Dusk (Tales of Noreela #1) Review

Dusk (Tales of Noreela #1) is a 2006 dark fantasy horror novel written by Tim Lebbon, published by Spectra.  Book one of the Tales of Noreela series, the story follows Kosar the thief who enlist the aid of his ex-lover and Shantasi warrior A’Meer, and their band of unexpected allies as he embarks on a journey to protect a special boy from the dark forces closing in on him.


Positives:

  • Great characterization
  • Worldbuilding is impressive
  • Great characters
  • Good, descriptive writing
  • Good story
  • Good character development
  • Brutal and gory violence

Negatives:

  • Some characters feel unnecessary
  • Story isn’t really original
  • Sometimes the writing feels unbalanced

Plot:  The story follows Rafe Baburn who learns that he isn’t a normal farmboy after his family and fellow villagers who are slaughtered.  On the run, he is assisted by the thief Kosar, who’s the only other survivor of the village.  On their journey, the two are joined by a Shantasi warrior named A’Meer and a whore named Hope who swear to protect Rafe.  The group discovers that Rafe is being pursued not only by the Red Monks who want to kill him and stamp out any form of magic but also the Mages, who seek to use Rafe to conquer the land.  The book opens to a small town being massacred by a warrior called a Red Monk who’s on the hunt for Rafe and the scene is pretty damn intense.

The story isn’t original by any means.  It’s  essentially one big chance sequence, with the main characters having their individual stories and coming together to protect the future of their world. Definitely see this in series like the Shannara or the Wheel of Time series. But the storytelling is done well enough to be engaging and entertaining.  There are some great developing arcs particularly by Kosar and Hope. As the story progresses it does get more complex and grows in intensity. The ending did feel like a slap in the face but admittedly shocked the crap out of me. There are some pretty interesting twist though some of the story can be predictable.  Ultimately, the story is a great read. (3 out of 5)

Characters:   The main characters are Kosar (a thief), Hope (whore/witch), Rafe Baburn (a farmboy and survivor of a massacre), A’Meer Polt (a Shantasi warrior), Trey Barossa (a drug addicted fledge minor), and Alishia (an empathetic librarian). The characters are actually pretty interesting, I would’ve liked more balance of their “screentime” as I admit Kosar and Hope were a ton more memorable than the others.  Hope has these awesome tattoos on her face that shift according to her mood. Kosar is branded as a thief by his wounded fingertips that constantly hurt and bleed.  A’Meer is pretty cool who’s been tasked with protecting Rafe and she is a former lover of Kosar. I do like how the story touches on their relationship creating a little drama.  Rafe, Trey and Alishia are interesting characters but just aren’t memorable enough, it would’ve worked out better if they had bigger roles or no roles at all.

There are two main antagonists, one being the Red Monks and the other are the Mages. Thumbs up to the Red Monks for being awesome.  They’re this group of “monks” who are against magic and they’re hard as hell to kill.  They seek Rafe in an attempt to kill him in order to prevent the resurrection of magic and boy are their methods brutal.  Hell, one wipes out a town at the beginning of the book.  There is this one Red Monk named Lucien Malini that sticks out. The second main antagonists are the Mages Angel and & S’Hivez and their right hand, Lenora, their lieutenant and survivor from the Cataclysmic War three centuries prior.  They aren’t fleshed out enough but their presence is definitely felt. Lenora is a definitely a badass but doesn’t get the spotlight enough. So, the characters are actually worth investing in. (4 out of 5)

Writing: Tim Lebbon’s writing style is highly descriptive when it comes to the violence and gore.  Admittedly, the characterization has a strong presentation. The worldbuilding is solid, especially with the lore, customs, slang, and terminology. The exposition of how the land was at war, the Cataclysmic War, in the past against two powerful “Mages” three centuries prior.  There are various factions that give the world depth including the Red Monks, Shantasi, Breakers, fledge miners, etc.  Even the creatures are pretty interesting; the nax, wraiths, and tumblers.

There is a lot of gore, profanity, drug abuse, even sexual sequences (one scene in particular where Hope is deciding whether to give Rafe some of her goods while he’s sleeping).  The drug fledge was an interesting bit, something new, and how it affected the body was pretty unique.  There is a lot of action, whether it’s swordfights, chase scenes, or just brutal killings (including little kids).  The writing is dark and is definitely for mature audiences, not for children or young adults.  The writing flows well enough though there are times here and there it could be a little bit better.  All-in-all, the writing is done well enough to establish the story, characters, and setting and keep it interesting. (4 out of 5)


The Verdict:  In the end, Dusk (Tales of Noreela #1) is a dark but entertaining read. This is by no means a book for kids, most of the book revolves around innocents being wiped out by the hundreds.  There are some pacing issues, some of the characters aren’t as prominent as they should be, and the story isn’t original.  However, the writing is done well, the characters are awesome, Red Monks are great antagonists, an interesting story, and some great worldbuilding.  Dusk (Tales of Noreela #1) gets 4 out of 5.

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