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VOICE OF WAR by Zack Argyle (SPFBO 6 FINALIST REVIEW)


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SPFBO6.jpeg?resize=201%2C150&ssl=1Phase 2 of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off is drawing to a close at the end of this month! Keep track of the finalists’ scoreboard here.

If you’re following SPFBO 6, let us know about any entries that have caught your fancy! Join the discussion on social media (there’s a Facebook group here) and weigh in on Twitter using the hashtag #SPFBO.

Introduction to Round 1Meet the Judges


Editor’s Note.

In light of discussions regarding reviews over the weekend.
Unfortunately, Voice of War was not popular amongst the team. Rather than simply say “I did not like this book”, the team have tried to express what didn’t work for them and why.

Reviews are subjective. What has not worked for us may well work for other readers, and Voice of War has certainly been better received by other judges.

Beth


Conflicts, greater and lesser, are the engines that drive stories forward.

Besides the clash between the ambitions of antagonist and protagonist, there is intrigue and entertainment in exploring the strife between people who the reader knows are surely destined to be allies.

Differences of culture, of economy, of home setting can inject a certain frisson into any attempts to work together against the greater common threat. Think of Schwarzenegger, the (soviet policeman) partnering Belushi the (american cop) in Red Heat, or Bronson (the cowboy outlaw) partnering Mifune (the Samurai warrior) in Red Sun, or dammit Legolas and Gimli in The Lord of the Rings

Argyle’s Voice of War explores characters from equally diverse backgrounds and, while they are not yet as embedded in each other’s stories as the examples above, read on to see what the team made of the contrast between them.   

Theo


Voice of War
Zack Argyle

VoiceOfWarZackArgyle.jpg?resize=205%2C30

 

Chrys Valerian is a threadweaver, a high general, and soon-to-be father. But to the people of Alchea, he is the Apogee—the man who won the war.

When a stranger’s prophecy foretells danger to Chrys’ child, he must do everything in his power to protect his family—even if the most dangerous enemy is the voice in his own head.

To the west, a sheltered girl seeks to find her place in the world.

To the south, a young man’s life changes after he dies.

Together, they will change the world—whether they intend to or not.

 

 

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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Filip: What initially caught my attention was the high production cover, foreshadowing a familial struggle at the centre of a narrative. Perhaps Iris, the mother holding the child in the [previous] cover, could be a hint less passive–but it’s effective enough. The mist helps; a good mist always adds to the mystery, ask anyone! The title stands beautiful over the illustration, and it’s not a bad one…even if the noun, “war,” seems truly and well to rear its head too often for comfort in this year’s competition.

I struggled with Voice of War; it has a selection of very fine moments where the “rule of cool” takes precedence in action scenes, delivering satisfying, anime-like character moments. They are sadly few and far in-between, however. Where I felt the book failed was with its dialogue, which I’ll examine at length in the next section. The gist of the dialogue’s issues stem from a prose that’s over-reliant on clichés to an extent that left me struggling to continue the book well before I reached the half-way mark.

Theo: I see what you mean about the dialogue – it didn’t bother me so much in the first half of the book but there were some turns of phrase, e“My son may have permanent health issues” , that threw me out of the fantasy aesthetic a bit. 

Filip: In terms of editing, this is nowhere near the sloppiest book I’ve come across. Mistakes can be found, both in terms of grammar and punctuation; a few of these might have to do with tense errors, some of them might be simple typos.  

Theo: At the 23% in point I was enjoying the book.  I like the threadweaving magic system which feels original enough to me – although others may have seen something similar.  The significance of eye colour as denoting those who have magic/thread talents is also a nice touch – reminds me a bit of Kerstin Cashore’s Graceling.  Argyle’s world has its terms for the unmagically gifted as thread-dead or achromat which sort of rival the contemptuous mudblood and muggles of Harry Potter’s world, but there is a bit more tolerance of the magically challenged in that they can rise in rank and influence. 

