cars, etc etc. The magic here is also kind of old school but it does have limitations and guidelines/rules. Ether is a finite resource and if you use too much too fast you can kill yourself. I wouldn’t say there was anything ground breaking about the world or setting but it was still engaging. There’s something warm and comforting coming back to a nostalgic feel and yet being a new story. It takes a deft touch to make this work and not wind up boring the reader.

There are a bunch of POVs, but you know who each of them are more or less as they are introduced as POVs, so it’s not jarring and it doesn’t drag the pacing down. I felt all the characters had a voice of their own and was distinct enough that I knew which character I was reading and never got confused or lost. A female dwarf was introduced almost a third of the way through the book and I just really enjoy the fact that I got that perspective. I’m sure that I’ve read some other female dwarf POV along the way other than Cheery Littlebottom from Discworld… I’ve had to at some point… but I really can’t recall.

One of critiques I have though is for the villain character. I will often harp on about villains that don’t have enough depth since mustache twirling over the top villains are one of my peeves. I wouldn’t call Dietrich flat, or unbelievable, but I would have wanted a lot more than what I got as far as depth of character if a villain is going to make it on page as a POV. He ran the evil/mad scientist trope, and quite honestly what he was doing was horrific. I wouldn’t call it gruesome or gory, there wasn’t a terrible amount of on page torture, but you’re aware that’s what he’s doing. He’s using Ether experiments on the elves and turning them kind of into Zombies that he can control. I’ll also just give a shout out to the gender neutral mad scientist in this LOL. Not exactly a great person, but a gender neutral character exists in this world and it doesn’t appear to be a “thing” that people care about, it just is — same with Rowan’s sexuality.

The writing itself was great, the ease of the prose got me to sink into this story quickly. I can’t recall ever being annoyed with a long info dump or feeling like I needed to re-read something for clarity. The dialogue came off as natural and fell into the background as I think dialogue should — if I’m ‘noticing’ your dialogue that’s usually bad, it means it’s sticking out to me as unnatural, stiff, exaggerated or just something’s off. I only notice dialogue in a good way if there’s a lot of particularly witty banter that I’m appreciating.

Anywho. What a fucking surprise this book was, and I hope if this interested you you’ll check it out.


  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 13/15
  • World Building: 13/15
  • Writing: 12/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 12/15
  • Enjoyment: 8/10

Final Score: 82/100