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Review of The Archbishop’s Amulet by Watson Davis

Review of The Archbishop’s Amulet by Watson DavisThe Archbishop's Amulet by Watson Davis
Series: The Windhaven Chronicles
on April 17th, 2016
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
Pages: 334


An escaped slave with the key to Hell and a choice to make.

Caldane, a slave and the last survivor of his clan, knows he can’t endure more of the dark rituals performed to harvest his magic. Learning the mother he thought dead still lives, he escapes but opens the gates to Hell. His slave master hunts him. A giant seeks to ensnare him. Caldane faces the choice of saving himself or saving people who don’t realize they’re slaves.

In this stand-alone novel in the Windhaven Chronicles, Watson Davis weaves a ripping yarn of adventure and self-discovery, a coming-of-age tale set in a dangerous world of tribes battling empires, of fantastic creatures and infernal magic.

So this was a struggle of joy for me. Boiled down dramatically, the story basically follows Caldane and a few others as they escape slavery and flee.

The world we’re introduced to is a dark one. The book starts out with Caldane cleaning up the gore left behind from one of the human sacrifice rituals performed at the monastery where he’s enslaved. There’s some wicked magic happening in this world. Matter of fact, there’s all kinds of magic, some dark, some not. I loved it all. I rather like darker books, and this one was stacked with gore and torture, despair and fight. There’s also a good amount of races that are touched upon, which opens up great opportunities for future books. What I loved loved loved was the lack of info dumps. We’re thrown in a world and given enough information to understand what is happening while leaving us with curious questions that can be answered later. At the end, I felt what we were given was not close to the depth Davis has for future books, or at least what I hope might be explored someday.

What surprised me most was my lack of annoyance with the characters. They are young, certainly, but they don’t have the whiny I-can’t-do-anything or the cocky I-can-do-it-all attitudes I hate in YA. Or the I-need-me-some-mentoring. Or where-is-my-love-interest-because-I-can’t-go-on-without-one. They struggle and make good and bad decisions. If I had to find a fault, it might be that they were too tough, ready to tackle their circumstances too eagerly. However, that’s if I had to come up with something. I was so relieved not to have indecisive whiners that I was rooting for them to keep going. Caldane was nicely developed, though I do believe his companions lacked his same depth.

We’ve also got some orcs, which are fun to read about, and some slaves turn into zombies by way of magic slave collars. The bad guys are interesting as well, which is always a bonus. Oh, and there’s some creepy hell stuff going on. Really fun.

Now, what I struggled with was the writing itself. For the first half of the book, I was cruising along, but about halfway, I found myself getting tired, mentally, and it took me a moment to fully understand why. Davis loves commas, and therefore doesn’t use as many periods as one is used to. This creates extremely long sentences, and when there’s action or a lot going on, there’s not break in the format. It makes reading a burden. It’s clear enough, certainly, but the mind needs those breaks in the scenes and paragraphs. Here’s an example:
I raised my empty hand in warning, my sling spinning, but Aissal, too exhausted to watch where she was going, her attention focused inward, plowed into Rucker, tripping over him, pitching forward into the branches of the tree, arms flailing, knocking tree limbs aside, snow flying, tumbling to the ground.

As you’ll note, not a single period, no break for the mind, and a series of actions that should have been broken down a bit, or simplified. One or two paragraphs wouldn’t have bothered me, but the entire book is written in this format, and I noticed it more the further I read. If the story had not been as entertaining, if the world not so wonderfully dark, I probably would have given up. However, by the time I was noticing it, I was too wound up in the story to stop. Which reminds me: the pacing is great. It moved fast. Oddly enough, Caldane’s point of view is written in first person, while the other characters are third person. There’s a break between PoVs, so it’s easy to follow, but the first jump was a little surprise for me.

So overall, I’d recommend this book but warn readers of the odd writing style and the heaps of awesome gore.

About Watson Davis

Watson Davis discovered fantasy and science fiction, magic and technology, Isaac Asimov and Robert E. Howard, when he was a young, impressionable boy in Houston, Texas. He wrote his first robot apocalypse short story at eleven, delved many a dungeon and battled many a vampire while pursuing a degree in mathematics, and penned books of swords and sorcery and military space opera. He now lives in Spain in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean.

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