So this is my second commission as a freelance book reviewer, the first being The End: Visions of Apocalypse that I reviewed for blog buddy Nila E. White. The author, Phil Williams, emailed me asking if I would be kind enough to review his book and I gladly accepted. I’m always happy to assist new writers. If you want me to review your book, contact details are on the “book review” page.
So, on with the book review. At the start of the book, you’re not quite sure whether this is science fiction or fantasy. I’m generally pretty fussy about fantasy. I much prefer urban fantasy along the lines of Rivers of London and American Gods than the more traditional fare of Lord of the Rings. There are a few exceptions. Harry Potter, for starters. The Prospero’s Children trilogy for another and K. J. Parker’s Scavenger Trilogy are all modern works that I have thoroughly enjoyed so I went into this one with an open mind.
At first glance it feels very much in tone like the Scavenger Trilogy but with dashes of steampunk and dieselpunk but by the end it has a mix of all of these things as well as some traditional sci fi elements. Depending on how much of a purist you are, you might find it difficult definitively categorising the genre of Wixon’s Day. If not, you’ll probably be too busy enjoying the ride to care which category you will find it under at Amazon.
Marquos has escaped some rather unpleasant mines and is taking his boat home. Along for the ride is a child he rescued. However home is not his final destination; he wants to go farther north and he sticks around home long enough to be told by everybody what a stupid idea that is. But he is determined and in typical fantasy fashion, he has a sense of adventure that makes others roll their eyes. On his journey he intends to find the child’s parents and return her. Yet this apparently otherwise uneventful yet risky adventure has a spanner thrown into the works – well two spanners – when a couple of Kands separately take refuge on his boat. Marquos isn’t particularly happy with this state of affairs but in the first case takes pity and in the second feels he has no choice – that newcomer is a fugitive and a former high ranking military officer. When he gets caught up in a civil war involving the Kands, the child “Red” is lost and he sets out to rescue her again. As the story about the war thickens, Marquos finds himself in the middle of a mystery far more complex than he ever expected.
I didn’t know what to make of Marquos. At times he was very sympathetic and driven; I certainly understand and empathise with his spirit of adventure. At other times I find him arrogant and unnecessarily brash. This isn’t really a complaint as I always prefer characters who feel a little more human and I don’t necessarily expect heroes to be heroic. I can think of at least two writers whose work I have read recently where the primary characters have been quite flawed. I just found it a personal distraction in trying to figure out what I felt about him and what I was supposed to feel about him.
The novel is well-written, the language easy on the eye and paced rather nicely. My one major complaint is that I didn’t feel I was sufficiently immersed into this world; I didn’t feel I learnt enough about it early enough. Too much was delivered through dialogue too and it didn’t feel particularly organic. It wasn’t difficult to get into but I did feel a certain remoteness from the events for much of the first half. This is a shame because it is otherwise very well written with some interesting characters in a setting that will satisfy most genre readers.
The second half is a far more enjoyable affair. I don’t want to spoil it but it feels like a whole different beast; as the writer settles into this world, so do we. The plot opens up and the book feels stronger for the change of pace and directon.
So if you are intent on supporting independently published writers, you could do a lot worse than by starting here.