“A miracle these hands, yes, but many were the people who had said that to look upon the blessings of the gods was to know their flaws and their pettiness.”
Many times, expectations are the worst deceivers. With this book, we have an author who’s been nominated for many prestigious awards, published by an amazing company that always manages to spring up great debuts, Angry Robots. Slap on a hooded man with ice in the background, and you have the makings to a highly anticipated book.
Thing is, none of those show up in here. Barely any ice, if I may add.
Merros is one of a half dozen POVs, sent up to map out the destroyed Blasted Lands. (He doesn’t even take a cartographer with him!) There, he is ambushed by these weird bear things that aren’t described. Just when death seems imminent, a shadowy individual comes to save them. Thus we get the man on the cover, Drusk. They follow the barbaric fighter to his homeland. But see, the gods have been waiting for Merros for quite some time.
Yeah, that’s about as much as you get out of that particular mystery, save the usual jarring prophecy.
One of my biggest pet peeves was with the beginning. We start with action. Yes, I hate the majority of novels that throw you straight into the action. Why should I care is so and so gets hurt? Why should I care what’s happening. Most of the time the start is jarring. Action is even harder to get correct. So why throw it right at us from the get go?
Point being that Moore’s action scenes weren’t clear. At all. Violence is pretty sparse, as you probably wouldn’t expect giving that these “savages” are the people of war. When there was, though, it drug on for too long and was muddy. It didn’t work.
But who cares about that? Who gives a damn? Well, you should at least take note on all the damn repetition. And I’m not putting that lightly. The first twenty percent is littered with the adjective “damned.” It drove me crazy. Who edited this? Really. Furthermore, that’s the only profanity in the entire book. We may have p*ss once, but that’s it. The tone is trying to be dark, but failing miserably.
One of the main causes of this was lack of world-building. I’ve read where some people claim that a slew of descriptions went into this novel creating a brilliant world in just over 300 pages. I don’t know what book they were reading but this surely wasn’t it.
The story is bare bones. You get a few conversations here and there about the gray skinned folk, but that’s about it. Granted, they were interesting. But I knew nothing about the Empire. Hell, I knew more about the island folk who get a single chapter than where the crux of the novel takes place.
If you like a book without fluff, this is it.
“The heads and faces of the beasts were large, but nearly tiny in comparison to the rest of them. The savage jaws of the things belonged to an animal the size of a bear, but the bodies? They didn’t make bears that big.”
That’s about as much description as we get.
You would then think that the world-building would be in dialogue. Somewhat correct. But I had a problem with the dialogue. It felt like the author speaking, not the characters. This only lent itself to the rigid words of the Sa’ba Taalor, the gray folk, because they don’t know the language very well.
Sarcasm tried to work, but didn’t. Simple as that.
This story was quick with no fat, barely any meat, moving along in no time at all. But I think the worst part of it was the flippant attitude. And the lust. Can’t forget that.
Moore tries to hone faith into the reader. Not morality, but in him as a storyteller. Coinicidences are the name of the game. Nearly every character gets by with either dumb luck or stupidity on the other side’s part.
When Merros came to spy on the assault and was found, I wanted the operation to crumble because of his ignorance. When the noble insulted the new race, I wanted him to die on the spot and send the two nations into war. When the bears attacked Merros, I wanted him to die in the first few pages.
Now that would be unexpected.
Some readers wail on the fact that Moore throws a tremendous twist at the end. And truth be told, I saw most of it coming. If I didn’t hammer home the explanation beforehand in my mind, it was told by another pet peeve: Magic.
Have something impossible happen? Magic!
Yes, it’s that ridiculous. There are no rules, save that magic requires a price. Literally no rules. Moore’s trying to create a weird and mysterious sense around the usage of magic, but instead he creates dues ex machine to suit his plot. Doing this in the first ten percent of the novel is okay. Doing this as a major plot twist, where there was no foreshadowing leading up to it, is not.
On that note, the climax was killed because of a single ending line. Again, he tries to create tension. But twists are supposed to come out of nowhere, not be told. I appreciate that he says the death was not unexpected, but that doesn’t fix the mistake he had already made in telling the reader what’s going to happen chapters later. Seriously. He tells you word for word what’s about to happen. No soothsaying mystery, just a narrative mistake.
I feel Moore was trying to create a strong build up, but made a prequel of sorts that can’t stand on its own. The cover gives it away. War is coming. Coming, but not here.
And if I had to label the worst thing out of my three major gripes, it would be the lust. Mentioned. Every. Damn. Chapter.
No, I take that back. It was every damn POV switch.
I nearly put the book down when the third woman was described in ornate detail, and I didn’t even have a clue as to the hair color of Merros.
This felt like it was written by a 15 year-old pervert who doesn’t know what sexism is. There’s the thinking that men can’t go 90 seconds without thinking about sex. This kind of writing helps accentuate the idea.
I don’t normally call out sexism when every other reader does because I can tolerate it when it’s the character’s thoughts. But when every male character ogles every female character, it grows annoying. Fast.
The only redeeming quality to this book was Andover. He was the most original character in the story. He grew from a lowly blacksmith apprentice to a warrior. His character grew. His plot was the most interesting, receiving steel hands for crying out loud, even if they threw away the “gift box” without a care in the world.
And I believe that’s what this book truly is. Moore is trying to create an interesting post-apocalyptic story, but he throws it down the drain for plot and convenience.
“Sometimes the gods are kind to fools.”
*I was given this ARC for my honest review.*