Synopsis: A watchman of the Yenara City guard has gone missing. The culprit could be any of the usual suspects: drug-dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, or humans being typical humans.
It’s up to two reluctant partners — Rem, a hungover miscreant who joins the Watch to pay off his bail, and Torval, a maul-wielding dwarf who’s highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem — to uncover the truth and catch the murderer loose in their fair city.
Holly: A book described as “The Lord of the Rings meets Lethal Weapon”? YES PLEASE! Sign me up! The premise of this story sounds incredibly colorful & full of adventure.
Except.. well, this wasn’t quite that. Not really. Sure, the buddy cop vibes were strong throughout, there was a certain adventure feel & it didn’t lack in orcs/dwarves/elves/humans.. but this felt a bit like a color by numbers fantasy, for the most part. The characterization didn’t capture me. I thought Rem was, in a word, dull as fuck. There was a repetitive quality to the storytelling that made it hard for me to connect to the writer’s voice.
It was certainly a decent popcorn read for the first 2/3rds, but then it quickly plummeted into what felt like an Iron Fist episode.
Corey: Yeah, this is a tough review to nail down. There are parts of this book I enjoyed tremendously. I think the world that Dale Lucas has created is pretty entertaining and I love the idea of using all the cop movie tropes (the drug busts, the angry lieutenant screaming at the cops) in a fantasy setting. But like you said, the characterizations is where it falls a bit short. Rem in particular…after getting through the whole book, it’s hard to say exactly what’s motivating him. I mean, we’re given to understand he’s not exactly who he says he is. But it never gets resolved much beyond knowing he comes from a privileged background and ran away….because? And then the driving force behind all of his actions in the book come across as just…having a crush.
Holly: Right?! You have Torval, the dwarf. We find out his backstory & the incredible difficulties he has had to get through. His motivating factor in all of this. That fucking hits you. But then there is Rem. Boring, bland Rem with his ridiculous love interest. The love story aspect of it definitely had me rolling my eyes. And then he is all of a sudden thrown into this hero role. It was so cliched. The last portion of the book just felt especially.. smug.
To me, this was similar to an old-school fantasy. Not necessarily in a good way, either. Even though there were some unique ideas presented within the premise, the writing almost felt dated. How the female characters were all pretty much damsels in distress, or seductresses. They weren’t fully developed as people. Rather, they were objects. It was this odd juxtaposition of new ideas mashed together with old stereotypical fantasy tropes.
Corey: And there it is right there. Easily the most frustrating aspect of this book is the inexplicable lack of an impactful or interesting female voice. It’s clearly stated that some of the Watch Wardens are women. So…why couldn’t any of them figure into the book? Or have names? Or any lines of dialogue? There are some minor characters, members of the Watch who pop in & out of the story…and they’re all men. It’s pretty confounding, especially when it seems like so many other fantasy writers are really striving for more & more diversity. And yeah, the female characters we get don’t often seem to serve a much greater purpose than just being sort of flirty. I would for sure read the second book in this series, but I think having at least one female character with a more substantial role would really serve this series well.
Holly: So while the idea of a buddy cop duo set within a magical fantasy is a fresh one, the antiquated way with which it was told was anything but.
Even though this ended up being a somewhat disappointing read, it isn’t all bad. This light fantasy had some mystery, decent action sequences & good humor weaved throughout.
The world of Yenara that Lucas has created is certainly an intriguing one. But that world needs characters to grow. Unfortunately the ones presented in the first book of the planned trilogy leave a lot to be desired. That is the true downfall of this story. We are left with good bones, but there just isn’t enough meat to chew on.
Hopefully the sequel will rectify some of these issues we had with the first installment, because it really is a fun idea for a series!
The Grimdragons rating: 3 stars!
(Thank you to Orbit Books for providing us with copies before the release date, in exchange for an honest review!)