Funny, how the reviews so far can't agree on much about this free adventure story. Some applaud the excellent world-building, others find it severely lacking. Some like that it is angst-free and without fluff, others call it sappy. I ended up not hating it, but also not really loving it.
The book opens with a dire description of an abused boy's childhood that quickly drew me in. I liked the idea of the world, its history and magic system. The two or three love scenes were sweet. However, I've got a long list of things that I thought were missing in order to make it a decent read:
- I expect rich world-building when reading fantasy. But here? No plotting arch enemy, no side stories and very few relevant secondary characters, instead we solely follow Ash and Keiran's struggles.
- Also vital to any fantasy story IMO: a sense of impending doom that lets you care for the characters at every turn of the story and makes you devour the book. I couldn't find it here.
- Telling, but not showing: although we're told over and over that Keiran is a real meany, he's nothing but kind to Ash and not much worse to anyone else (that's also one of my latest peeves in m/m in general).
- Sometimes the language didn't seem appropriate for the "Wild West" setting (sexy, moronic, getting laid...) and it drew me out of the story when it happened.
- The book offers no great romance although it wants to tell you differently. It's all pretty standard fare. There is also no UST (unresolved sexual tension) although both MCs are confined to a prison cell for quite some time. So, I wasn't really sold on the attraction between Ash and Kieran.
- Keiran lacks a unique voice and the dialogue in general isn't very inspired.
- The writing was very clumsy in parts; especially the way Ash talks about his feelings or Keiran's qualities made me cringe; also, how the author provides background information is very heavy-handed:
"I know that, Shou-Shou. I was there."
"I'm just explaining. You were down in it. This is what it looked like from outside."
"Okay. Go on."
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book at times and here are some of my favorite quotes:
Shan raised himself on one elbow to look down into Kieran's face. "You like wrecking way too much. One of these days, babe, you're gonna wreck the world."
"Not the part you're standing on," Kieran said, but for once Shan didn't smile." --
Seeing Ash like this made Kieran want to tear down the world and stomp on the wreckage. --
They looked at each other for a time. Kieran saw his own understanding mirrored in the sky-blue of Shan's stare. This was it. Well, they were highway robbers; they'd never expected to live forever. If it wasn't the cops, it would've been Kinter's gang, out to prove that nobody was allowed to quit. So he'd die before he turned twenty; he'd never figured to live even this long. When Shan seized him by his shirt front and kissed him hard, he knew what it meant.
"I love you," he said, and realized it was a lie.
"Cover me," Shan replied, and shifted his weight."--
Oh, I forgot to mention the awful cover. But I guess that's kind of obvious.