This book had all the makings of awesome. And I mean all of them. Journey through harsh lands, legends becoming real, everyday humans becoming heroes, and dragons. We can’t have an epic fantasy novel without dragons after all. Unfortunately, it didn’t lift off the page. The narration style left the story feeling kind of flat so the story travelled from page to page but without feeling like it was going anywhere.
Firstly, I did not read the prologue the first time around but I did for review purposes. It simply sets up the story as a framework, so a story within a story. The biggest problem being unlike other similar formats for example The Never Ending Story or the Princess Bride where the story bounces back between the present-day tale and the story being told, this side of the plot never picks up again. I assumed the prologue was probably information about the gods and so forth and if it was referenced enough in the story I’d have based its importance on that.
A lot of people don’t like prologues, so I ignore them a lot to see if the story gives me a sense I needed to read it then I’ll either go back to it or continue on if I don’t feel I’m missing anything. I didn’t go back to it and I never would’ve guessed by reading the book that this was a story within a story so It’s probably one of those things that will only pay of at the end of the series. Maybe I’m weird but if two stories weren’t going to be told, the one of the storyteller and listeners and simultaneously the adventure he’s telling, then jumping right into chapter one would’ve made more sense.
Prologue I didn’t read aside, I skimmed a good bit of the first half of chapter one as well. It felt like information overload. Like it could’ve just started with Karik’s brother dying and the grief he and his mother were going through and using that moment to explain the poor food yield, lacklustre hunting, stormy weather and so on without the previous exposition.
There was a lot of talk about the ocean and boats going out and never coming back and I honestly thought it would pay off in this book. Why so much talk about the raging rapids if our cast isn’t going to take their chances with the storm. It was talked about so much in the beginning pages for it to not pay off in this story was a bit of a let-down.
The characters don’t really interact with each other either. It’s hard to decipher any real personalities from them. There’s a lot said around them though. Like when they met the leader of the town they end up in it’s all, he asked them a question, then one of the four characters would answer, and the man would comment back to them and it went on like this without any real dialogue for all five character’s answers and his response to said answers. Just telling us what’s going on doesn’t allow readers to jump into the story. This tone made this novel hard to get into because it’s literally the entire style of the story. Things will start, but then they never actually happen we are just told they are happening while they are happening. Even meeting people get’s introduced in narration sometimes and followed up by ‘and so Karik met (insert new character)’.
This telling style worked okay if not perfect a fight sequence when you have to explain detail, or if someone is walking and in their own thoughts, there are a million situations where telling the reader what’s happening is not only good but necessary, but it happens more often than not during good character bits and other times when things are actually happening but aren’t written like they are happening. It’s also the choice of wording as well so even when telling is the only way to go it reads like someone is reading it to you so it’s as ‘tell’ as tell can get. I def have mixed feelings about show not tell cause I can exposition the hell out of a scene sometimes but the balance of show versus tell in this story was off and gave a monotone feeling to the narration.
Karik and Revik’s names were hard to distinguish apart for me. Revik’s character went on about dying in battle and honestly that was his only purpose in the story. His brother Igil and another character Umir were indistinguishable from each other. Often when the five, I thought it was four and I only remember three, Karik Revik and Igil, the author would break out of the narration as I stated above to say that a response had been made to something said instead of keeping the conversation flowing and having them actually say it. Then there was the missed opportunity when they came upon a village to put Revik in his place.
Suggesting they continue walking when winter is coming because settling down to eat and stay alive until summer isn’t glorious or epic enough for him is so many shades of stupid. Die in the storm or seek out shelter is not a tough decision. Karik was right and glossing it over with keeping the peace was another time this book kept the characters droning on, hitting the same note. How is he expecting to be a warrior if he doesn’t know how to stay alive? An everyday citizen would seek out shelter during winter and a soldier is expected to be smarter and tougher than everyday citizens. A good chance for character growth for all three involved but it’s missed and he, his brother igil Karik, and all the rest of them stay pretty much the same. I dunno, real life arguments create tension and none of the ones in this story last beyond the time they happen. Nothing ever lingers.
The fight with the dragon was fun to read but it seemed too easy. It’s almost impossible to pierce his scales, he breathes fire and I highly doubt he wouldn’t see a net, or not think to burn it with flames after thousands of years of life. This isn’t his first rodeo after all. And he knows the island better than them all surely people have tried to net him before and failed so it was odd for this to be so easy. The scene was okay but hard to get on board with his ultimate defeat.
And lastly, the epilogue. Also didn’t read it until I came to do this review. Apparently, the storyteller is back. No surprise there. And this in connection with the Prologue sums up the entire situation with the narrative of this novel. It’s obvious the author wants you to somehow think you’re being told the story by someone, but unless you’re going all-in like Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events, framework stories work best if you narrate them in the normal third or first-person style and jump back between the two timelines so the reader never forgets the main story is being told by someone outside of it. Trying to have this read like the narrator is sitting in a room physically reading this story without dipping out to the characters in present-day listening left a one-note feeling to this story. It didn’t allow delving deeply into the characters nor allow them to experience the world the author dropped them into and if the characters don’t really dig into their existence neither can the readers.
Overall this was a speed read because I kept pushing through waiting for something to happen instead of things just being told to me. The tone of narration didn’t allow for much to happen beyond the story being told. And with all the interesting setup about the cursed jester and the never-ending storms, and rough seas that no one ever survives, there was so much awesome here to be dug into. Honestly, there were too many good places for this to go but unfortunately, it never went. In the end, the lack of including the storyteller and his guests throughout the story, and deciding to word it like someone was reading a book instead of traditional narration didn’t allow what could’ve been a magical story to actually lift of the page.