Gregary and Sandros, two brothers, are exiled from Joymont, the city within which they live, alongside Brakar, a priest, and Osolin, a slave. They have sworn an oath that, in their exile, they will find a way to rid Joymont of creatures called Tinks which threaten to destroy it.
They journey to find Xan, a man who had foreseen that this would happen when Joymont was founded, as they believe he is the only one who will help them. However, Xan charges them what money they have for advice, which was to do nothing about them, because they will die out in the winter. Not seeing this as an acceptable solution, the group go to Ink, a sorceress who agrees to go with them in to the jungle known as the Kalparcimex to find a bashyskyla, which they have been told will eat the Tinks. Despite the fact that Xan warns them that this agreement is unwise, as he tells them they will die in the jungle, they wish to save their people so go anyway. What will happen in the Kalparcimex? Can they save Joymont and will Ink abandon them?
The book has some pretty impressive descriptions of different creatures within the Kalparcimex. These create moments where the jungle really seems to come alive. However, at large, the world building is highly inconsistent and makes little sense. While it is unrealistic to want to understand a world fully, I feel that the world-building is very confusing. Often places and names are just thrown about amongst characters with little context, leaving them of little value to the reader’s understanding of the world.
What we are told about Joymont itself is fairly limited, given that saving it is the stated motivation behind the journey in to the Kalparcimex. From what we do find out, though, it is evident that Joymont is a very corrupt land and, as Xan frequently points out, is not really worth saving. In fact, I would have been quite happy for Joymont to have been destroyed.
Because of Joymont’s lack of worth, I had a hard time empathising with the characters. Like Joymont itself, they were all corrupt and immoral people. It’s not as if I’m against the idea of characters who are morally conflicted. In fact, I do think characters who have a grey sense of morality are some of the most interesting. However, these characters have a sense of morality that is very close to black. So, while there were some moments where I felt glimpses of empathy for them, it was very inconsistent to the extent that I actually found myself actively trying hard to relate to them as well as trying hard to understand why someone would. The one aspect of the characterisation that I do feel was done quite well was the back story There was quite a bit of interesting back story to each of the characters, which in many ways was more interesting than the actual story itself.
The plot itself was quite confusing. The book starts off as quite a traditional fantasy hero’s journey novel but, after a while of them being in the jungle, everything just falls apart and descends in to complete chaos. I quite like the idea of taking a hero’s journey story and absolutely tearing it to pieces half-way through, however, I found the execution of it somewhat confusing. There was no real sense of story-thread throughout a lot of the book, which left me confused as to what was going to happen, which disengaged me from the book. It may be because I have read that much that I need something to think about to engage me, but I just felt it was generally very wishy-washy.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book much. I felt there were some good ideas in there, but the execution in my opinion was not very good. I’ve tried to think of a target audience for it, have struggled to come up with an audience I feel would enjoy this novel. Therefore, I really wouldn’t recommend this book.
(pub: Gutpunch Press. e-book: page count will depend on E-book reader. Price: £ 6.49 (UK). Printed book: Price: £10.65 (UK). $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-943316-06-9)