Across the Room: A fun new world filled with badass heroines, heroes, and lore. However, there were some issues with the prose that I found—nitpicky, perhaps, but…I’ll let you be that judge in the assessment below:
Temperature: Hypothermic. In nearly every sense of the word, to be honest. It’s a dark, gritty, and cold story—even the weather! Though I generally enjoy dark stories and worlds, this was almost overwhelming.
Heart Rate: Normal Rate and Rhythm. One thing I can appreciate about John Gwynne’s storytelling is his ability to pace the story so well. The action scenes are rarely bogged down, and the intimate scenes between characters are perfectly paced.
Blood Pressure: Normotensive. The plot, overall, was pretty easy to follow. There were just a few times I had to check back to make sure I was in the right timeline of events, but, I was able to follow everything pretty well for the most part.
Respirations: Regular Rate, Irregular Rhythm. The characters were very well-rounded. I liked how they continually questioned their beliefs throughout the story, and their morality was challenged at many different plot points. However, I had a really hard time relating to them on a personal level. I’m not sure why, as their stories are really compelling, but I found myself feeling like I was just watching them from afar, rather than going on these journeys with them.
Oxygenation: Well-oxygenated. I thought Gwynne did a fantastic job at describing the setting, from the smells, sights, feelings, etc.
Work of Breathing: Mild-Moderate Shortness of Breath. Despite the good vitals-signs above, I just had a hard time staying immersed in the story. I had to work pretty hard at some points to stay in that world, but I felt good enough to read the book to its entirety.
Family: Grimdark Fantasy
Medical: I think this is where I had my difficulty with immersion. There was a lot more "telling" than I was expecting, rather than "showing". There were some points in the story where I felt like my hand was being held—things were being explained and "told" to me, despite being "shown" exactly what was going on. Overall, it made things feel kind of weird, like I was hearing about the story, rather than watching it unfold. There were a lot more typos—some of them pretty obvious to me—than expected for a novel that was edited and proofread tons of times. My last piece of complaint—and this is probably nitpicky and the pot calling the kettle black—the dialogue felt so…forced. There were no contractions, no "improper" uses of grammar. No slang. No differentiation between the character voices. I don’t know, it was one of the things that pulled me out of the story.
Psychiatric: The relationships between these characters were well-fleshed out. At the same time, I had a bit of a hard time with some of the issues they had. I didn’t care for Elvar’s visceral hatred toward her father, nor did I care for Varg’s obsession with the seidrwitch. I would think that, after months of being with the Bloodsworn, he would have a slight change of heart. But no, he ended up (spoilers!!) Nearly betraying his sword brothers because he was too damned impatient.
Socio-economic: Advertised and Marketed appropriately.
Head to Toe Assessment
Head and Face: The cover alone got me to buy this book. I was so freaking excited, because DRAGONS!! I mean, who *doesn’t* love dragons on the cover? The blurb got me hooked, as well. I loved the blurb, the cover. Oh, they got me good.
Neck: The first chapter was so good! I felt everything, smelled everything, tasted everything. The sense of dread in the first chapter was just so visceral, and I felt so connected to Orka immediately.
Chest: Unfortunately, this is where my immersion starts to waver. I still loved Orka—she was my favourite character, by far—but the more I got to know Varg and Elvar, the less invested I was in the story overall.
Abdomen and Flanks: I nearly DNF’d at this point. It was a bit of a slog, and my immersion struggled. I felt the story was way too predictable at this point, as well. This was also when the dialogue started to wear on me.
Perineum: Ok. The plot redeemed itself here in Orka’s timeline. My goodness, is she amazing. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for Varg or Elvar. Again, their timelines seem a bit, err, flat.
Extremities: Oh this was good. This was so so good. Like, DRAGON! good.
Backside: Damn. I did not see that coming with Orka’s storyline. I was floored at the major revelation on the last page. Needless to say, the climax and falling action fully redeemed this story, and I cannot *wait* for book two to come!
Prognosis: Fairly Good (3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 on Goodreads).
Thanks for reading this week's triage! Next week, I take on the massive "Priory of the Orange Tree" by Samantha Shannon. As always,
Stay safe. Stay sane. Keep healthy. Keep smiling. Much love!