Book 1 of the Archwood Chronicles
Pages: Ebook (130.000 words)
Published: September 2011
Source: For review
Review by Anachronist
Synopsis (partially from Goodreads):
In the west the ancient empire of Prast crumbles, remaining strongly of the late Roman Empire. To the east an upstart nation of sun worshipers spread their heathen ways, swallowing up city-states and small kingdoms as they tread ever closer to Prast’s borders. War is inevitable. And yet, war is as nothing compared to the greatest danger.
Prast is inhabited by humans and inhumani. Inhumani have bone white hair and black eyes, differing from normal people and allegedly they are physically unable to harm normal people. They are slaves and gifts from gods. It’s been so for several thousands of years. They can defend themselves only against Shadowland’s beasts not against humans. If they kill a human they get Bloodguilt and go crazy. It’s been always like that but now the time for change has come and nobody is expecting it. Almost nobody.
A merchant called Tyacles with a young man, Markus Aklaes, and a caravan in tow get lost while crossing Shadowlands. A band of strange inhumani saves their lives but then, as soon as they find out the merchants have been tricked into employing normal humans dressed as Darkbloods, they kill some of the humans, apparently not having any problems with it. Shocked Tyacles and Markus run into the jungle of Shadowlands to save their life. They manage to survive and return home but only after some years. They are happy to be alive but it is not the end of bad news. Markus’s father is dead and his fortune and his second wife -gone. Shadowlands are spreading. Nobody cares.
Only one man carries the key to stopping the Shadowland’s progress. A man battered and scarred from his years alone in its deadly grasp. His name is Parellio, he used to be one of the greatest Darkblood warriors and now he is mad because he killed humans. To get back into the track he must first make a friend of his greatest enemy…and then he must enter the Shadowland again.
What I liked:
An interesting mixture of the culture of ancient Rome (very prominent), that of Latin America Aztecs (definitely less detailed) and pure fantasy made this world a joy to discover.
Markus’s plight earned my sympathy and after Sheena/Jinx entered the scene things became really interesting - enough to draw me into the whole narration. I like characters who have to carve a place for themselves, who bear a grudge, are tightly-wound and motivated. What’s more Sheena starts to suffer from a form of schizophrenia, no matter whether drug-induced or shock-induced or both but very logical and understandable after everything she’d been through. It makes her an interesting heroine, far from flawless but great to read about.
I also liked Parellio Redhand and his Darkblood kin, so skilled and intelligent yet so helpless when facing their masters. I wanted them to stand on their own so much. Soft-hearted, that’s me. ;)
What I didn’t like:
In short editing. At the beginning it was difficult to get into the book because the author changed POVs too many times and too quickly; too many new names and places swirling around made me confused. Overall I had an impression that the plot was sometimes almost overflowing as if the author tried to cram too much info into every chapter. When I come to think of it, there’s enough plot material for not one but two installments – first could e.g. present the whole four-year period of Marcus adventures in the Shadowland, only glossed over, and the second would be about his return to Prast and the rest of the story. I don’t doubt a good editor would suggest such a division and the novel would benefit from it.
What’s more the author keeps adding new characters almost to the very end, when the only thing you would like is to follow the progress of Markus, Sheena and Lokan, Markus’s trusted friend. I don’t know if it is true for everybody but in my case such a narrative style causes additional confusion, making me want to skim the text or even dump the book. Finally there is a cliffhanger at the end because it is just the first book in the Archwood Chronicles. I hate cliffies.
It was a good story. It could have been brilliant if the author had been given a piece of advice or two from a professional editor. I wish Mr. Stone all the luck of finding such an editor in the future – his next books certainly deserve it.
Let me introduce you all to my new guest reviewer Anachronist! *applauds* I hunted her down and begged her to review books for me ;)
She has her own blog, Books as Portable pieces of Thoughts and you will see her around now and then. She had sent me a bio, that I can't find, oh the evilness of modern inboxes. So I can just say what I want ;) She is funny, she is brutally honest, she writes these smart essays on her blog that are just excellent. She does not read a lot of romance, she often call the books I read fluffy and pink, but I am sure we all can tempt her to read more (she already read some, and should read more mowuahahahaha). And best of all, her reviews always make me smile (but I love the negative ones ;)