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Thursday 29 January 2015

The Last Quarrel, Duncan Lay

Reviewed by Eil Adelholm

When I requested this title from Netgalley, I did notice the shortness of the work, 150 pages is hardly a novel, and that it said EPISODE ONE in capital letters on the cover. That did not bother me. I love TV series, don’t I? So why shouldn't I also like serialised books?

A Promising Beginning…

The Last Quarrel is a high fantasy with a bit of mystery. It has some interesting themes and some great contrasts. The conflicts are easy to comprehend and very believable. The world is alive with poverty and superstition; brewed and enhanced by the greed and uncaring mercilessness of those who should be their beloved leaders. Still, the thing that makes the words come alive is the characterisation.

There aren't a lot of characters, which is good considering how short it is. There are two major ones and a careful cast of minor personalities surrounding each of them, and I like the contrast between these, representing each their world.

There is the middle-aged sergeant serving in a poor fishing village and then there is the crown prince who lives in the shadow of his father, the king.

When mysterious forces begin to make people disappear both men take it upon themselves to figure out what is going on – and all the while the reader sits and waits for the two could-be-heroes and their worlds to clash.

It is an interesting beginning, promising a great story.

Sadly, that is all this book has to give. Expectations and premonitions. This – in itself – is neither a particularly great nor satisfying read. It lacks depth and excitement – and a feeling of getting somewhere.
What was the problem then?

The main problem here is probably a fundamental disagreement about what a novel being serialised should entail.

In my mind a regular novel and a serialised novel should be two completely different entities. You cannot simply take a regular novel, slice it into four equal parts and release them each a month apart. It does not work.

You probably all know how a lot of fantasy books tend to start out really slow – and a bit boring – because you need to be introduced to the whole new world and its situation and so on. This book was no exception, though it did show potential to become an interesting adventure – until that moment, just when it was about to pick up speed and become interesting, when it ended. Abruptly. In the middle of the first real action we were about to see. Oh dear, was I disappointed?

The reason why tv-series work is because each episode generally has its own little story within the greater plot line, complete with a beginning, a middle and an ending. Or even if they don’t have this, each episode at least have to have its own climax.

In contrast, The Last Quarrel only had a beginning and was cut short before it had a chance to climax. I was a bit like a man coming too early in bed; ultimately extremely unsatisfying.
This was my first experience with a serialised novel and has it made me a fan? Not at all. I hate it. I absolutely want to throttle whoever came up with the idea.

How Bad Was It, Then?

Would I be interested in picking up the next part of the novel? Yes, I probably would, but… I would also worry about the next part leaving me just as disappointed toward the end. Honestly, I would leap at the chance for a review copy, but if I had to spend my money on it, I think I would hesitate.

I am only tolerating this disappointment because I got the book as a free review copy and because I hope that the publisher will listen to these words. If I had spent my own money on this book, I would have felt cheated.

So How Does One Rate the Beginning of a Book?

Well… One doesn’t. I mean, how could you?

When I finished this episode I actually had a lengthy debate with myself whether to review it or not, but then I figured that a reviewer has two roles; that of a judge (rating it), and that of a passionate reader (sharing your opinions on it). Even if I cannot do first one, I can still do the other.

Therefore, I will refrain from rating any of the episodes until – or indeed if – I get to read all of them. I cannot rate something that is not finished. The Last Quarrel is not a full story in itself and until I have an end, all I can do is offer my thoughts as a passionate reader and let the judgement await further substantiation.

For now, my only verdict will be that this book has certainly suffered an injustice. It could be a good book. But it isn’t. I think the publisher really screwed up with this one.

Source: Advance copy from Netgalley

IBR RatingNot Rated

Recommendation: The Last Quarrel is an interesting beginning to a potentially very epic fantasy novel. Whether or not you will be less displeased with the serialisation of this novel is up to you to find out.

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Item Reviewed: The Last Quarrel, Duncan Lay Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Saar
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