Devil’s Night Dawning (Broken Stone Chronicle #1) by Damien Black #SPFBO

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devil'sDevil’s Night Dawning (DND) is the sixth book I read of the nine finalists from the #SPFBO.  Set in a mediaeval type world that evokes Arthurian legend DND has a large cast of characters and is set a world under threat with dark forces seeming to threaten all borders.  There is a lot about DND to like and many aspects that would normally appeal to me.  It has a historical feel, changing POVs, an almost Tolkienesque style of world building and a threat from dark mages practicing untoward magic and causing rifts that allow demons and spirits to pour into the world and cause havoc.  But, I had some real issues in getting through this and I have to admit that if not for the fact that I was compelled to read it I very likely would have put this book to one side.

In terms of the characters.  There are a number of storylines taking place and the majority of them eventually converge.  The key characters are a monk and his novice. Horskram and Adelko.  One a grumpy-seen-it-done-it-been-there slightly jaded character and the other a thirsting for knowledge, curious wants to see the world asks lots of questions young adept.  This is an interesting coupling and one that we spend the most time with.  There’s a seasoned knight and his squire, Sir Branas and Vaskarian.  Much is made of Vaskarian’s unsuitability to become a knight and the other squires ridicule him on a frequent basis.  You can’t fault his mettle but I must admit that anybody who throws a pan of boiling stew over a person in retaliation for an affront doesn’t really go down well in my book.  I’m going to say that put me on the back foot a little with him – he does redeem himself as the book progresses but I did have that incident at the back of my mind and it didn’t cast him in a good light particularly as two rather harmless characters died unnecessarily as a result of the altercation.  We have a noble woman and her lady in waiting. Adhelina is about to be married off to a rather boorish character in a play at politics by her father.  Not an altogether unexpected plotline and yet it didn’t read true coming from a father who has indulged his daughter her entire life and whose own marriage was one of love instead of a play for power – especially as the father also acknowledges that the ‘intended’ is unlikable in the extreme.  Would he marry his only child to a man who he disliked?  Perhaps. Noble matches in life as well as fiction are often not based on feelings but whether they’re a good match – so this wouldn’t normally be a problem.  But, put simply, it seemed out of character from what we were told of Adhelina’s father.  Anyway, Adhelina, is a learned woman who has a love for plants and herblore.  She’s determined not to be married off to a blustering buffoon of a man and takes matters into hand.  Finally, we have a knight and his entourage, Braxus, who is sent by his father on a mission across the border to seek help in a forthcoming war.  Braxus was my favourite character to be honest, he had a sort of ‘realness’ that I enjoyed.

The main thrust of the plot is that war is happening on all borders not just one and the catalyst seems to be the theft of a couple of ancient artefacts that were long ago hidden to prevent demons from ruling the land.

I have to hand it to the author, the writing is very good and the world building is thoroughly thought out.  Unfortunately though it’s something of a double edged sword and something of a sticking point for me.  There was far too much exposition and it frequently brought any sort of excitement that the storyline was creating to a complete standstill.  In fairness to the author he has come up with a massive creation here.  It’s clearly been a labour of love and I can’t fault the thoroughness and in depth creativity and attention to detail – I just don’t want to read it in the form of rather long history lessons whilst sitting round a campfire.  It felt like I was trying to take in the whole history of this world too quickly and it not only broke up the action but also ultimately became tedious.

That being said, the last third of the book definitely picked up the pace, the storylines had started to come together and there was more going on.  Plus, I really enjoyed the scene with the forest and the fae – that was really well done and probably my favourite aspect of the story.

In terms of criticisms.  There’s definitely a sense of deja vu when reading this.  It feels like a strange mash up of Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones – it definitely has the scope of both and the feeling of a quest but at the moment it’s not quite managed to endear me to the characters other than Braxus who in spite of his womanising ways made me smile and doesn’t come across quite as stiff necked as some of the other knights.  My main issue is the length – and not because this is a long book.  I don’t mind weighty tomes – I just don’t want them to feel ‘weighty’ when I’m reading them and unfortunately DND did suffer in that respect.  I think I probably would have stopped reading this after the first third.  It felt like it was taking me far too long to make any progress and the sheer amount of detail was stifling the plot.  That probably sounds harsh and I really don’t intend to be so because clearly this author can spin a yarn.  You can feel the author’s love for his creation and you really can’t fault that – but it needs to be balanced a little better.  It’s probably difficult when you’re in the thick of your own story, you want to share everything with your potential readers and it’s something of a juggling act knowing what to add in or take out but with DND it feels like the characters, the action and the tension suffer under the strain of too much description.

I’ve rated this a 5, which equates to 2.5 on Goodreads.

My thanks to the author for a copy of the book.  The above is my own opinion.