I’d like to thank Aria & Aries and NetGelley for an ARC of this book to read and review.
Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron are recruited by The Horde, one of two teams of warriors in Edinburgh and based on ancient civilizations who are pitted against each other for the amusement of the ultra-wealthy. Each recruit has their own reasons for joining the Horde. Maitland is searching for his missing sister who he believes joined the Horde. Cameron is trying to fill the void left in her life after the death of her child. Both will face dangerous challenges both seen and unseen as they navigate their way through the Pantheon’s Games.
If you didn’t find that the synopsis gave you a whole lot to go on other than some people are recruited onto some kind of team that fights another team, then you are exactly where I was for a good portion of this book.
The book follows (mostly) the overwhelmingly well-named Tyler Maitland and co-protagonist Lana Cameron as they are offered spots on one of Edinburgh’s Pantheon teams, The Horde. Almost the entirety of the book is about the training to be among the seven final recruits who actually are fully accepted into the Horde.
I went through a lot of this book with questions. Why are there these teams? What do the people on the teams get out of it? Who watches the events between the two teams? Some of the questions were quasi answered, but often I became more confused when the questions were somewhat explained. For instance, it is made clear that the teams have many fans, much like sports teams. There are always cameras to record the events of the “games” or “seasons” between the two teams. But when any footage of the games is broadcast on TV it is treated as something that shouldn’t have happened or a leak. They want to keep the games a secret. When ordinary citizens of Edinburgh take video with their cell phones it is stated several times that their phones should be taken away and destroyed or confiscated to get rid of the video. The video of the events that are… being videotaped and apparently streamed for anyone to watch. From the description on C.F. Barrington’s website “Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and watched online by thousands,” Do you see what I find confusing? Maybe its only thousands of ultra-rich billionaires who it streams too but then that doesn’t explain all the everyday fans.
I also spent much of the book wondering why Maitland and Cameron were putting up with the dangers and trials of joining the horde. Their motivations (especially Lana’s) were not given until very late in the story which kept me wondering what the point was for quite a while. Once their motivations were established however I found reading the book went much smoother.
For me, the book really didn’t start to feel like it got moving until the very end. And then it just ended. I understand this is the first book in a series but where the book ends, to me, felt like the author just decided to stop mid-paragraph. It didn’t feel like a dropping-off point and it left me feeling a little annoyed. I would like to go into more detail about the end but again, I want to avoid spoilers.
Ok, so I’ve mostly bashed the book so far. There are for sure things I did not enjoy. But hold your horses on thinking this was a bad book or that I hated it. First of all, this is someone’s premiere novel. I wish I was half as talented at writing as this author is. Second of all, there were things I really liked about this book and I am very interested to see what happens next.
The development of Maitland, Cameron, and other recruits is interesting and though there are a couple of unanswered questions (maybe I missed some passage clarifying my own questions here though) I have grown to appreciate the characters and look forward to seeing their development. Barrington does a good job of making you care about or really dislike a character to the point of being uncomfortably anxious when one of the characters you are rooting for is in danger. And there is a lot of danger in this book. And though for the most part the story lacks a main antagonist, once you get one, you immediately feel the impact of how bad this person or persons is/are.
I did feel the book lagged on with the training but it did pick up and I am really looking forward to the next book which I am expecting to have a whole lot of action. Now don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of action in this book too, but I’m looking forward to seeing action from more experienced characters as the story progresses as opposed to training scenes. You want to see the Karate Kid do a crane kick to a guy’s face, not watch him wax a car.
I really liked the mythology of the Pantheon. I am really hoping that there is a more in-depth description or revelations about how it works. Who is in it? More about the other teams. How it is run, etc? It is a very cool idea and I think if done right will become one of my favorite secret societies. I have my own ideas of what will happen with the two Edinburgh teams(the Horde and the Titans) and I’m very happy to see that the first trilogy (including this book) is set to be published between now and May 2022. Which means there shouldn’t be a very long wait for the next book.
The descriptions of fights and larger-scale battles are very well done. You can feel the impacts of each blow. The fact that other than a bow and arrow all the weapons are handheld melee weapons makes everything feel so much more personal and dangerous.
I am a little torn on this final point. This could be considered differently from your own point of view as a good or bad thing. The more I reflect on this book the more it seems to me as a kind of teaser or preview book. The hint of big things keeps appearing but never quite gets as out of control as you hope or expect which in some ways annoys me but also hooked me into needing to know what happens next.
So despite some issues I have with the book I would recommend it and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Use the following link to purchase this book on Amazon.The Wolf Mile: An action-packed, historical fantasy adventure