By Cynthia Ayala
The Danék is a wild river and Wull’s family has spent generations caring for it, breaking up the ice, keeping out the weeds, and fishing out the bodies of those unlucky enough to fall in. It is a legacy Wull does not want to be a part of. But when his father falls in and comes out possessed, Wull must embark on a journey to save his father and uncover the courage deep inside himself.
This novel has an interesting enough premise, but the novel itself it written stiffly. There is a lot going on and the cohesion falters in the story. One minute the reader is in one place and the next, the reader is someplace else with no idea of how they got there. It’s not an easy novel to follow given the writing style. The story is jarring, it doesn’t move with fluidity and throws in new characters here and there. There is no setup and the tension begins to falter early on in the novel.
Not only that, the language that Stewart decided to employ in the storytelling is not an easy read. The language is similar to old English but the problem is the author uses old English and modern English to tell the story. Here is another look at the cohesion. This world should be steeped in magic, should be wondrous, but the imagination here is stiff, and the language only makes it stiffer to read. Half the time it’s difficult to figure out what in the world the characters are trying to say. There are god ways to write in old English and then there are bad ways. This book falls into the latter of the two. Plenty of authors write in old English, or something similar, many of which are successful. The key is using the language and then morphing it a little so that the reader knows what it going on. Giving the reader something to struggle over is not a good way to keep them interested in the novel. The moment the reader has to sit there and stumble over a sentence, re-reading it to figure out what is going on is the moment the author has lost the reader. And the fact that that happens in this novel numerous times within the first 100-pages of the novel is not a good thing. It’s off-putting and makes the story boring to read.
Finally, there’s Wulliam. Not a terribly innovative way to write the name, makes a common name look more foreign than it should, which is, again, off-putting, but more importantly, he’s not a very strong character. Physically he’s not strong either. He likes to whine a lot early on in the novel, which doesn’t bode well for a good character, and he’s not whining in a way that hints that he’s going to evolve, he’s whiny in a very pitiful way. And he has absolutely no charisma. He’s not a great character to follow, plain and simple and with a story too difficult to follow, it’s just not a very good book. (★★☆☆☆ | D)