I have so much I want to say about reading this book and I know already that I’m going to go in 100 different directions throughout this review. So I wanted to apologize in advance.
Let’s start with an embarrassing story.
Through a whirlwind of chances, good timing and the grace of lovely humans, I actually met the author of Duskfall, Christopher Husberg, two weeks ago at WorldCon. I was hanging out with some of the Jabberwocky crew (through the amazing efforts of G.S. Denning, whose book Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone you should have already read by now) and right before I was leaving, Chris showed up. Gabe, who I was talking with, noticed him and said, “Oh, there’s Chris. He’s the one that wrote Duskfall.”
My heart immediately leapt, even though I was only 250ish pages in at that point, because standing only a few feet in front of me was not only the author of a book I was reading, but it was an author whose work I already really enjoyed and was starting to admire; whose work I could only dream of comparing my own writing against and finding them equal in quality. And then, Gabe, bless him, was like, “I’m sure you want to meet him. Chris!” Of course, as I was flustered the entire hour that I hung out with the authors and agents of Jabberwocky (an example: when one of them asked, “So what do you write?”, I blurted, “Books.” Because that’s how smooth I am), I didn’t save any grace or regain any dignity meeting Chris. In fact, I got worse. Gabe introduced me, we shook hands and then I decided to speak. (Bad idea.)
“Yeah, I’m not very far in Duskfall, but I’m currently not reading it because I’m pissed off at what you did.”
WHO SAYS THAT?
Chris took it well and laughed it off and then they left for dinner shortly afterwards. Since, I have only been mortified, for two reasons, especially: one, I finished Duskfall and it was the second best book I’ve read all year (after only Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye, but that’s the third book in the series compared to Duskfall being the first, so Duskfall was easily the best new book I’ve read all year). Two, I’ve always been the type of reader who dreams about becoming friends with the authors of my favorite books. I’ve been really lucky to meet a few and occasionally interact with authors on Twitter, but I won’t lie and say I don’t wish that, with certain authors, I could actually talk with them in-depth, whether we be penpals, email correspondents, something. Not only do I want to talk to them about their work, their process, their inspiration, but I also want to learn from them. I admire their work so highly, I aspire my work to be on same level as theirs, that I dream of learning directly from them, sort of like an unofficial mentor, you know?
I bet it’s not surprising, after devouring the second half of Duskfall the past two nights, sleep be damned, and being so awed by not only the story, but also the characters, the writing, the worldbuilding (hell, everything), that Chris is now high on my list-of-authors-I-wish-I-could-be-friends-with; an author I wish I could talk to in-depth about his work and selfishly learn from so my own work could improve.
And I actually met him and embarrassed the hell out of myself.
Now that we’ve all had a good laugh at my expense, let’s focus on why we’re really here: to praise and be in awe of the glory that is Duskfall. I’m not kidding when I claim it is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It shot up to one of my favorite books and I read a lot. And, like usual, I’m not going to ruin it for you by describing in detail how great it was, because I’m going to force you to go read it yourself. Or not, but you’d be missing out majorly, especially as the series continues and grows in popularity (as it naturally will; a book this good can’t do anything else) and then all the “cool kids” are reading it years from now and you’re transported back to your high school days when all you wanted to do was be cool but you never made it, and suddenly you realize that you could have been ahead of the crowd if only you’d read the book when that random weird blogger suggested that you did and then you wallow at the missed chance and are forced to go buy a gallon of ice cream to compensate.
I will say a few things about this book and why I loved it so much. As both a writer and an avid reader in the fantasy genre, I always crave good worldbuilding. Duskfall‘s worldbuilding wasn’t good, it was exceptional. I loved the world we were thrown into. I loved the political tensions between humans, tiellans and daemons. I was awed by the religious complications. The magic system was brilliant. But the best part was how subtly I learned about it all. I wasn’t bombarded by information dumps (which is what I’m guilty of with my own fantasy and just reinstates why I want to be friends with this author, so he can teach me his ways). Instead, I learned what I needed to know as the characters needed to know it or when it was relevant to the story. Granted, this isn’t a new way to present worldbuilding; most successful fantasy authors are capable of doing this. But in this moment of my life, after receiving some editorial feedback on one of my manuscripts that highlights this area as one of my biggest things to improve (amongst plenty of others), reading Duskfall and seeing my weakness executed so flawlessly was refreshing and inspiring (and a bit daunting, to be honest. How could I ever learn to execute such worldbuilding they way he did??).
The characters were fantastic. My loyalty to Knot was almost instantaneous and I can’t really explain why, but I would fight with him and for him with everything I have (not that he’d really need my help; he’s doing fairly fine on his own, complicated memory lost and unknown past aside). Astrid…I mean, damn, Astrid. I could read books–yes, plural–about her alone and be perfectly content. Jane and Cinzia were both fascinating in their own rights, though if I had to pick a side, I’m with Cinzia. And then you bring in Kali and Nash and that’s an entirely different can of fascinating worms. I love books that have multiple POVs, but I often find myself wishing I was in one POV instead of another, even though I enjoy both. That wasn’t the case with Duskfall. I enjoyed all of them.
Interestingly enough, the characters I found myself most annoyed by were Winter and Lian, our tiellans. And it wasn’t because they were tiellans. I loved the tiellan culture and would love to spend more time directly immersed in that culture (perhaps in a prequel story? *waggles eyebrows*). I’m not sure what my beef with Lian is (I think it has to do with my loyalty to Knot), but I have one. And Winter…damn if she didn’t frustrate the hell out of me (and also was the reason I was pissed and embarrassed myself in front of her creator, so the poor girl didn’t earn any extra points from me). Did I empathize and sympathize with her? Oh yes. Did I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her ridiculously hard almost every other page because she was being a dolt? Oh yes.
I love books where I have mixed emotions regarding the characters. I don’t want to love them all or hate them all. Even with a specific character, I love when I feel one way towards them and then my feelings are confronted and challenged as we journey on. I love books that have multiple plotlines and threads that I don’t get lost between, but instead have a clear investment in each one and am left itching to find out what happens next when they aren’t resolved. I love the blurring of good and evil. I love intricate magic, powerful underdogs, complicated characters, grotesque details. I love snort-laughing at what a character says, tensing up when I’m caught off-guard, my chest constricting when I’m torn up emotionally, getting chills and yelling, “You did WHAT?!” I love books that make me feel, make me care and inspire and challenge me to improve my own work.
Duskfall? Yeah, it had all of that ^^. And that’s why it was one of the best books I’ve read this year. That’s why you should go read it, right now. And that’s why I’m taking off an entire day from work and from life, sometime in June 2017 (or earlier? *puppy dog eyes*), when book two is slotted to come out. Absolutely brilliant.
PS: Like I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’m slowly working through the Jabberwocky stable. This is the fifth author I’ve read and none of them have disappointed me. All of their stories I have enjoyed thoroughly. Even if I never have the chops to join such an amazing, talented group of storytellers, like I dream to do, I’m so glad I’m stalking them. Because damn they have great stories.