I think perhaps the author did herself a disservice by telling us in the preface the book was written in a month . Because honestly, it very much feels that way. There’s a lot of sloppy worldbuilding, odd emphases, and a singular lack of character development. The ending is abruptly and we’re pretty much left with two milquetoast characters, a very stereotypical ‘cackling while revealing all his nefarious plans in a monologue’ villain, and a random pseudo fantasy setting.
Story: Ennek is a throwaway younger son of the chief of a ‘polis’ (kingdom?). He takes on a job running the country’s prosperous port but catches the attention of the disturbing wizard. When he begins to dream of a prisoner trapped in stasis beneath the castle, he breaks that person out of his millennial sleep. The price Ennek has to pay to keep his ‘slave’ is to be apprenticed to the wizard.
Most of the story feels very contrived and not very well established. The setting is pseudo fantasy with magic and a wizard and ‘king’ – but with running water, showers, toilets. But no other modern trappings. The magic system is sort of elemental-based but we don’t really get much more than that. All the magic we see conveniently ties back to important plot points and therefore feels very ad hoc developed rather than organically grown.
The characters are bland and not much happens. Ennek is supposed to be rather listless yet gets up the gumption to do an act that will obviously be found out and with dire consequences. We’re supposed to believe that his dreams led him to do it – but I just didn’t buy it. The prisoner, Miner, spends most of the book frightened and cowering and completely subservient. We’re to believe he was completely traumatized by his experience in stasis; however, there should be some character aspects drawn out to make him interesting to readers. He just never really turns into anything other than Ennek’s puppy. Add in the villain wizard who randomly leers, patronizes, and gleefully reveals his nefarious plans and it can be eye rolling in its simplicity. He’s about as unremittingly evil as Ennek and Miner are one-dimensionally goody-two-shoes.
The writing is problematic. It’s easy enough to follow but there are really odd emphasis points everywhere. Very general descriptions suddenly focus on one narrow thing and it is really jarring. E.g., a loose description of Miner in stasis suddenly pinpoints on ‘full pink lips’. Or a paragraph loosely describing a dinner plate of vegetables and food will suddenly end with “I hate halibut.” There are a lot of obvious looks, innuendos, etc., that should all foretell plot points – yet many go mystifyingly nowhere. There just isn’t any flow and the story is mostly inert as Ennek wanders around his life.
About half way, I got bored of both main characters and went on auto-pilot to finish. It ends on a point where a second book can continue but I just won’t be following at this point. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.