SPFBO 2018 entry The Water Road by JD Byrne
Firstly, my SPFBO reviews are not intended to be discouraging feedback for the author. This is only one reviewer’s opinion and should be taken in the context of the contest which is that reviewers on Booknest were assigned books by our EIC and not chosen based on any particular tastes of the reviewer in question. I think to have written a book is a monumental achievement and I hope that all SPFBO authors continue to work on their craft and share their stories.
The Water Road is a dual perspective story in 3rd person that mostly switches back and forth between our indomitable young journalist and the societal outcast chapter for chapter. Though I didn’t always find the actions of the characters or the machinations of the world believable I did appreciate the quality of the writing itself and the depth of the world building- with a small caveat that some of this worldbuilding could have been woven into the story in a more compelling manner.
For me the biggest problem I had with The Water Road was convenience. In that it seemed that the characters were being drawn along by a predertmined plot rather than the inverse. This plot is primarily concerned with two women on a mission to dramatically shift the balance of power in a long unjust world. So there is a compelling thread of justice seeking by both characters that I did appreciate.
However, the story often stops to explain intricate politics of years gone by rather than dramatizing this history in a way more meaningful to the reader or perhaps making the present circumstances of the plot more dramatic- we are, after all, dealing with two characters on the run, not just fighting for causes but survival.
I should also note that I personally didn’t like one of the main characters from early on and nothing the character did after this spoilerish action at the onset made me care much more about her or her quest, however just it was.
Overall, I found The Water Road to be a bit of a paradox in that I appreciated the skill of the writer, the incredible depth of world building, but found the characters less than compelling partly due to not finding them and their actions/consequences believable.