Review: The War of Undoing by Alex Perry

Published by: self-published
ISBN: 1511638591
ISBN 13: 9781311429445
Published: April 2015
Pages: 616
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is the seventh book I dove into once we had our shortlist of ten. And it was good.

We have three siblings – Miller, Tay and Ellstone – abandoned by their parents and with only each other to keep themselves going. Early on in the book they’re bid to travel for a great cause – which fits perfectly with what Tay has always expected. Born with an oddly shaped birthmark she’s always dreamed of being a chosen one of some sort… and with war brewing, and nothing left for them in the town they’ve grown up in, she jumps at the chance and takes Ellstone with her. Miller stays behind, though there’s no bad blood here – hedging his bets, he stays behind as the one with a job, to save their tiny room and keep earning just in case it all comes to nothing, so they have something to return to.

Up until now it’s been rather intriguing. You have this magical group of people who are persecuted and slowly rising up together as one, and this is who the war will be against. But then we arrive in the town Tay and Ellstone are travelling to and meet the fourth main character… and it becomes noticeable that the two female characters – Tay and Kisli – are really a bit too much alike. (Much like how Miller and Ellstone seem to have the same voice, too…) And that the whole chapter made it hard to suspend disbelief as it makes little to no sense for a man (husband or not) to dismiss the work of a Commander picking their troops (thus undermining their position), and then for the very average fighter to distract a supposed excellent fighter by knocking over some paperwork and then knocking their sword from hand… after seconds of contemplating doing such a thing. Sorry, but war is coming and you have warrior-hopefuls to assess… Who the heck cares about paperwork? I highly doubt Commander Menx would. This chapter pretty well threw me out of the novel and it took a while for me to get back into it. I get that it was trying to use the old ‘if you disarm the leading officer you get permanency trope thing’, but it was delivered fairly poorly… and it also makes little to no sense for someone who apparently ‘hates hurting people’ to manage to use that to then be accepted as a worthy fighter.

Anyway. That aside.

Overall the writing itself is of pretty good quality. There were only two or so typos and a few easily glossed over grammatical errors, and they did not detract from the novel – about the same as you get in a Big Five published novel these days. Overall the novel felt polished in what it was hoping to achieve. (Possibly not so much in the pacing aspect, but for a longish book at 600+ pages it’s still a quick read somehow, so plus points for that.) The worldbuilding was there but not shoved down throats, and it was handy having a character who loved books that helped with a few history lessons, managing to not make it seem or feel at any stage like an info dump.

It’s to the credit of how well written it is that it’s almost easy to forget that some of the characters feel a bit samey – that to write in first person personal makes it doubly hard for the author to make each character’s voice shine through, whilst also keeping quite a grim and serious ‘war is coming’ and ‘here are the chosen ones’ feel a bit light with some dark humour. Each character seems to have the same tone in response to life and bullies in general… but, hey, it’s well done, so it’s possible to get over this issue.

Another part I liked is how it’s also a bit closer to YA than the heft of grim-dark we get in SPFBO, which is refreshing. It takes a fairly cliche-driven path and manages to surprise the reader. And that the issue that Tay especially has at the start is seen to, and we get that seen to in a fairly realistic way – not entirely satisfying, but I couldn’t have imagined that it would be in real life – this isn’t a fairytale after all.

All in all, I enjoyed this one.