What the deuce, you might ask? A review on a Monday? Well, this is going to be a twofer week, my fine friends, and this review does require a small disclaimer as to why I was able to do it. To get to the point, I was one of the beta readers for this particular volume, part of a series I have reviewed two previous volumes of (Kill It With Magic and The Hatter Is Mad). That made it child’s play to fit in a reread of the final edition once it came out alongside my usual review book of the week.
So, let’s get on with the show, eh?
It’s a curious literary meal to eat a prequel novel that was cooked up after six previous meals of a series. It’s not an unknown thing and I’ve devoured both delightful and disgusting attempts at such. Wardbreaker promised to be, judging from the previous two volumes of this series I had read, at the least a very wild group of flavors in my mouth. So, after what was a promising but somewhat confusing first meal and a more balanced second course, did the prequel continue on those trends or, like its volume number, tumble backward?
Before we find out, let’s recite the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
Wardbreaker is, in many ways, the product of the chef’s continual literary refinement. While it retains the same key flavors of the manic-paced, over-the-top, urban fantasy as the previous volumes, this meal retains much of the literary consistency I noted in the more refined The Hatter Is Mad. Overall, that means a solid texture and consistent flavor for most of the meal. The dialogue is snappy and the descriptions are refined. It reads, outside of some odd editorial misses, as the work of an experienced author.
As with the previous meals I’ve reviewed of this series, characters and action are the best used spices in this book. The cast is intriguing and the protagonist, no doubt honed after so many volumes written, especially comes to life. As always, Mr. Cipriano puts together his usual, over-the-top, heavily anime-inspired action set pieces and executes them with aplomb.
The problems with this recipe are, well, the same as with the other meals I’ve reviewed. In this way, it is more akin with Kill It With Magic in that it eschews most exposition and back story (again, most of the crucial information about WHO Lillim is remains in the second (now third) book The Hatter Is Mad) for MORE ACTION. The pace is blisteringly fast with almost no stops to let the reader breathe and digest, making the curves of natural story progression more like a flatline. These aren’t good things, at least by my literary tastes, though they aren’t deal breakers either.
I’d say where these two problems intertwine is in the climax of the book. After all this action, the final climax is surprisingly flat (possibly from excessive action fatigue) and, as there is so little explanation of what the hell is going on (less so than the other two books), I was left with a large laundry list of dangling plot threads. Are there going to be more prequel novels to clear them up? I don’t know, but it definitely ends the book with a funny, flavorless taste I wasn’t expecting.
I’m really waffling here when it comes to my final verdict. Wardbreaker was a easy, breezy read in one sense, as the blistering pace tends to keep you reading until the end, expecting all those niggling questions to be answered, but they never really do. As a prequel, it doesn’t really add anything to my understanding of the series protagonist or the world, which means I’m not sure where it really fits in. It certainly isn’t a bad meal, not at all, and I was never ready to throw in the towel, reading it both in beta and in final form each within a night or two. Still, it’s not as good, in the end, as The Hatter Is Mad, sharing more of the confusing pedigree of Kill It With Magic, just more refined. In a more refined rating system, I’d rate it somewhere between the two, but more rounded down towards Kill, hence my final rating below. Obviously, if you’re a fan of The Lillim Callina Chronicles, you should definitely snap this up, and if you are a lover of non-stop, over-the-top action, I’d definitely suggest this series as a prime example of that genre. If you are looking for deeper exposition or a normally-paced bit of fiction, you won’t find that here.
FINAL VERDICT: *** (A prequel meal that is fed to you at a frantic pace, with no new information for the series as a whole!)