Chrys and Laurel are both interesting characters for me so far, with contrasting backgrounds, and the idea of blood thieves kidnapping threadweavers to use their blood as some kind of injectable intoxicant adds a certain dramatic tension. 

I’m not yet wholly invested in the story, but it’s piqued my curiosity to see what happens.

Nils: Firstly, I think the cover is very effective, in catching the eye. The central figure with the luminous eyes and the female in the background piqued my curiosity immediately. Filip made a great point – the mist helps too, it creates an ominous atmosphere which makes you want to discover what the story is all about.

Beth: I’m not that keen on this cover, it just looks very grey; the book has recently had a new cover which is much more colourful. It really stands out!

Nils: Ooh, I just looked up the new cover and I really like it too! The colours are much more vibrant, but I’m a fan of both covers. 

Unfortunately, I have to say, I struggled immensely with this book too. Which I’m actually really disappointed about because the premise seemed right up my street – it’s a story full of magic, action, mystery and promises an epic fantasy adventure.

So what were my issues? One of my main concerns from the onset was just how much I found similar to Brandon Sanderson’s work; particularly his Stormlight Archives series. I’ll go into this in more detail when I discuss world-building, but from the very first few pages I was hit with terms such as ‘Lightfather’, ’Heralds’, ‘bloodthieves’ and ‘threadweavers’, all of which felt like variants of Sanderson’s well established world of ‘lightweavers’, ‘Heralds’, ‘ghostbloods’ and the ‘stormfather’. I’m sorry, but the more I noticed these the more irritated I became, now I realise Argyle has said he’s a huge fan of Sanderson’s work and this book was written as a kind of tribute to that – but I’d argue there is a fine line between an author being influenced and paying homage to their favourite author and merely replicating their work with very little originality of their own. In my honest opinion Argyle fell into the latter. This may not bother my fellow judges or many other readers as much as it did for me, but having spent the last year with my head buried in the Stormlight Archives series, the stories and world were fresh in my mind and therefore I picked up on this immediately.

Beth: Ah it is difficult when you’ve been reading a lot of one thing, then read another wanting to pay homage to it but just being a little too heavy on the homage.

Nils: I also agree with Filip’s mention of the cliched dialogue, which again initially kept pulling me out of the story. I often found the dialogue forced. For example;

Henna ignored him. “This is rather serendipitous; I’m due for my lady checkup.” She smiled.’

I also noticed certain odd choices of similes and metaphors which made very little sense to me.

‘Silence floated through the air of the warehouse like a storm cloud.’

Beth: I’m sorry to say my initial impressions were similar to Filip’s and Nils’. In the opening chapters, there wasn’t anything that particularly gripped me. The pushing and pulling reminded me a great deal of last year’s finalist Beggar’s Rebellion, and both in turn of Sanderson’s Mistborn series; and like last year’s book, I struggled at first to follow the characters as they pushed on this and drifted this way or other. Just the way in which actions were phrased, I struggled to follow what was happening. 

The dialogue was also a major issue for me, particularly the character Laz. I think he was supposed to be the comedy element, but his talk about giving the enemies a bath and the misconstruing his ‘thirst’ for necrophilia fell short for me sorry! The latter in particular had the issue of using vernacular which is so current that it felt out of place and broke my immersion. American and British humours are famously very different though, I’m sure other readers might find him funny.

The story picked up for me when we entered Laurel’s perspective and we discovered her home; I loved the idea of the world building here and I’ll discuss more in that section. 

Julia: Initially I did like this. Especially in the first half I didn’t have massive problems, but thought it a quick and easy read. Yes, some dodgy dialogue that had me roll my eyes every so often and a few things that just didn’t make sense aside from getting the plot where it was supposed to go.

But overall it was interesting and I liked the characters enough to breeze through the story. Did I mention there is a very well narrated audio version of this? No? Then let me do so here! 

Beth: Maybe this is the kind of book that works better in audio Julia!

 

Thoughts on… THE CHARACTERS

Theo: Of the three main characters I like Laurel most.  She is rebellious and talented and flawed. I like the complication that her joy in magic use is becoming dangerously addictive and that adds an interesting and different level of peril for her.

