“Duilleog” dives right in to a story that's about to take flight, tossing the reader into a first person point of view from the young Will Arbor’s eyes, just as he’s about to have his throat cut. Yeah, I know, a crazy start right out of the gates! I was immediately intrigued by this as, what is usually customary for the first books in a new series where a great deal of world building needs to be established, there’s a bit more of an explanation of where we are as the reader, and what’s going on. Not so in Allan’s tale where we follow Will (mostly) on an accidental journey of self-discovery that promises to upend the entire (newly) established order of a tyrannical and wealth hungry ruler, and a blood thirsty church determined that no other way of thinking or belief should be allowed to flourish. Unfortunately, that’s all this first book is, a promise.
It’s an intriguing concept, it’s not often that fantasy writers hearken back to the time of druids for their inspiration, so I really enjoyed that and think that the story has great potential for longevity given it’s unique premise and the nature based magic system that Allan has created. I was never confused by how the druid's powers worked, though I would have liked to know more about how a druid is “made” so to speak, as not everyone can be a druid, and sometimes those who do have the connection to Gaea that would allow them to use nature in this fantastic way, believe they are hearing an evil “god” entity and therefore use their powers for selfish, and murderous, reasons. So while I enjoyed being plopped into the story amidst the action, it soon became apparent that, while Allan may know his world down to a fine art if the glossary at the back of the book is to be believed, the reader was not going to get that. We would bumble alongside Will as this whole new world of druids and conspiracies is opened up to him.
I might have been fine with that except for the split about half way through, where suddenly we are no longer experiencing the story through a first person narrative told by Will, but a third person narrative from the various men (for they are all men, there was a suspicious lack of women in this book…) who sparked the conspiracy, who were around for the rebellion, and a bit from the mad king prior that started it all. A good 40% of the book became a flashback that I found rather jarring and confusing given its placement within the story, though I will say I think Allan is much stronger writing in the 3rd person than the 1st. It is here that we see the magnitude of Will’s quest, and even more promises are made of what is to come based on what has already passed.
Then we are thrust back to the present in 1st person with Will once more, who is still ignorant of everything the reader now knows, leaving Will in the path of a bunch of trouble that he is oblivious towards, but the reader can see coming from a mile away. Perhaps if the structure had been a bit different, where the long stretch of a flashback had been interspersed in small chapters throughout Will’s story to make the timeline more streamlined and add a bit of suspense back into the book after that tense first moment, it would have left me feeling a bit less frustrated and make the characters (outside of Will) that are introduced feel more real. As it is, these other characters don’t feel grounded to Will or the world at large as their motivations for doing, well, anything makes very little sense. In my opinion, I think giving the reader a bit more world building outside of those flashbacks would have gone a long way towards character development (I still don’t get the Lord Protector’s motivations for being a tyrant to be honest).
The book is not very action packed, so know that going in, and while that wasn’t bad, it does make the book a bit slower to get through. But honestly, with how the switch from 1st to the 3rd person narrative was used and how it muddled the world building, the confusing motivations of the druids and the church plus the rulers of this land, I have a hard time loving this story. I know where it’s going, and it looks like its heading towards something really fun and epic, but I could never get immersed in the book. It’s not a bad story in the slightest, and if you like more of the steady fantasy books that don’t have a lot of fighting or that kind of action (but there is bad language), then I think you’ll enjoy it far more. But personally, while this book isn’t really a 3 star, it’s not a 4 star either, so 3.25 it is, and thanks to the author for providing me with a copy for review!
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