An alternate medieval Europe with an intrusive “wild” and variants on a lot of different European creatures and fey. Mix in some magic and religion that shows some similarities to what we have and most of whose adherents take seriously (although most of them are curiously dismissive of the almost casual blasphemy and dislike of god of the main protagonist), and you have the foundation of a well-built world.
The writing is mostly solid, with just about the right amount of description for me, but occasionally a bit repetitious. “As he approached the ditch, he tried to figure out how to get over the ditch.” I’m making that one up, and the sentences involved are usually longer, but each time it happens, it’s a little jarring.
I also found that there are too many different POVs. Some of them aren’t even really relevant to the story, at best just adding a bit of extra motivation to another minor character’s not very relevant story. Others are very clearly just setups for future stories and don’t really do anything to affect the main story. And a lot of the scenes are very short before we jump to a new character in a new scene.
A side result is that there wasn’t a lot of time spent trying to make me care about most of those characters. While those of both genders were balanced and well-realized—no cardboard cutouts for anyone we spent time in their heads—I didn’t have enough time with most of them to care about what happened to any of them.
One of the more frequent POV characters is probably a fully-realized stereotype of what an actual arrogant knight was supposed to have been back in the dark ages. You’re supposed to hate him, I think, and I did, but to the extent that it was a near thing, after the first couple of scenes with him, to read his scene rather than skip over it and get back to a POV I didn’t actually detest.
I did like that the bad guys weren’t exactly that. The various species standing in for what have become standard tropes had just as much on-screen realization as the human minor characters. Not just faceless members of the evil horde of darkness, but following the Big Bad for reasons, even if those reasons aren’t necessarily human-understandable ones as far as the characters in the book might be concerned.
Battle scenes are filled with realism and often epic in scope, and the magic system is probably a actually system, though we really don’t see enough of it in this first book to understand the basic rules yet, just that there are basic rules and structures the users have to work in.
The book almost has two climaxes, with the second stretching out quite a bit across a whole lot of different characters, and the denouement drags on for a really, really long time. Its clear purpose is to set up major pieces of background for future books in the series.
Overall rating: 2.5 stars. The pace of the story is slow except when they’re fighting, which is a lot. Too many points of view take too long to come together and some of them never do, at least not in this first book of the series. A quarter of the text of the book could probably disappear without any effect on the main story and I think the book would probably be a lot stronger for it.
We’re about to have the fifth book in print, but it seems unlikely at this point that I’ll continue on to the second.by