First Watch by Dale Lucas

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First Watch by Dale Lucas

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: Slightly like a buddy cop story set in a muddier version of Middle-Earth, this fantasy novel isn't treading much new ground.
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 416 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-0356509365

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If there were a bingo sheet for fantasy novels, you could probably score a blackout by the time you'd finished this book. What I mean by that is that First Watch contains a lot of tropes common to your average fantasy read – grumpy dwarves, ethereal elves, putrid orcs, a noble heir undercover as a common criminal – and it doesn't do much with them. It's a little like comfort food in that regard, but I've always been something of a food snob.

What's more, the setting doesn't feel distinct. The city of Yenara feels like it could exist in any number of fantasy lands already written, and not enough is revealed about the wider world around it to make it much more interesting. It feels as though every epic these days is full of swearing and rapes – R-rated fantasy is very much the flavour of the month/year/decade – but at this point it's almost like going through the motions, indicative of the tendency to use darkness as a substitute for depth or complexity. Other people have done this better, and it's not as shocking as it used to be.

There's very little time wasted before the reader is introduced to the designated love interest Indilen, who manages to be both quirky and bland in alternating stripes, and the ensuing quest to win her over that follows. The only character I found in any way interesting was Torval the Dwarf, and only because he was the character we saw the most of apart from the deathly dull protagonist Rem.

So to recap: stock tropes, uninspired setting, uninteresting characters. Not great so far. But the most fundamental reason I couldn't get to grips with First Watch was this: a third of the way into the book, I still wasn't sure what the plot was supposed to be – and it took a while after that before I felt I knew. By then, it was too late to hook me.

When it comes down to it, First Watch doesn't make for an outright dire read, but nor does it particularly excel in any area. It is best-described – put very simply – bog-standard. And while that might not be the most resounding recommendation, if fantasy is your thing, you'll probably enjoy it. The thing about comfort food, after all, is that it's safe and familiar.

Better examples of fantasy I can suggest include A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin, or for a slightly younger reader, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Buy First Watch by Dale Lucas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy First Watch by Dale Lucas at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy First Watch by Dale Lucas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy First Watch by Dale Lucas at Amazon.com.


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