Urban fantasy is not my forte. Or fantasy in general – I used to gorge on it decades ago, then I guess I had a, uh, a literary indigestion or something because one day I just stopped buying new books, deleted my Edizioni Nord subscription and went looking for greener pastures.
The point is, it’s been at least twenty years since I dipped my toes in fantasy, ASOIAF notwithstanding, so I’m rusty. It takes me a while to restart those mental gears and cogs, keeping track of lands and populations and names and.
You get the gist? Cool.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s analyze To the North, by E.L.Grove.
Evocative! It intrigues me, because what the hell is going on with the half-withered, half-luscious tree?
- Just like the cover, TTN is evocative and vivid. The characters are well thought out, each of them with a different voice. That’s quite a feat, even more so because the cast is pretty big. Well done, Evan.
- Lehksi is one of the two main characters, and– I like her style? She’s badass, she’s competent and she’s able to pull her weight, be proactive and say no when the situation warrants it. She also never smothered Zaro in his sleep, which, commendable.
- Speaking of Zaro, he’s detestable. I was like, no, why isn’t spontaneous combustion a thing every time he showed up, and that’s another mark in the yay column. He has his reasons, he’s not awful just because – let me reiterate once again how hard it is to portray convincing villains, shades of grey and all. Thumbs up here.
- I like the cliffhanger at the very end. I know it’s not popular, but this is part one of a duology, it makes sense. The story’s not finished, after all.
- I’m noticing something odd when I compile the nay section of a review. A pattern, if you will. To me, there’s this issue, Issue #1, and it’s like the Mother Issue. Without it all the others would just disappear, because they’re connected somehow. The Mother Issue I have with TTN is about the length. Not the actual number of pages, no. There are many parts that add too little to the plot or slow it down. Axing them would have made it flow better.
- Monologues. I’m not sure why, but everyone tends to monologue a lot, and it doesn’t sound that realistic.
- It’s really hard to keep track of lands, populations and their physical traits, towns [etc.] without a glossary and a map.
- Which leads me to the fact that I found out that Emily has animal traits 9% in. Nope. That’s something that should be made clear from the get-go.
- This could as well be me – as I said, I’m not up to date with fantasy and urban fantasy – but the setting is confusing. We have villages and airports, taxis with chairs, armors, rifles, and maces.
TTL has enough potential to become (part of) a successful series. It would benefit from a better editing (there were some typos here and there too).
2,5 stars on GR, rounded up to 3 as encouragement, 6 here.