Owen doesn’t fit in the small Welsh town in which he lives. The townsfolk are rude whenever his mother isn’t around, and since his mother’s boyfriend let it be known that he’s trans, they can be hurtful and call him by his old name. It also makes finding a job incredibly hard. Owen spends his time photographing the corpses of the mutilated animals, which is an epidemic that is plaguing his town. No one knows who or what is killing the animals, but Owen is more than a little suspicious.
Owen first meets Maredadd when his mother, Wenda, brings Maredadd home after he’s been injured. Owen feels drawn to the older man, but he doesn’t know why. He comes to learn Maredadd is longtime friends with his mother and that he knew Owen’s father, Evan, as well. Evan has been missing for quite a while and no one knows what happened to him. Maredadd tells Owen that he promised Evan he would look after Wenda and Owen, and that if Owen ever needs anything, to call on him.
After a terrible fight with Wenda’s boyfriend, Owen flees the house. Soaked to the bone, he finds himself at Maredadd’s. Maredadd takes him in, and then tells him about magic. Owen doesn’t have any trouble believing it and is quick to learn. And he proves to be an apt pupil.
But animals are still dying, Evan is still missing without hardly a trace, and strange things are showing themselves. As Owen and Maredadd grow closer and fall in love, things outside their bubble come to a head. The dark force is revealed, and Owen has to help conquer it.
Reading Challenge Month! For New-to-Me Author Week, I picked up this fantastical tale by Nem Rowan. This book should have been right up my alley and should have grabbed my attention and kept hold. But sadly, I found it more than a little lacking in some parts, and that was largely due to the narrative.
So first off, I will say that this is an incredibly creative world. The mythos that the author chose to weave into the tale was amazing and well chosen. There are a lot of elements that piqued my interest, and the magic is complex and interesting. I have to give Rowan credit for the elements they chose, and there was a certain whimsical nature, even when the story got dark, that were really clever. However, there was something lacking in the execution here that failed to keep my attention. I had issues with how easily Owen accepted things, and then how easily he fell into his role. To be honest, this might be nitpicky of me, but since Owen had not shown any natural talent toward magic prior, it was a little hard to believe that he’d first believe it so readily and then secondly have no qualms about jumping in.
The characters themselves were interesting. Owen was the narrator, and we certainly got to know him best. He’s troubled, and has an incredibly rough time of it. But he grows throughout the novel and learns to embrace his newfound talents. Maredadd was a bit more of a mystery, and so much of his personality was left unshown that he seemed almost too good to be true. Hand in hand with that, it was hard to believe their love, as I just didn’t see that much of a connection between them. Friends, sure. But to take that leap into falling in love was harder for me.
The romance is definitely a secondary storyline here, but that worked well. There’s so much going on, so much mystery, that I found that storyline having a greater prominence worked better for me. Again, there was something missing from the overall narrative that didn’t quite make the book gel for me, but the way it was set up, there really is a need for the mystery and magic to take front and center.
But the pacing was off for me, and I found the first half of the book dragging a bit. It took a long time for me to really get into it, and then the second half was so action packed, the dark moments so dark, that it was hard for me to reconcile the two halves. I think I would have liked it better if things were a bit more evenly paced, without just long slogs of Owen’s introspection and more action peeking out in the first half.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about this book. There were moments and elements that were done really well. But on the whole, I found things a little lackluster. This book didn’t work for me on every level, but in the end, I took a chance on this author, and would be interested to see what they come up with in the future.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a bundle of fabulous books donated by Carina Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.