An extended narrative riddle, A River is a Lot to Lose recounts the story of a small survey expedition sent to assess the roads in a mysterious backwater of the kingdom. Though commissioned to map and measure the region, the team quickly finds itself lost amongst a bizarre community of backwoods locals. Revolving from house to house through an endless carousel of trees, the crew begins to suspect they might be caught in the snares of something more sinister than the landscape alone.
So, I got this book for free on Amazon not that long ago as a special promotion by the author and at the same time as I downloaded it, I also got all the Kindle Unlimited books I’d checked out. I actually thought this was one of them (it is on KU) and as it was short, I decided to read it so I could return it and get another book. I didn’t realise until I’d already started that it was one I owned. Anyway, that explains why the cover…isn’t the greatest to put it mildly. That being said, I’ve seen much worse covers and my main issue with it is that I’m just not a fan of that font.
So, I’ve put this down on my Fantasy shelf because the author shared the post about it in /r/Fantasy but really I’m not sure what to class it as. It describes itself as a narrative riddle, which isn’t that accurate and there are slightly otherworldly aspects which leads me to place it in Fantasy.
The basic premise is fantastic, they’re travelling down a river and then manage to lose it and get lost in the woods. I really enjoyed that and the fact they seem to keep going in circles while meeting all sorts of odd inhabitants. The ending let me down quite a bit though and it felt a bit rushed at the end.
The characters though, the characters are all very flat. It alternates between referring to them as their titles (such as the Surveyor) and using their names and to be honest it refers to them so little that I could hardly every remember their names which in a book this short and with just three main characters is…not a good sign. I can understand not wanting to refer to them too often but seriously, this was sparing at best. Another big issue I had was with the dialogue – it hardly ever mentioned who was talking other than perhaps at the start and then left it up to you to figure out who was speaking. Their personalities weren’t that distinctive enough for me to be able to recognise them based on dialogue alone and I feel this is something that really should be fixed as it was a major hindrance to my reading. I do not enjoy having to actively stop and go “Wait, who’s speaking again?” or go “Wait, who is Malory? Which one is he again?”.
The writing itself wasn’t too bad, but could definitely still use some improvement as a lot of the time, I felt the chapters could be fleshed out a lot more with more descriptions, more interaction between the characters and more insights into their thoughts. It all felt a bit shallow and constantly hinted at the potential for something much deeper – rather like how the characters themselves felt at the fact that they knew the river was there, they just couldn’t find it. One major thing too is that while reading, I noticed one very glaring mistake that should have been picked up during proofreading which was using “your” instead of “you’re” (if you’re the author and you happen to read this, it’s 17% of the way through).
All in all, this book let me down and I think I’m being harsher on it than I usually would due to the fact that I loved the concept and felt it had so much potential and could be so much more if it was just a little more polished and expanded on. That being said, if the author releases further books then I’m likely to give them a try to see how his writing has improved because there’s definitely talent there and I think this just needs a good editor to make it into a much better book.
Currently, I would not recommend this book due to the issues mentioned however I am adding this author to my to-watch list as I have a feeling once their writing improves, I’ll be a big fan.