Review | Legacy of the Brightwash – Krystle Matar

About the Book

Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law is wrong?

Tashué’s faith in the law is beginning to crack. 

Three years ago, he stood by when the Authority condemned Jason to the brutality of the Rift for non-compliance. When Tashué’s son refused to register as tainted, the laws had to be upheld. He’d never doubted his job as a Regulation Officer before, but three years of watching your son wither away can break down even the strongest convictions. 

Then a dead girl washed up on the bank of the Brightwash, tattooed and mutilated. Where had she come from? Who would tattoo a child? Was it the same person who killed her? 

Why was he the only one who cared? 

Will Tashué be able to stand against everything he thought he believed in to get the answers he’s looking for?

662 pages (paperback)
Published on February 18, 2021
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I’ve been meaning to write this review for about a hundred years, so I apologize for the delay, but better late than never, right? 

The Legacy of the Brightwash is a book I wasn’t sure I was going to like, and while I will say it’s not perfect (What is? Also, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Perfect is boring.) it far exceeded my expectations, especially with characterization. I can see why it made the SPFBO finalist pool, and I’m glad it is getting the praise it is receiving.

As I mentioned, characterization is really where this book shines, sometimes at the cost of other elements, but honestly, that didn’t bother me in the least. To me, the most interesting stories are about people, and the best emotions are the raw ones, and this book really nails both of those aspects. In fact, I’ve already told a few of my authors I edit for to read this book as a great example of characterization. Even the secondary characters shine. It’s obvious that Matar’s primary focus are the people experiencing the events that transpire here. No detail is too small, nothing is overlooked. Everyone is real and vivid, complex, three-dimensional and full of emotional notes that are so raw and real, they breathe on and off the page. 

This is a darker read, with a lot of trigger-potential here in the form of substance abuse, addiction and the like. Matar doesn’t hide from the harsh truths of life, the ugly, raw qualities or the dark depths the soul can travel to in times of greatest need. Her world is equally dark, and the atmosphere was spot on. I felt at once the beauty and possibility in her world, but also the darker currents that are pulling everything apart, fraying it all at the seams. This tug-of-war was at times subtle and spectacular. The creeping ominous sense of something is going to happen and it’s going to be massive was so real and pervasive it almost became a character all on its own. 

The mystery at the heart of the novel is probably the one thing that I felt left the stage for a while in the book, but I also don’t really see how it could have been any other way, considering. That being said, I found it really fascinating how many different ways Matar connected people and events, strengthening and fraying bonds, using the past and the future to establish the now. I also loved how she thrust moral quandaries on her characters that had no clear or neat answer, and let those situations not only add depth to her characters, but to her world as well. So, if the mystery felt a little forgotten at points, I think we ultimately gained more for it and I was happy to sit back and just experience the characters as they lived, struggled, loved.

One of my favorite things is a careful pairing of beauty and pain. I love dark stories told lyrically, and that’s what you get here. The story is harrowing, and personal, and it will likely make you inspect the characters and yourself as you read. It’s the kind of book that opens you up until your soul pours out, and yet it never became overwhelming, likely because of that delicate balance between beauty and pain that that Matar struck so well. Stunning prose are married with elements of wonder, moments of deep, profound love and connection. The aspects of humanity that pull us through the dark times and make us keep going despite how low we feel. This silver lining is the balance this book needed to bring it from a good story, to a marvelous one. 

In a lot of ways, this is both a story all on its own but also a setup for the rest of the series. There are enough questions answered to leave me feeling satisfied, and enough left hanging to keep me engaged and eagerly waiting for the rest of the series. I will say that readers who are more plot oriented might want to make note: This book does have plot, but it’s more a story about people, and if that sort of thing bothers you, go into this knowing what you are getting. There were times when I felt scenes went on a touch too long, or the plot was overlooked in favor of the characters. Ultimately, I think those were conscious decisions the author made, and they really worked for me because it felt true to the story she was telling (more, her love for her story really came through). If you’re more of a plot reader than a character one, though, that might bother you. 

Ultimately, this book blew my socks off. It’s the exact kind of story I love to read and is probably one of the strongest debuts I’ve come across with characters that were so real, they became part of me. 

I can’t wait for more. 

5/5 stars