Hey guys!! Another SPFBO review is ready!!
So, I picked this up without knowing anything about it other than the length (because I have to screen all my entries for length to make sure they qualify) and the cover, which gave me some island vibes. Given those two things I had thought I was getting a story similar to something like Where the Waters Turn Black by Benedict Patrick, something short and sweet kind of folklore story. Yah, no. This is a condensed epic fantasy. It’s like a concentrated version of a 700 page story down to under 300. If you really like epic fantasy but can’t always finish them or feel daunted by the chonkiness of some of them maybe give this one a try.
So, this opens up with two people finishing up a dungeon raid and they’re looking for stuff to salvage and sell back on the market. In this world, dungeon raiding is common place. You can set up and build your own dungeons to do that you can choose your own minions from various marketplace sellers for a pretty high cost. It takes money to be a dungeon master. This book has got just a touch of Orconomics vibes in that there are guilds and rules, laws, and regulations applying to dungeon building and raiding. So those two guys come across a bunch of very broken minions. The succubus is near dead, the skeleton is missing pieces, and the zombie has some kind of rot or something and he’s decaying away. They are essentially valueless and should be left there, but one of them was like “we can’t just leave them here to die alone.” So, that caught my attention since I’ve got a thing for broken, lost, and forgotten animals.
So, after that we hit a BUNCH of POVs very, very fast. Within the first ten percent of the book I believe I was introduced to about 7-9 different characters and so I only got a couple pages with each of them. Normally this kind of whirlwind introduction to characters would make me DNF. I really prefer to have time to sink my teeth into characters and get to know them more rather than a rapid fire approach with each character just getting a couple pages before we move on. That said, each of these characters was really different, they don’t follow the typical character types and so I was intrigued. I was intrigued enough to say, well, let me just read each one of these perspectives again to see if i want to keep going… and I just kept doing that until I finished the book, LOL.
There are so many characters I won’t go into them all, but my favorites were Zet, who was a zombie minion of Gabe’s. He’s smarter than Gabe and starts to show extraordinary abilities and go beyond what a minion should be able to do. I also liked Gabe, although it was his storyline that really kept me intrigued, he can be kind of an idiot, lol. There was a character named Beedle who was on the ship carrying the boatload of crazy mages to the island to go usurp what power and items they could. I wouldn’t say Beedle was a ‘nice’ character but his storyline was fascinating and a bit brutal at points. It created a nice counterweight to some of the more comedic POVs.
The world building was intense and there was so much packed into this story and yet I never felt like I was wading through over-exposition. If anything, I wanted to know more about almost everything, lol. It’s probably my biggest complaint is that things went really quickly and I could have done with like 50-75 more pages to just expand on the world building, some of these characters and their relationships, etc. However, that’s one of the best kind of criticisms I can give — give me more, please, lol.
Overall I do recommend this, it’s got a little bit of a wonky start with a lot being thrown at you at once but it does all come together and I really enjoyed how complex it was in such a condensed format. Kudos!