Nils: Yep, I was quite taken with Laurel too! Her growing addiction to her magic was such an interesting take indeed.

Julia: I liked her backstory and surroundings most – but I didn’t like her as a character. A bit too juvenile for her age, and just too sure of herself on top.

Theo: Chrys is a bit whiny, but the psychopathic apogee alter-ego buried within his mind begging for release again adds a bit of tension, though in the nature of Chekov’s gun – one just knows that the apogee will have to be fired at some point in the story.

Alverax is interesting in that we meet him after he has died and he then finds he has somehow been resurrected and is dismayed to discover that his girlfriend has already moved on with his friend.  However, Alverax displays some of the weaker points in the story’s construction with characters making disappointingly poor choices and abrupt shifts of allegiance that seem to fit convenience of plot more than depth of character.

Beth: I liked Alverax!

Nils: As I’ve mentioned Laurel was the character I was drawn to the most – I liked her narrative arc and the setting of the forest and her exploration of her powers. She was fairly young and therefore prone to outbursts, but on the whole I was invested to see where her story would lead.

I was also very taken with the chromawolves therefore the scenes with Laurel’s bond with Asher were very entertaining.

Chrys was also an interesting character, as Theo has mentioned, with the Apogee lurking in the back of his mind always with the desire to break free. I did find the constant ‘Mmmm’ and other phrases from the Apogee were a bit too repetitive, but overall I was interested to learn more about it.

A character who I really couldn’t stand during the first half of the novel was Laz, he grated on me so much! I felt that Argyle had created Laz to be much in the same vein as Rock from Stormlight Archives, even down to their same accented speech, humour and red hair and beard. Except, in my opinion, Rock is actually funny and so endearing, whereas Laz just made me cringe whenever he instigated some banter between the group. Beth, I know the banter bothered you too, didn’t it?! 

Beth: It really did! I just didn’t find it funny. I think because, like you said about the similes and metaphors, there were just some choices that didn’t work for me:

The first day Chrys met Laz, the big oaf had made a joke about the city being a child. “Kids are dirty and show no respect,” Laz had said. “Sometimes you must take out back, give whack, and give bath.” He claimed that when he slid his blade through a criminal, he was simply “giving the city a bath” “

The issue I had with the characters was that I’d like them at first – namely, Laurel and Alverax – but the prose is quite repetitive, that towards the end everyone was just getting on my nerves, sorry! Laurel started to get a little whiny; I didn’t believe in her complaints and injustices. 

Nils: That’s true, Laurel’s outbursts were for odd reasons!

Beth: Like Julia, I was intrigued by Laurel’s backstory and would love to know what really happened to her parents, and like Theo I thought her addiction to her magic was subtly portrayed and very well done.

I also liked Chrys’ mysterious Apogee, and again would have loved to know where this voice came from and why it was there… There’s actually quite a lot that goes unanswered…

With Alverax, he’s introduced quite late into the story, so although I initially liked him, I didn’t feel like I knew him as well as the other characters, and his constant reiteration that he’d already died once so it was fine was grating after a while. 

I found there were some odd crow-barring moments of backstory. I had the sense that perhaps the author wanted to give his characters more depth, and made that common mistake that depth = backstory. For example, Chrys is searching for his missing witness in the records of the temple, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount and:

“Seeing the letter “v”, he walked forward and thought how interesting it would be to see what his own family record looked like. There would be a page dedicated to the Apogee, and the family section would be small. It was just him and his mother, Willow. He had no aunts or uncles in Alchea, and no father. His mother refused to talk about him, calling him a coward. As a kid, Chrys had always wanted to meet his relatives.
A priest wandered into the room…”

Julia: Laurel I talked about above, the others I mostly liked well enough. Yes, the banter was cringeworthy at best in some parts, but it wasn’t so much that it would actually have hampered my overall enjoyment. What did – especially later in the book – is the sheer incompetence and absolutely nonsensical decisions and actions there are. I can’t respect people who are supposed to be good at their job and have at least some common sense who just, I don’t know, forget how to use a brain cell? I quite enjoyed 50-70% or so, despite the flaws, but the end just had me shaking my head and groaning. 

