Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Whirlwind In The Thorn Tree: Book 1 of 'The Outlaw King'

Author: S. A. Hunt
Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Western
Personal Rating: 8
Book Rating: 8.5

Guns, and humor and giant sea monsters, Oh My!  This was a fiercely entertaining read right from the beginning.  Jumped right into the foray of action.  Okay mystique is more accurate.  You could sense the lurking presence of danger but also a slight apprehension of the mystery man in the the first pages.  And that was a good combination.  It made me want to know just what exactly this person was doing.  And why.  Descriptive out of necessity.  The only way I like description, just enough details to say this is it, now look over here cause this is what's really going down.  At first I started thinking Sophie's world, not Sophie's choice.  I wasn't sure how I felt about that but once I got out of the second paragraph all fears were demolished.

The characters I found to be very real.  And I particularly liked that they were all suffering from the same identity issues, in different ways.  It connected them while still allowing them to be separate and hold their own.  The pacing was very good.  The plot moved at a stop and go kind of pace at the perfect balance, just when you think 'hmm guess it's died down for a while' an action sequence, or a new twist, or some evidence of what's going on would appear.  The timing was always dead on as if the author was in my head and knew just when I needed to be fed info and slow down, and just when I need something more interesting to make me go, whoa, I like this book.

The story is told through the eyes of the main character Ross and does a more than exceptional job of depicting a regular man thrown into a fantastical world.  His side kicks, or accomplices, were equally entertaining.  The dialogue between them was more than intriguing especially when it dipped from serious into humor.  Am I a fan of humor in serious novels yes.  When it's done well.  Double yes.  And in this book a triple yes.  It keeps the balance of the inner bitterness of each character, the seriousness of the book, and the fantasy elements in check.

The fight sequences made very good sense to me.  The just action sequences also appeared to be well thought out.  I don't remember having any of those, 'why would the character do that' moments during any of them which is very important.  Sometimes just for the sake of doing something cool characters do things in fights that are just ridiculous, or in chases or just action period.  I was delighted to not feel that reading this novel.

Another commendable aspect is something i'm going to dub 'The Harry Potter Effect' only because that's a popular book.  This would be having the character with the least amount of page time have the biggest impact in the entire book.  The brainchild of the world in which this book exists gets next to no physical page time but his presence permeates through each page via the characters and the world created.  And I love that our understanding of him, our perception, is slightly altered to whereas the idea we have of him in the beginning is not the idea we have of him in the end.  It's a nice feeling to find that an author has taking you for a ride and you played directly into their hands.

The fantasy setting is very well laid out.  The humans and the non humans of the world seem to blend quite seamlessly.  When odd things happen you don't question their oddity because your mind has been set up to accept such things.  Which is how good fantasy should work.  One should never question the impossible things that happen in a world where the impossible can happen.  And gun slinging heroes, awesome.  More than awesome.  I found that instead of being urban fantasy this book grounds it's fantasy in the real world without having to be outside of the fantasy world.  Which is very good.  It still felt like things I know while being almost entirely in another realm.

Plot wise, I was screaming at the end because the one thing I wanted to know I didn't find out.  Dammit now I must read the next book!  Oh well.  Worse things have happened.  I did like that it came to a closure that made sense.  Nothing that was needed to be left hanging was, and the things that were, enough information was given about them for you to have an idea, a guesstimation of what is to come.  Like locking you in a cage and dangling the perfect piece of cheesecake right out of your grasp.  Inching it slowly closer only to find you wont get it till tomorrow.

All in all, I loved the writing style of this novel.  Enjoyed the strategic placement of the high and low points, or fast and slow points, of the novel.  Thought the main three characters were very well developed and the world was described with just the perfect slice of detail for me to take myself into it.  I prefer to play a part in my novels and not just be pumped with info.  And this book allowed my brain to work to figure out things, and picture the surroundings with the details provided.  And the horror scenes were sufficiently edgy.  It was a very tactile reading experience that was more than enjoyable.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good suspense novel, likes natural humor, fantastical elements, and of course badass heroes with guns.  If you purchase this you wont be disappointed.  Oh and of course if you love coffee, you must buy this novel.

This is kind of two edged.  What partly sold the book for me was that there's a lot of movie and book references.  For the most part my inner entertainment geek went crazy for this.  Especially when they arose in flirty scenes.  However if I had not read a book, or saw the movie, I google searched so I could catch the joke, or in some cases, just descriptions.  When a scene, setting, or mood was being described in such a way I found myself missing out on something if I didn't know said piece of entertainment.  I loved this book and still found I felt I was missing some good stuff if I didn't catch a reference.   Chances are if I felt this way while enjoying it, others might (still I secretly enjoyed it on a certain level.  But shhhh.  I said it was two edged after all)  

This is purely technical, but a bit too many page breaks for my liking.  I just thought some of them were in spots where it was clearly obvious time had passed and a new paragraph would suffice.  And there are excerpts, which I wont describe at risk of spoiling the plot, but they seemed unnecessary.  It could be that I'm just a dumbass and couldn't figure it out, but I reread them and envisioned the book without them, and it still read the same to me.  That meant, theoretically, that the book could do without them.  That's the only thing that really slowed me down.  The book itself done so well of describing the two worlds and how they intertwine that these things seemed to bog me down with stuff I couldn't connect to the plot no matter how hard I tried.  No hidden messages, no connections other than the obvious one connection.  I guess this being suspense, horror, I was looking for some sort of link and clue everywhere.  The mysteries to be hidden around every corner and these bits just felt like words.  

Other than that the book still stands as awesome.  None of this stopped me from getting this read done in two days and approximately eight hours.  Again I enjoyed it more than just a bit.

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