“Well, maybe they just have faith in your ability to put a bullet in a moving body.”
I’m extremely happy to be working alongside the Books Of All Shades team to bring you our first ever book review. Not only are we bringing talented authors the honest book reviews they need to get noticed, but we’re also getting the chance to do what we love too – read incredible books and write about them as well!
Today’s review from me is of The Devil From The River by the very talented Andrew Whittaker. This is the first book of the ‘Unforgiven Sins’ series yet to be unfolded, and the story definitely has the potential to be explored further. Who knows, book two may be in the pipeline to be reviewed soon! No pressure, Andrew, honest…
I seem to say this a lot when reviewing books, but this book was something completely different to anything I’ve read before. (Surprise, surprise.) It just goes to show how many talented authors we have in the world today, who each have their own unique ideas. However, Andrew’s novel was particularly special. From the very first chapter, there’s action flowing left, right and centre! Chapter one is the kind of chapter where one simply isn’t enough to keep you satisfied. I need more of it, goddamn it! (And yes, I did read multiple chapters in one single sitting.)
The Devil From The River follows the story of David; a Sheriff just simply trying to get on with life by any means necessary. Life as he knew it had ended thanks to the Fires Of The Burning, so taking on odd jobs here and there was enough for him to get by. However, the day that body washed up on the river changed things. His old life returns, and the chance of revenge rears its head. Whether he risks things or not, you’ll have to see for yourself…
The opening chapter is an action lover’s dream. We’re placed in a black market setting, and faced with on-the-edge-of-your-seat type action here. It reminded me of Aladdin a little. (Oh, here we go – my inner Disney child emerges.) The part where Aladdin and Abu are scurrying around the markets looking for food and being chased down by guards. Brilliantly descriptive and simply thrilling.
I also got a nice little surprise in the opening couple of chapters too – a fantastical creature! I absolutely love it when authors create their own creatures; something mysterious to us, but, to the characters in the story, something completely normal.
Shidaari. Creatures that are taller than humans, have no mouths, yet speak in a buzz “like a hornet’s nest”. I only hope your reaction to this creepy, yet quite friendly creature was similar to mine! I think my reaction was something like an internal “woah!” combined with an inquisitive “hmm”.
Andrew’s description for these…’things’ is simply flawless. It’s an amazing skill to be able to create an image in a reader’s mind simply by using the right vocabulary. I could talk about these guys all day, but should perhaps move on…
“A landslide, of exhaustion crashed into his body. He quaked with the pain of a hundred bruises and cracked bones. But he stood.”
I really liked how chapter four panned out. We’re so used to hearing the story from one point of view up to this point, but in this chapter, we hear from the “criminal” side. We’re able to relate to this character here, and, as the chapter develops, we start to really feel for him and become rather attached. Perfectly written.
I’ve tried to experiment with this in my own WIP, The Kind Stranger. I love the idea of the reader really getting to know the story from both a protagonist and antagonist. Andrew has done this so well in his own novel that it’s really cemented the idea in my mind now.
Here’s where things really start to get juicy. David, our main man sheriff, has a lot of important decisions to make. Jared, the prisoner we have a little bit of a soft spot for, gets himself in a bit of a pickle. What really makes the majority of this is description – and incredible description at that.
Let’s use Jared as an example. When he’s recaptured, we witness a pretty intense fighting scene. It’s like watching a well choreographed action scene in a movie! It allows your mind to recreate something of immense detail. It makes it feel real. It makes the scene come to life. A lot of it doesn’t even have any dialogue, and, in my opinion, the descriptive paragraphs make up for it ten fold.
It’s also great for us as a reader to experience the detail of Dr Vahn’s experimentation on Jared and his abilities, (not so great for Jared, however.) We learn more about Jared’s strength here, and about what he’s capable of. Again, another amazing creation for an intriguing character.
“Dr Vahn’s eyes shone with curiosity, like a boy that had pulled the wings off of a fly for the first time.”
A character I really got attached to throughout the middle of the book was Terra. She’s a girl with a little bit of an attitude, but one who has a good head on her shoulders. She goes off in search for her saviour, and we share her “should I stay or should I go” thoughts and feelings. She gets emotional, and shows actions that we can all relate to in one way or another.
There’s always so much going on in the story, and no stone is left unturned. We follow the story from the perspective of a number of characters which works really well. I wasn’t left thinking, “Hang on, where am I?” or “Wait, what happened to this character?” Everything is explained really well and fits together perfectly in the end. A great skill that I’m sure Andrew is incredibly proud of.
The individual stories of each character we follow gently meet at the end, which is something I really admire about the book. The story follows a long, treacherous adventure to find Terra’s saviour. A story isn’t a story with a bit of danger, right?!
We find out more detail about David’s past as the adventure draws to a close, and why revenge is so important for him. Two characters put their differences aside here, and it makes the whole scene even more powerful. This is perhaps my favourite part of the whole book!
The final chapter makes us realise that the adventure is not over yet. There’s still so much to uncover, and leaves you wanting more! The end of book one finishes beautifully, but our characters are not completely out of danger just yet. I’m really excited to see what happens in book two, and how Andrew will end the journey.
The Devil From The River is a pretty impressive read. There is a solid plot with some fantastic characters. Creatures such as Shidaari and Grox really make the story even more mystical. We get to find out about the backstories of different characters, and why these are so important to the novel itself.
The way the perspectives change from David, to Jared, to Terra really work. We always know what’s going on in their lives and they’re all connected. There are some brilliantly strong characters in the novel – I always think a great character makes a story, and this one has a few!
I’ll be completely honest – if I wasn’t asked to review this book, it wouldn’t be something I’d pick up straight away, or download onto my Kindle. It’s not the genre or story line I would usually look for. However, saying that, The Devil From The River has really opened my eyes – I did thoroughly enjoy it! There was enough story, suspense and emotion to capture any reader’s attention.
A huge thanks to Andrew for giving me the chance to read and review The Devil From The River. A great book to kick off our book club! 📚 You can find the book on Amazon here, available on Kindle. Give Andrew a follow on Twitter to keep up to date!
Getting to know the author – Andrew Whittaker.
Now, Andrew’s first review from Books Of All Shades simply wouldn’t be complete without a little author interview, right? We put him under the spotlight…
What inspired you to write your novel?
A college professor once told me that if I wanted to learn to tell a story, I needed to dissect “Firefly”. I also had a mental image of a young girl walking through a steampunk Western town with a bag of laundry. As I studied “Firefly,” the scene merged with it and it grew from there.
What is your favourite kind of character to write about?
A character that doesn’t get along with others. I am usually pretty agreeable, so writing someone who is the opposite of me by being cross and does his own thing is a lot of fun. It’s refreshing to see the reactions my other characters have to that type of personality.
Can you give us a clue about what will happen in your next book?
It’s a sequel to this one. And in the vein of a good sequel, the protagonists find themselves having bitten off more than they can chew.
Tell your readers an interesting fact about yourself.
I run a 3-episode-in review podcast with one of my brothers that focuses on Japanese anime called Whittaker Weekly.
What’s your favourite thing to do besides writing?
Musical Theater. I’ve done over 30 shows in my life so far. Can’t wait to do some more.
What’s your favourite writing soundtrack/song?
It changes depending on the setting of the book I’m working on. My next project after this one is a dark fantasy and I have a very different batch of music to listen to when I work in that one. This current project is a western so I made my own soundtrack for this writing project filled with Western songs or Western feeling songs. My favorite out of that group is “Soul of a Man” by Steven Stern: (https://youtu.be/Aky0JifONLU)
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