Filip: I did not care for the characters because I couldn’t buy into any of them as characters in a secondary world. The reason for that are issues of dialogue which might not bother anyone the way they did me, but I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t at least attempt to illustrate them: 

First, let’s talk about how utterly 21st century American most every character sounds. 

Here’s the council of elders chastising Laurel:

“And lastly, Laurel, we believe that you’ve become addicted to threadlight and are no longer in a good state of health. We’ve discussed it at length and, effective immediately, you are relieved of all duties pertaining to serving as a messenger to the council.”

Does this not sound to you like a board of directors speaking to a disgraced CEO found to be using, say…cocaine? The register of what should be a somber event is nothing like. 

This isn’t an issue isolated to one point of view: when Chrys, a general of a powerful nation, reports to his lord and master Malachus, the latter responds in a way that is reminiscent of nothing so much as the stock speech a precinct captain gives his star detective: 

“If Jurius finds out about this, you’re done. He’ll revolt unless I give him control of the investigation, but there’s no way that ends well. Chrys, I trust you. Probably more than I should. If you say you did everything you could, but she got away, I believe you. Jurious won’t. You know he came to me after I gave you charge over the Bloodthief investigation? Told me all the reasons it should be him instead of you. He was absolutely furious.” 

Wanted me to ask you for your badge and gun right there, but I stuck by you! Right, I added that last one, but it’s uncanny how well it fits, isn’t it?

Beth: Yes! I remember thinking the same thing as I read this section – isn’t this supposed to be the ruler of the nation? Why is he letting Jurius have so much control? Perhaps the aim for this kind of dialogue was to give the book an Urban Fantasy feel? But as the rest of the story had such a strong Epic Fantasy feel, I don’t think it quite worked unfortunately.

Filip: Friendship from the good old days only goes so far, Beth, surely! Worldbuilding happens at the level of language, not just at that level of explicit elements–and in that regard, I’m afraid it has failed in my eyes.

Beth: I have to agree with you Filip, the feel and tone of the setting Argyle creates with his world building clashes with the language he uses for dialogue. I’m not saying he should use archaic language by any means (no one should lol), but the tones didn’t compliment each other at all. 

Filip: I absolutely agree, Beth–this is not a call for the use of archaic language, but it is a call for a more conscious, original use of modern language. So much on issues of register. Then, the author’s liberal use of clichés does not help matters, either: “You knew the law. You played the game, and you lost,” or “They’re scared of you. People are often afraid of what they don’t understand. Be patient. You’ll gain their trust over time,” or, “Now, there is good news and there is bad news.”

Outside of the dialogue, I struggle to accept the way these characters react to so much of what happens to them–why doesn’t Chrys go to Malachus as soon as he discovers a conspiracy that reaches high, indeed? The general in charge of an investigation, and rather than share what he’s found out, Chrys allows himself to be painted as a traitor – it’s such moments that take away from any realism the author might attempt to imbue them with.

 

Thoughts on… PLOT/STRUCTURE/PACING

Filip: Voice of War’s narrative is straight as an arrow, though the introduction of a character half-way into the novel gave me a tiny case of whiplash. 

Theo: A thing I’ve noticed in three of our finalists this year is a theme of “inappropriately delayed action” where characters notice something that is obviously hugely significant and then do nothing at all about it for a period and for reasons that make no sense. 

In this case Chrys discovers a high level traitor and yet takes no steps to expose him. 

Beth: YES! THIS BOTHERED ME SO MUCH!

Filip: Re: The last of my character notes. 

Julia: Yep, also one of the things that made me go from “pretty good” to “good enough”…

Theo: I know Argyle sends Chrys off in fear for his family and distracted by the imminent arrival of his son, but to send no word, no message, no warning at all, and then to leave it to a note pressed into an intermediary’s hand despite having had a moment of privacy with the nation’s leader to pass on his news. I’ll see how the rest of the plot pans out, but it always grates a bit when the characters seem to defy common sense.

