Book Review

Review: Widow’s Welcome by D. K. Fields

There’s power in stories and this is a story of power.

Now that’s quite a Hook and, if you read Widow’s Welcome, you’ll come to realise why the Hook is just as important as the story itself.

Widow's Welcome

Title: Widow’s Welcome
Author: D. K. Fields
Pages: 432
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 8th August 2019

Dead bodies aren’t unusual in the alleyways of Fenest. Muggings, brawls gone bad, debts collected—Detective Cora Gorderheim has seen it all. Until she finds a Wayward man with his mouth sewn shut. As Detective Gorderheim pieces together the dead man’s story, she’s drawn into the most dangerous story in the Union of Realms: the election. Gorderheim just wants to find a killer but nothing’s that simple in an election year. Dark forces conspire against the Union and Gorderheim finds herself at the rotten core of it all. She’ll find the killer, but at what cost?

Quite honestly, I cannot tell whether this is a clever, impressive, artful book. Or one that is too far up itself to tell the reader the truth.

At around the 25-30% mark I was willing to give up. I’ve never DNF’s a book and I was seriously considering it here. The story wasn’t moving anywhere. Cora, as the apparent protagonist, was unlikeable, and was showing no development. She was missing leads and opportunities in the case, or allowing her subordinates to investigate for her, which meant that as a reader you were following her blind. The first couple of chapters contained all the interesting information and then the story went NOWHERE.

Not to mention, this was all taking place with reference to THE MOST COMPLICATED pantheon of gods ever imagined – they’re listed at the front of the book. There are 50, FIFTY, of them and they all have specific traits, characteristics and preferences.

And in addition, this was during an election, where storytellers from five nations told a story to gain votes for the assembly. I mean, using stories to gain political power? That’s a fascinating concept, and really appeals to the (one-time performing) storyteller in me. And I loved the idea of the collective gods as The Audience, who would listen to one’s stories, before you would join them in death. Great imagination, really interesting.

But the explanations of these genuinely complicated concepts – both the gods and the election – were dry, difficult and meant that I was very nearly turned away from finishing.

And then came the stories: this book has two stories contained within the story (although if I was feeling clever, I might argue that this is, in fact, a wheel of stories, wrapped around each other, which is why the Casker and the Lowlander stories interrupt the main story and how they all become interconnected).

Now these two election stories are beautiful. They are fascinating, they are haunting, they are full of pain … they are everything that the main story is lacking in its current form.

And that’s what makes this review, and this rating, very difficult. Those two ‘teller stories were everything I wanted to read – I wasn’t at all mad that they took up a good 30% of the book in total, in fact, I was annoyed when I ended up back in the original narrative. But in order for them to have that kind of impact, the main story had to be, well, blegh.

The passage of time in this book is also very odd. I couldn’t tell whether these events were happening over a few short days, but at other times there was reference to weeks passing. This also added to the feeling of disatisfaction at the end – by this point you had become invested in the election stories, and the conclusion wasn’t clear whether there had been an outcome to the election, and the main character just wasn’t interested, or whether it hadn’t happened yet, and that future books would include the other election stories.

And finally – and this is my last gripe with the book – at 95% I knew the only way the story could wrap up, but I really didn’t want it to finish that way. And there was no time left for it to finish without lots of unanswered questions. I was almost longing (a glutton for punishment) for the book to be twice as long so that it could contain the rest of the election stories and finish properly. Instead, it felt like someone had axed it halfway through and the author remembered towards the end that there would be two parts.

This author can write – the election stories prove that – so why do I feel relieved that I’ve made my way out of this book?

A tentative 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher – all opinions are my own.

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