I’m always nervous when I review something by an author I actually know, because if I hate it the ensuring conversation might be…awkward, although I’m finding that most authors appreciate any honest review, as long as it’s constructive. Happily, I loved this book and can honestly give it a glowing review with the caveat that some of it was a little confusing, possibly because it’s the first installment in a series.
Dead Weight: The Tombs is the first in a series of short books about The Faerie War between humanity and faerie. We won, but it’s a tenuous and scary peace. This story is set in San Francisco and one of the strongest aspects of the story is that it uses a clear sense of place to convey the vast devastation and social changes that occurred as a result of the war. When I read that Washington D.C. was a crater, I was annoyed (at the Fey, not at the author). When I learned that Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley was gone, along with the rest of Berkeley, I was PISSED.
The star of this story is the world-building. There’s a huge sense of history without labored exposition. The culture is fascinating – all the little details ring true. The action is intense and violent and gory in a gritty way. The main character is presented in the least sympathetic possible light and yet completely wins our sympathy. He likes movie quotes, as do I. I was particularly amused by his attempt to fight off a fey soldier by quoting a famous speech from Pulp Fiction, before remembering that the speech consists of made-up scripture, not actual scripture (he has better luck when he switches to The Lord’s Prayer). Other characters are intriguing but not fleshed out at all. This is the first installment and it feels like an installment as opposed to a complete work. It’s a good installment, but you’ll want to understand what you’re getting into before you dive in to avoid frustration.
The reader is thrown headlong into the middle of a complicated, non-liner story without much exposition. I found the main storyline easy to follow but there were aspects of the beginning and the end concerning identity that confused me. This might be because I wasn’t paying enough attention, it might be because the writing isn’t clear, or might have been a deliberate choice of the author because more books in the series are coming along with more information and further developments. This did not mar my enjoyment of the story overall and it made me very curious about further developments.
I loved this story because it was original and interesting, it was gripping and emotionally involving, and it got a lot of work done (in terms of establishing a main character and a complicated world) very quickly and effectively. It moved fast and was vivid and kept me going from page to page. I felt like I could see everything happening in front of me – the descriptions were brilliant, and I loved the use of language. As far as the cohesiveness of the plot, that we won’t know until we get to read more, which I’m looking forward to doing. I mean, I’m REALLY looking forward to it. This was one of the most original and exciting things I’ve read in a long time!