The pace does rattle along reasonably quickly, though at times it seems to do so by storming through logic or consistency, as though the author is in a hurry to reveal the overall shape of his world concepts and themes, without giving sufficient care to some of the detail by which the characters get there.  For example the guards in this world seem easy to dupe with implausible excuses from people bearing food.

Nils: I agree with pretty much all of Theo’s points here. I also feel certain chapters needed to slow down and explore some aspects in more depth, because there was a lot which didn’t make sense or felt shallow.

Beth: Much the same from me I’m afraid! I thought the structure could really do with some editing.

I think the story could really benefit with Alverax being introduced much earlier on. As it is, he’s introduced during a section in which the pace had been ramping up, and so there’s quite a shift in tempo at this point. I’d have loved more time with this character as his personality is quite fun!

As Theo said, there are a number of inconsistencies in the plot – there is nothing more frustrating in a story when characters make seemingly nonsensical decisions. I had to put the book down when Chrys failed to tell anyone about the traitor, the slip of paper he passes over apparently gets completely forgotten about, but then much later in the story, after the character gives the impression they have no knowledge about the traitor, they discuss the slip of paper. There’s another decision a different character makes towards the end of the story, to knock on a particular door, which again seemed to make no sense and does not get explained (being vague to avoid spoilers sorry!). It’s difficult when you want to root for a character, but they do something you don’t understand. It’s a real shame, as there are aspects of the plot which are really interesting.

I loved the hidden society amongst the trees, I loved the mystery of the bloodthieves, the hint of biological experimentation that Alverax’s character introduces. 

Julia: As I said before, I also thought some parts were handled just too quickly. In some parts we seemed to skip right past what I would have found interesting, while other scenes were expanded past my interest in them.

 

Thoughts on… WORLDBUILDING

Filip: Sanderson’s influence is evident in the magic system Argyle employs here. It’s every inch what you would expect if you’re at all familiar with Sanderson’s three laws of magic; even the vocabulary, with its pushing and pulling, recalls the allomancy in Mistborn. 

Nils: I haven’t read Mistborn yet, so I’m glad you picked that up, Filip. 

Beth: I know you found similarities to Stormlight Nils, but Mistborn is what it seemed most like to me!

Theo: – Ah at last an advantage to not having read Sanderson’s works of fiction.

The magic system feels fairly fresh to me.

However, I did notice the constraints of thread-weaving, in accordance with Sanderson’s second law that limitations should exceed powers. This is born out by threadweavers suffering a risk of addiction to their own expressions of power, combined with the lifespan shortening effect of power use such that few of them live into their fifties. 

Beth: And the vomiting if they do it too much.

Theo: I don’t know how old Argyle is, but speaking from the lofty heights of my late fifties – a life curtailed so early seems like a big downside.  Also it makes an interesting contrast to most magic use (eg in Naomi Novik’s Uprooted – or the Hive’s own dear Ulesorin) where wizards are blessed with extended lifespans.

The Fairenwild with its treetop city felt a bit like a cross between Lothlorien or Imladris, and I liked the sense of a culture that looked down (literally) on “groundlings”.

Julia: Lothlorien was exactly what I thought about first too. 

Filip: I enjoyed the little worldbuilding detail here: “Laurel and Asher had bonded quickly, two high-energy creatures cut from the same branch.” Shifts like this in speech are interesting, because it immediately speaks to a linguistic difference at the level of metaphor. I appreciated this a great deal.

Beth: That’s a great point.  I loved the Fairenwild’s use of nature in theirs. 

Nils: I really wanted to enjoy Argyle’s world-building, I adore fantasy books which have in-depth world-building full of magic, culture and religion. However given how much of Voice of War felt quite shallow, I simply couldn’t become immersed.

