Let me start by saying that when I read the blurb for this story, I thought it was right up my alley and was quick to pick it up. I was really looking forward to it. But unfortunately, it was problematic right from the start. In the end, I chose to stop reading at 25%, rather than continue. I’ll explain why, but first, the blurb:
Adam Stephens is a man with a mission. It has been three years since they chopped that malignant brain tumor out of his head, and he is off on a solo motorcycle camping trip through the Appalachian Mountains.
When he rides into the Pine Mountain Tunnel in North Carolina and rides out into another realm—a realm that comes complete with a big sexy grizzly bear shifter, mages, and an evil sorcerer—he isn’t sure he isn’t lying in the tunnel after crashing his bike. Can such a world exist? Or is he dreaming? If he is dreaming…it sure is realistic.
Along the way, there will be some major hurdles to surpass including no indoor plumbing…and no coffee. A man needs some basic luxuries, correct?
So as I said, this really sounded like a book I would enjoy. But I had immediate problems with the writing. I found the overabundance of passive voice distracting, and while I would have overlooked it if that were the only problem, it wasn’t. There were also large passages of info dump that dragged down the narrative. Add to that a few punctuation errors and formatting issues, which I normally ignore but all those things combined made reading tedious instead of engaging. So the author’s style isn’t for me, and it made it hard for me to get absorbed in the story.
On top of that, I had a serious issue with the world building. Or lack thereof. Adam ends up in a different world when he emerges from the tunnel, and I was expecting details. What I got instead was a lot of half formed thoughts with nothing fulling explained. Unless there was one of those aforementioned info dumps, and then there was a pile of information that didn’t quite add up. The levels of magic users was explained, but that was about it. There was a passing attempt at explaining shifters, but to me it felt like the author was just throwing things out and cobbling things together. My problem here was that everything felt disconnected and that was a real issue for me. I need things to make sense in a world like this, or at least for there to be enough information for me to suspend disbelief. I didn’t get that here. Though I will say things could be better explained as the book goes on, and I’m just missing it because I stopped where I did.
The pacing was another glaring problem. Things happened really fast. Rafe wants Adam gone, and then just a couple of pages later, he’s saying he was wrong and is there to help Adam. Another character, Clarice, is wary and distrustful of Adam, and then several paragraphs later, is changing her mind. Adam accepts things way too easily and I have absolutely no idea why he does. The instalove between the two men is absolutely unbelievable, as I felt no connection between them. Rafe is fun and playful one minute, and upset and crying the next. I was on the verge of getting whiplash by how quickly things changed. And without any basis, I just couldn’t roll with it.
On the other hand, it takes Rafe a couple of days to explain some key points to Adam, and when he tells Adam to wait, that they’ll talk about it tomorrow, Adam just goes along with it. This really didn’t make sense to me, as Adam was confused and wanted answers, but when Rafe says “we’ll talk about it tomorrow” Adam doesn’t even balk. Adam isn’t young or naïve, so I really couldn’t believe this. He’s an inconsistent character, and that made it almost impossible for me to engage with him.
Ultimately there was just too much going wrong in this book for me, just in the portion I read, for me to continue. The MCs don’t work, I didn’t feel their connection, and the world they are inhabiting is not explained enough. Add to that the writing style and pacing issues, and I felt it was better for me to put the book down. I’m sure other readers won’t have the same issues I did, and I’ll leave you to make your own judgement. But this is not a book I can recommend.