As a reader I always, always always give a book a hundred and fifty pages to get me hooked, especially if it's the first in the series. Well, except for Twilight. That got one hundred and forty and when I started praying for the next ten pages to go quickly, I gave up. True story. At any rate, sometimes I really am happy that I did. Sometimes, I'm not. This time, I'm ecstatic that I did (and it only took about fifty) because it took a minute for David Gosnell's The Wielder: Betrayal to really take off but once it did I was massively impressed. This book was a lot of fun. I'll get into the whys and wherefores in a minute, but I really enjoyed it. Gosnell can write.
The most important part of any book is the characters and this is where Gosnell really delivers. His main character, Arthur MacInerney goes through a character arc that is unlike anything I've seen before. His constant companions, who are literally demons that he is able to summon using tattoos given him as the result of a chance encounter, are not only believable they are entertaining. I can't quite wrap my head around the way that Gosnell managed to take demons and turn them into people. His demons (or Arthur's depending on how you view them) feel real. I can almost see myself sitting down for dinner with one of them or having Hjuul, the dog-like one, fall asleep at my feet.
Not all of the characters are friendly of course and Gosnell does a good job of making Arthur's enemies believable. He even manages to straddle the line with some of the enemies actually being the good guys. I don't want to give too much away here but there is definitely a time when Arthur finds out that things are not what they seem and that he needs to trust the people that he thought were out to get him. The fact that this makes sense to the audience is a compliment to Mr Gosnell and his ability to build a three dimensional universe. When one of the good guys..err... girls spit in Arthur's face I didn't hate her for it. It made sense for the character and Arthur had it coming. Of course, sometimes the bad guys are just bad.
Maldgorath is our main antagonist, pure evil type. This story really is an epic fantasy masquerading as an urban fantasy and we need that pure evil villain. What makes Maldy work though is that he's not just evil for evil's sake. He doesn't kick puppies just because he can. Dude is evil because he is obsessed. He is a collector of beings. He enslaves things not for the work they do, but for the sheer joy of doing so. He really is a sick, twisted sadist. He enjoys toying with the beings he has acquired but what collector doesn't enjoy playing with his toys?
The action sequences in the book are both well done and integral to the plot. I found myself wincing at all of the appropriate moments, cheering when I was supposed to and basically just caring about what happened. It was more than just that though. When Arthur stalks a man through a building I'm right there along with him. It feels immediate as does the following battle. When a fight erupts in a parking lot I find myself wanting to be in there swinging. Some parts of this book felt almost cinematic because of the way I could see them playing out in my head.
I'm going to guess that Gosnell has done some gaming. Not only does Arthur feel like Warlock from World of Warcraft at times, but some of the demons he uses feel similar to the demons in WoW. A couple of the fight scenes have the feel of a Battleground from WoW too. I don't know if Gosnell plays for sure but I'd be surprised if he didn't. (And David, if you see this and you do play, hit me up in game. I'm AKA Capellini, Undead Lock on Nesingwary. My guild is named Harmonious Death and we're always recruiting.) That's okay though. What he wrote makes sense whether you've played the games or not, but parts of it added to my enjoyment. Ok, seeing Arthur go from warlock one minute to priest the next was a little weird but it's all good. I enjoyed it and seeing the enemy react in an appropriate manner made me smile.
This book goes through some major twists. It would be easy to get whiplash if they didn't make so much sense. Gosnell does a good job of getting us ready for what's coming without letting us know what's coming. I don't know if I said that quite right, but what I meant is that he foreshadows things well without telegraphing his next move. There were a few times where I just didn't see what was coming but once it happened it made sense to me. This is something I struggle with in my own writing but Gosnell does it well. I'll have to go back through this book and see if I can break down how he did it.
It's true that this was not a perfect book. The first fifty pages just drag. I mean, I know it's the first book in a series and sometimes things take a minute to set up, but damn. The book starts at a funeral and wallows in it. Granted, the funeral sets up the rest of the book but things just kind of wander with no real sense of what's going on until something terrible happens and we're off and running. Once things do get moving though they don't let up.
WARNING SEMI SPOILERISH CONTENT!!!
There is also a moment near the end where Gosnell does something I've seen in a lot of games that irks me. It's when you FINALLY get to the big boss and you're beating the bejabbers out of him but he gets away and you have to hunt him down again. In games it's so you'll keep playing. In this book it's so that you'll read the rest of the series. That makes sense. Logical or not though, it's still annoying. That much being said, it was well foreshadowed and it's a cliché because it works.
Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 Tattoos
The Wielder: Betrayal
Self published, 2012
The Wielder: Betrayal is available for purchase here: