My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Okay … it is not like this is a bad story; just that it is difficult to actually identify anything specific that I like about it outside of the genre itself. It is a fairly short novel, so there is not much room for character development and it shows. The main characters are extremely flat and hard to connect to as they mechanically march through the adventure. Even the world building, which relies heavily on Arthurian tropes, was not very interesting (not to mention apparently so small the travel from Caledonia to Mercia felt like a standard work commute on the beltway … with the main character popping into Avalon (the hidden realm of the Women of the Mist) to report every time she left London to go adventuring. I suppose that I should have anticipated that a story built on top of a game would read like a game? Dialog was stilted and character interaction seems awkward at best.
The setup was interesting … An organization called the Hidden Ones was desperate enough to try and recruit local talent into their fight against the Descendants of the [Round] Table (Mordred’s kin) and the Order of Ancient (an apparent secret society of Christians hell bent on destroying the wholesome pagans of Scotland). We have a few encounters with pagan Picts around Hadrian’s Wall (along with some home sock Romans); however, most of the conflict centers around the struggle of the pagan faithful to freely worship their own deities the way that always have as the Christianity makes headway into the local mindset. This trope has been done before … and generally done better. Here everything was so black and white it just wasn’t interesting (bod guys bad … good guys good … what more is there). I actually enjoy some ambiguity here where I can connect to the motivation of both sides.
The characters … we have Niamh … a witch/warrior sent on a spy mission to see if her people (the Women of the Mist) might find an ally in the struggle to protect the simple people of the Isles from the evil Christians. She infiltrates the Hidden Ones, who send her on a mission that goes poorly … earning the privilege on becoming an initiate of the their order. Unfortunately … she discovers a secret for which force her to choose where her loyalties lie … and apparently being an initiate of the Hidden Ones doesn’t require any promises so I guess the choice should have been obvious … at any rate … Niamh alternates between not being worthy of anything to being so hot headed that she felt the need to take on unbelievable odds like a bull in a china shop (absolutely no finesse here at all … but this is a game right). The story here just felt forced and mechanical ... very little seems normal or natural.
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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