Friday, November 18, 2011

What Does A PODPeep Read - Well Of Sorrows

Title: Well of Sorrows
Author: Benjamin Tate
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $16 (trade paperback) / $7.99 (Kindle)
Publisher: DAW
ISBN: 978-0756406028
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

POD People, or any people for that matter, should broaden their reading horizons. Based on that idea, I decided to take a flyer on a fantasy novel recommended by somebody in my LiveJournal friendslist. They suggested Benjamin Tate’s first novel, Well of Sorrows.

Well of Sorrows is the story of Colin Harten. When we first see him, he’s twelve, and living in some unnamed fantasy world with a vaguely feudal European feel and technology-level. Colin and his family are refugees, fleeing to the New World to avoid a war in the old one. However, Colin (in particular) and the fugitives (in general) aren’t fitting in, and Colin’s fights with the younger son of the local lord dominate the first third of the book.

Due to circumstances beyond everybody’s control, Colin and Walter, the lord’s son, are sent out as part of a small party to settle the wilderness just inland from their coastal city. Here the story takes a radical turn, as the party is attacked first by gazelle-riding dwarren and then the unstoppable Wraiths. Colin survives by drinking of the titular well, and the last two-thirds of the story is set a half century later as Colin attempts to broker a peace between various warring factions.

Well of Sorrows is very much an epic tale of high fantasy, told in epic length. I did find the book well-written, with solid characterization and full of action. I also liked the way Tate riffed off of the European settlement of America. I found the first third of the book, which involved Colin and company working as mere humans, quite engrossing.

Alas, I am not the target market for epic fantasy, and starting from the point where we learn that Colin has drunk of the titular well, I started caring about him much less. Since this is Colin’s story, that proved problematic. Again, I am not the target reader for epic fantasy, so take this with a grain of salt, but the last two thirds of the book felt to me to be twice as long as needed. It wasn’t that nothing happened (a lot of stuff did) but I wanted to cut to the chase.

Epic fantasy is hard to pull off. Well of Sorrows does have a lot going for it, but in the end it’s just not my cup of tea.

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