For example when describing Chrys’ threadweaving ability here;

His veins began to go a bright blue as he opened himself to threadlight. Then, as if he’d stepped into a higher plane, brilliant strands of colorful light burst forth into existence all round him, a tapestry of pure energy connecting him to everything around. Below him, a dense, bright thread ran from the ground up into his body. His corethread. His connection to the world itself. 

Then, he jumped.

The wind rushed through his dark hair and his cloak flew high…’

The whole section felt far too akin to when Sanderson describes his Windrunner’s ability in SA; they too draw upon Stormlight using it as a power source, when they use Stormlight they give off a bluish glow, and they then gain the ability to fly. From what Filip and Beth have mentioned, the push and pull aspect also takes from Mistborn, but to be honest I was confused with how the ‘push and pull’ actually worked. 

Another aspect of the world I particularly struggled with was the blinding of a person’s third child. In Alchea parents are only allowed two children, yet if a third is born, then a testing takes place. During the test unless the child has blue or green eyes and is a threadweaver, the child is blinded and given to the church to become priests. My question is, why? Why did the child have to be blinded? What was the purpose behind that? Perhaps for population control it’s plausible to use this as a deterrent for people having more than two children, but the blinding made absolutely no sense to me, and felt unnecessarily cruel. 

Beth: Yes, I really struggled to understand what was happening here to be honest. There isn’t anything else in the world building, e.g. an overpopulated city, that would explain the need to have this rule. 

Nils: You could just simply take the child away from its parents. If they were worried about a third child displaying the infamous amber eyes later in life, well that doesn’t make sense either because even a first born can have amber eyes, but they are not blinded when their eyes are brown. I realise Argyle has said a lot will be answered in book two, but I’d have expected this to be made clear early on. If you’re going to give a reader the horrific image of a newborn being blinded by acid, then I’d like the reason to be well established.

Beth: This is an issue I’ll be raising in the next section, as it was ultimately my biggest bug-bear with this book.

Nils: For example in We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson there is a race of people who behead their dead. Now on the surface this sounds overly grotesque and startling, but the people believe by severing the head the soul is released and is able to enter the spiritual realm. It is so ingrained within their religious beliefs, so you can fully understand the reason behind it and it perfectly fits the story. Whereas in Voice of War I couldn’t see a reason for the cruelty. 

Beth: It’s difficult to go along with the flow of a story when you don’t understand important plot points.

Nils: My second issue with having blind priests is why were they made to be so reliant on others? Why did the library where they spent most of their days not have books in Braille or some other form, so they could read for themselves and not be reliant on female priests to read for them? There needed to be so much more depth and plausibility. 

Beth: It just felt perhaps this was an aspect of the worldbuilding where the implications weren’t quite thought through, and so raised too many questions that interrupted the immersion. Nils makes some excellent points, and mirrors how I felt.

I loved the idea of the Fairenwild, and the criminal city in the desert, but would have loved to have seen them explored deeper. Laurel’s home was presented so beautifully, as a society connected to nature. There’s also plenty of mystery hinted at, that perhaps Laurel doesn’t know everything about her home and history, and this really intrigued me.

But more often, the worldbuilding left me wondering things to a degree it was distracting from the story – for example, like Nils said about the priests, it isn’t really explained why they must be blind. It isn’t presented like a punishment, and yet there are seemingly no adaptations made to this society to allow for blind people. As I said above, an example of a worldbuilding idea that hasn’t been followed through far enough to its implications. We’re presented with promising world building, but it only becomes truly believable and enjoyable through the details.

Julia: Most of the world building was well enough for me. Nothing overly special (if you have read Sanderson before) but understandable and entertaining enough. I didn’t mind aspects like the blinding so much, I just wondered for a bit, and then shrugged and took it as a given for now, making a few guesses as to why it might happen, but for now just saw it as a given, that this is how things are done in this world.

Now, the forest part I absolutely loved at first! The city in the treetops was so fascinating, and the woods around it were something I enjoyed to discover! Sadly all the discovering seemed to have been done within a few pages, and then it was just a static backdrop. I would have loved to see more of it, and thought there was so much potential!

