The War of Undoing is Alex Perry's debut novel and it's the first book in the Kyland Falls series. This book completely took me by surprise with how enjoyable it was to read; the story is quite unique and different from most books in the genre these days. It is, of course, still high fantasy. Focusing on the conflict between human and vumas, or creatures, with a hint of science vs magic behind the scenes, I found this book to be a slow burn that was character driven with compelling narration, even when there’s not a lot going on in the story.
By narration, I really meant narration, because this story is presented as a retelling from the perspective of four main characters: the Raining siblings, Tay, Ellstone, and Miller, plus another side character named Kisli Thomas. The four of them are recalling the events leading to the time of writing the diary. Of course, everything is not as it seems and the readers get to find out about it with each story progression.
“Stories make sense. There’s justice in them. There’s none in real life.”
There are two minor issues I had with the book. The first one was that I found the first 40% of the book to be a mix of high and low points. The story wasn't really interesting during this part and I felt like it was too lighthearted at times, even though the author seems to be trying to go in a serious direction. Obviously, I could be wrong about this; it's just what I perceived, after all. The other issue and probably the most dominant one was that these characters didn't have any distinctive voices in this section. Most of the time it felt like I was reading only one or two POV’s rather than four because the characters' voices sound very similar in the narration. I need to tell you though that this book is told in multi 1st person POV, which is a very rare experience for me so my issue could also be because of that.
That said, this applied only to the first 40%. Once the book reached Part III, it only gets better and better until the end. During the second half, when the characters started having more development, the previous issues vanished. Like I said, it’s a book that gets better as you progress; even when the characters were just talking the book was hard to put down and eventually, it all leads to a rewarding climax that felt so conclusive that I forgot this was actually a series.
This novel has enough world-building and there are plenty of resonating themes such as poverty, penance, bullying, adventure, love for books, the fight for freedom, and the conviction to change one’s life. However, when it came down to it, I found that the main theme the author tried to convey the most was familial love and how it should always take the number one spot.
Finally, I need to also mention that the prose is very well-polished. Throughout the entire book, I spotted only one or two grammatical errors and there no typos whatsoever. Even though the prose was very straightforward and simple, I still consider this an achievement in self-published books which, most of the time, are quite filled with typos.
Overall, The War of Undoing is a great debut, I’m pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this was, and judging by comparison with the previous books in the competition (I still have one more to read and review) that I've read, this is definitely the most decent one so far.
Side note: I hope the author will consider changing the cover. This is a great book and that cover really doesn’t do justice to the content. I'm just stating the fact that it's really hard to get readers to try a new book from an unknown author when the cover doesn't grab their attention, doesn't matter if it's traditional or self-published. If there's any book that deserves a cover revamp, it's this.
I reviewed this as one of the judges for the finalist of SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog off) 2017. Everything written here is my honest opinion of the book, and there are possibilities that parts that work for me will not work for others and vice versa. I wish Alex Perry the best of luck in the final round of the competition.