Top critical review
Lackluster with underlying potential.
Reviewed in the United States on October 13, 2020
I actually pre-ordered this book on a whim for the Kindle. What initially caught my attention was the cool-looking cover art and the synopsis. Unfortunately, those were probably the best parts of the book.
If I had to give any credit, the opening of the book was enjoyable and did a good job introducing the main character and his sidekick, but after the first 20 pages or so I began to recognize some glaring flaws. I am by no means a snob when it comes to books and writing styles, but this book irked me the further it went along.
Right off the bat, this is clearly a plot-driven story, which I don’t mind, as long as it’s written well. Sadly, this story was incredibly predictable and I found myself devoid of any curiosity about half-way through. The flow of the narrative is choppy, unrefined, and lacked a clear perspective. At times, I often found myself re-reading sentences because their structures and grammar were clunky and rudimentary. The dialogue was repetitive and unengaging, which ultimately led to the characters lacking any distinguishing voice. All in all, it felt like the narrative was plastered on the pages, rather than painted.
As previously mentioned, this story’s focus is on the plot. If you are looking for strong character work, I’d suggest you search elsewhere. The protagonist, Gavin Lorren, appears to be the only character with depth but somehow still remains shallow. The antagonist was bland as their motivations seemed forced and ultimately unbelievable. Other than Gavin, and a side character named Gaspar, I found it difficult to care about other characters due to their lack of personalities and one-dimensional traits. For example, a character named Imogen has this sense of mysterious badassness about her, but she doesn’t talk or do anything. She simply exists for Gavin to wonder if she’s a badass or not. I liken her to Captain Phasma. Absolutely pointless.
The story takes place in the city of Yoran, but the majority of the narrative takes place at three locations: a manor; a tavern, and the home of a healer. Out of the three, the tavern seems to be the only location with a sense of life to it. Don’t expect to learn more about Yoran and its identity though, as information about the city is sparse. The only other aspects of worldbuilding I received from this book is a tad bit of historical references, and the El’aras (basically elves) and their differing cultures. There’s magic in this story too, but I’m sure you can gather how its implementation faired based on this review.
Overall, I felt like I was reading the first draft of a story, which is a shame because I truly believe there is underlying potential within the narrative. I felt myself longing for the world and characters being fleshed out and fully recognized. The author has released over 100 books since 2013, which is a feat in itself, but it seems the focus is producing quantity instead of quality writing. The prose and grammar were easily the most frustrating of my critiques. I am sure Mr. Holmberg will continue his heavy release schedule. For now, I will hold off from reading anything else from his catalog, as I am open to trying another story a couple of years down the line. Hopefully, there will be a focus on polishing his craft and creating a story I can truly lose myself in. Here’s to hope.
Actual Rating 2.25