#SPFBO | Anaerfell – Joshua Robertson & J.C. Boyd

About the Book

Drast and Tyran might be considered a bit black-hearted, or even immoral. Drast is cunning but reckless, hunting for admiration. Tyran is calculating but tactless, searching for affection. When the two brothers set aside their ambitions to fulfill their father’s desire for immortality, they readily discover many opportunities for redemption. Now, while wielding a powerful magic that drains their life, Drast and Tyran will embark on a maddening quest, facing skin-switchers, dragons, and the God of the Dead.

Published in January 2017
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This book was a round finalist for the SPFBO.

I don’t know, folks.

Let me just say that the first time I read Prince of Thorns I rated it three stars, and I didn’t like it much. I poo-poo’d all sorts of stuff about it. Then I re-read the book and I loved it, to the point where now it’s on my list of top ten books. I often re-read books, and just about 97% of the time, after I reread it I come out of the experience feeling something totally different than I felt on that first read through.

I reserve the right to change my mind in all things. This is the hill I am prepared to die on.

So, with that ominous statement thrown out into the ether, here we uncomfortably go….

Anaerfell is one of those books that I’m not sure about. I mean, it made it to a finalist spot, and it got four stars and there are reasons for that, but I struggled more on my re-read of it than I did on my first read. Maybe I was being pickier because it’s a finalist? I’m not sure.

I enjoy antiheroes. I love books that flirt with that dark gray moral area. Characters that are crafted from this fabric interest me. In fact, just about every book that is in my Top Books of All Time OMG Read These Now list is full of antiheroes, or gray morality. It’s just how I roll. Lawful good is boring. Give me chaotic neutral, baby, and really lay it on thick.

So, in that respect, Anaerfell really hits it out of the park. This book is crafted out of the stuff that I love so much, and that’s one reason why it appealed to me so much. The plot gets cracking, and things seem to move at a good clip, but…

I really did struggle with this reread, which surprised me. I had a hard time staying interested. Sometimes the scenes were too full of details, which bogged down the scene, which impacted the pacing, which…. You get the idea. It’s a domino effect. The magic system was interesting and well thought out, but that was balanced out by characters that sort of blurred together to the point where I had a hard time keeping them apart. Furthermore, there were editing issues, and I spent a good chunk of the book trying hard to not notice errors.

One of my biggest pet peeves in this read was the unnatural dialogue. I need to believe that this conversation is taking place, but if it’s not written in a way where it feels real to me, then I’m instantly divorced from the book. It creates some sort of interest barrier that I had a hard time cracking at some points. This also impacts the character development. It made the characters kind of merge together, and occasionally it made them seem pretty flat. I didn’t really notice this on my first read of the book, but I did on this second read.

I enjoy dark, but I did feel like occasionally this book pushed its way from believably dark into gratuitous territory, and while I don’t really feel like that’s a mark for or against it, I do think it should be mentioned. One of the best aspects of antiheroes isn’t just the darkness, but how they often provoke thought in me (think C.S. Friedman), the reader, and I just didn’t feel much of that here. Also, the dark, sort of hangman’s humor is often what keeps these characters balanced in books written by the likes of Lawrence, or Abercrombie, dark, but tolerable. I didn’t really see much of that in Anaerfell. It was just dark, and the gratuitous moments seemed a bit much in the face of everything else. It kind of felt oppressive at times.

Now, Anaerfell has good points. I loved the magic system, and I thought the way that it was described, how every action has a price, and that price is high, is very clever. The fighting and action scenes were incredibly vivid, and the premise was fascinating. Furthermore, I could tell that the authors were passionate about what they wrote, and I love when that passion transcends the page.

This book has a lot of four-star ratings, myself amongst them (though if I’m honest, I’d probably rate it three stars this read through). It’s not a bad book, but it is a flawed book. Interesting premise, lots of passion, but the execution was a little messy.

 

3/5 stars

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