Shadebringer by Grayson W Hooper

Stars: 2 out of 5

I added one extra star for the originality of the premise. A soldier who dies during the Vietnam war ends up in a sort of transitional afterlife world where souls are supposed to heal and deal with their hang-ups before they transition into Heaven or Hell or reincarnate, depending on their religious preferences. Oh, and all the souls in this world are soldiers from all the wars ever fought on Earth. This could have been such an awesome story! I was so looking forward to exploring that! Unfortunately, the execution was mediocre at best.

The story takes a long time to get up to speed. I mean, the protagonist doesn’t even end up in Irgendwo until about 40% into the book. Until then we have a long and tedious account of him fighting in Vietnam. Well, by fighting I mean drinking, cursing, and being a total ass to his subordinates in Vietnam. We don’t get much actual fighting. And when we do, the fight sequences are confusing and not particularly well written.

Once we finally get to Irgendwo, the story doesn’t get much better. The author tells us a lot, but doesn’t show anything. He also doesn’t particularly explain how his world works. We travel through a desert and some woods and reach mountains, but there is no sense of scale. At one point it says that it’s days to the sulfur caves from the city where the protagonist is, yet it seems like an army of over two thousand people covers that distance almost instantaneously. I mean imagine the logistics involved in moving this many people over a long distance? Provisions, tents, etc.? Nope, no mention of that. They cover the distance seemingly by magic.

Speaking of magic. Apparently, there is such a ting in Irgendwo, but how it works is never explained. It’s like, here, put your hands like this and throw a fireball. Look at that, it works! There is mention of necromancers, and scryers, but how any of this works is never explained.

Nothing is explained or actually SHOWN. We are told that the people of Mora are evil and want to destroy this world, but apart from a brief scene where the protagonist witnesses a public hanging, I saw nothing that proves this supposed evilness. Or the goodness of the other guys… who force conscript anyone coming to their city. But it’s for a good cause, because the author said they are the good guys…

Also, we have soldiers from different conflicts throughout human history, including the most recent ones like WW1 and WW2. Heck, the protagonist died in Vietnam… yet all their weapons and armor are stuck in the middle ages. We have swords and maces and bows, but no guns? Why? Once again, nothing is explained. 

I think by now you can see the trend here.

I could have forgiven the lack of decent worldbuilding and explanation, if the characters were interesting. Unfortunately, that is not the case. All the secondary characters have the personalities of a cardboard cutout. And the cutout isn’t of a real person, but of a cartoon. Seriously, I can hardly remember their names, yet alone their descriptions. 

The main protagonist doesn’t fare much better. I found him extremely unlikable. He comes across as an entitled asshole who thinks that he is better than everyone else, so he treat them like dirt. Oh, and he gets away with this because he is the Chosen One. He is so quick to pass judgement on people based on their appearance or actions, yet we have seen him being a horrible excuse for a human being during his time in Vietnam… yet he considers himself so good and righteous. I wanted to slap him or throttle him for most of the book.

I quit reading at 85%, smack in the middle of the last decisive battle that was supposed to decide the fate of Irgendwo, because I realized that I simply didn’t care one way or another. I wasn’t invested in this story and the people. I couldn’t care less if that portal was closed or if the Children (which we know next to nothing about) were finally going to invade and burn everything to the ground. As far as I’m concerned, they are welcome to it.

This is supposed to be the first book in a new series, but I have no interest in picking up the next one. Me and Irgendwo are parting ways.

PS: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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