 

Quotations that resonated with you

Theo: Argyle does fling out a few bits of banter and innuendo that sometimes work well and sometimes don’t have quite the sharp impact that the characters assume.  But I did like the repartee between Farah (one of many numbered daughters of Jelium – a kind of Jabba the Hut evil overlord) and our resurrected protagonist Alverax.

“Hey, forty-four.”

She smiled. “Yeah, corpse?”

Or this moment when a kind of passenger flight by fantasy hang-glider has ended in something of a crash landing, one character comments on the male pilot’s deficiencies

“A short ride and a poor ending. Laz always did know how to treat a woman.” 

Beth: I did bookmark some pages, not always for favourable reasons though unfortunately. I found the word choices sometimes quite strange, such as:

“Please, not him.”
She smiled. “Cooperation is the key to abdication.”

However, it wasn’t all bad! I did find this on the morality of lying thought provoking:

“We all lie, Laurel. The world would be worse if we didn’t, but it’s also more brittle because we do.”

 

Summary/Overall thoughts

Theo: I think there is a lot of potential in the world and characters and the book as a whole is a swift and easy read. 

But there are quite a few blunt edges where events and character reactions seem illogical or thoughts and dialogue could have been better expressed.

Nils: There are elements within Voice of War which I feel with further depth and scope could be really well done. The Apogee inside Chrys, the addiction that comes from threadweaving, the chromowolves, and the forest of Fairenwild, were all concepts which I enjoyed reading about and would have preferred more of. However overall, and I’m so sorry to say this, for all the reasons I gave in this review the book just failed to work for me as it is.

Beth: I agree with the points Theo and Nils make above. There is a lot of potential, there are concepts that were interesting; unfortunately I just didn’t enjoy the execution of them. When I got to the end of the book, I was particularly frustrated by how little is resolved.

Ultimately this is just my opinion, but a first book should feature a story in of itself, with an overarching story that becomes clear at the end – a conclusion which has ramifications that then open a door to a second book. Voice of War isn’t alone here, I have read others recently that similarly are too much an opening to a series and not a conclusive story in and of themselves. I do firmly believe that it shouldn’t be requisite that you carry on reading to get answers to the questions raised in book one. 

I don’t usually like to write spoilers in my reviews, but I am going to discuss plot points here because I think Argyle could have had a great book on his hands. I think ultimately, he tried to fit too much into this “first book”. Spoilers, but he could have left book one as a focus on finding the bloodthieves, with Chrys carrying out an investigation, and trying to find Laurel. The big conclusion could have been discovering his son has amber eyes, escaping the temple, fighting Jurius, and then discovering the truth of his heritage. These events would be enough to imply there are wider things at work which will then get explored in book two.

Nils: I agree Beth, that would have made for a thrilling story to follow and allowed room for more depth to the characters and world-building too.

Filip: I had a miserable time with Voice of War. Though its humour was one element I enjoyed, I found it a sorely unoriginal work, tired and bland in its prose, an element that seeps into every aspect of the work.  

Julia: I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the ending. There’s a lot of promise here, and I would happily give the author another chance. However the later parts just didn’t fully deliver for me.

I missed information that I would have liked to know. Or rather, there were a few scenes that seem to have had more or less no further consequences (at least in book one) when they definitely felt like the set-up to more. If it is meant to be important in book two, then it didn’t really work for me, because it just left me unsatisfied and feeling like there were bits and pieces missing. And not in the good jigsaw puzzle mystery way, when I love to piece them together. Instead more in a “that piece has fallen out of the box and now there’s a big hole in the puzzle” sort of way…  

Combine that with the strange decisions and incompetence of characters, and this didn’t feel nearly as good to me as it could have with some more smoothing out.

 

The Scorings

Filip 4
Nils 5
Beth 7
Julia 5
Theo 7
FINAL SCORE
(to nearest half mark)
5.5
Placed 8th in the Hive’s Finalist List.

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The post VOICE OF WAR by Zack Argyle (SPFBO 6 FINALIST REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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Stephen King's War on Plot







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