I was pretty intrigued by the premise of this book. It promises to be book 1 in the Xenkur chronicles and I always love a fresh take on familiar tropes. My wife saw the cover and went “meh.” But I loved the cover. It was simple, clean, and the symbol that dominated the front flap looked like an homage to the Quake logo.
The cover does need some work (there was no spine text and it had a very “beta copy” feel to it. A quick read of the back cover matter had a few errors on it—too much to be a stylistic choice. Opened the cover of this seriously thick book (over 400 pages but I estimate an approximate word count of 85,000,) and spotted lots of white space. Broad margins, double spaced text (not that there is anything wrong with that, and I love the feel of a thick book, but it makes for an unnecessarily expensive book with a new formatting scheme more in keeping with market norms.)
I promise you, I really did like this book. I thought the story felt like a brilliant blend of Forgotten Realms and Shannara. Johnson did not waste time beating a dead horse with unnecessary descriptions or info-dump character backstory (it felt like our plane was diving that direction a few times, but Johnson pulled up at the right time and avoided those pitfalls.) However… it was first person POV. Those who follow my reviews understand that it’s the bane of my existence. I’d pledged to refuse reading any more 1st Person POV this year—and probably next year too, at this rate… but I think I agreed to read Darkwater before I made that moratorium.
Onto the story—I really did love it. It felt immersive because of the environment and the familiar tropes (not because of the POV—which the author actually let slip on many occasions… even breaking completely away from it and having long sections of 3rd person omniscient POV. Other little inconsistencies needled me through the text, like the adjective orcan instead of orcish.)
All in all, I think the book is fun, especially if you aren’t reading it with a critical forethought… and while it doesn’t have an over the top YA feel to it, I got the sense that teenage fantasy fans might really enjoy this one. Maybe even an old grouch like me, too. I think this book needs stronger editing and is about two drafts from being a 5/5 rating, but I’d give it a solid 4/5 (after all, there’s more to story-telling than following rules—but I do like those rules.)