In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent by Andy Peloquin – Book Review (Bellarius)
Bellarius takes another look at a fantastical setting in In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent by Andy Peloquin.
“A compelling but undeniably flawed tale of corruption and downfall.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent is a hard book to judge due to its nature. Much of that is due to the obvious potential talent behind the book, which keeps you reading despite a few notable failings. For every time you might be frustrated at the short length of its chapters or occasional lack of descriptions, you will keep going due to the voices of the characters, brilliant pacing and fantastic use of first person narrative.
Set in the ancient era long past, the book is set in the mythical Empire of Atlantis. Bringing peace to an entire continent of the world, under its power mankind has flourished in a golden age of civilisation. However, all is not well within its borders. For every outside threat they seem to defeat, an internal one soon arises with forces planning the downfall of the House of Tah. It soon falls upon a handful of elite soldiers to secure victory against near impossible odds.
What’s easily the book’s greatest strength is its use of a first person narrative. Seeing events through the eyes of Deucalion, Imperial Historian and Commander, truly helps bring the work to life with minor comments, inflections and specific mannerisms which greatly speak about his character. While we have seen other works on here which have utterly failed to make any use of this as a storytelling method (looking at you Vulkan Lives) here it truly works. Within only a few paragraphs you are given a real sense of his personality and the brief comments thrown in bring the world to life just as much as the decadent, greed driven nobles who rule the lands. Even when it moves onto scenes which do feature events he could not fully witness or describe in full, they are handled in a satisfying manner. Quite often making up for the lack of true descriptions with dramatic weight and obvious emotion. What definitely helps in this regard is the short, snappy sentence structure which lends itself well to the brief chapters.
Much like Daedalus and the Deep, the book is built around very short chapters and multiple parts. This gives it a very fast pace which keeps events moving and, as with the aforementioned book, it’s this quality which makes it perfect for reading on the go. Really, short trips on public transports? This is the sort of thing which is perfectly written in style and content for that. Speaking of which, the setting and plot are something which people can easily adjust to. The story of Atlantis, or at least how it sunk beneath the waves, is well known enough to the average Joe to quickly accept and you soon see the state the Empire is in. Squaring off against barbarians from the outside and suffering from corrupt internal rulers, it’s the same song and dance we’ve seen plenty of time before. Despite that it’s certainly an engaging one, especially with a few of the revelations made here, and even though you’ll probably predict a few turns it’s crafted in such a manner you’ll keep reading to the last page.
Unfortunately it’s also with the setting that some of the problems begin to creep in. You’re very quickly introduced to quite a few problems with the book which can make it an awkward beginning, especially with the prologue and a very strange choice of introduction. The first third of the opening chapter is covered by a gladiator, introducing and building him up as a person as we see the world through his eyes, only to have him killed shortly afterwards. We are then promptly introduced to Deucalion and the story continued as normal. It’s an extremely jarring transition and one which really feels quite pointless to the book. The time spent writing that could have been used to truly build up imagery for the scene or the aesthetics of the Atlantian buildings, and it’s a problem which doesn’t stop here.
While the book certainly has a great deal going on, it never seems to pause long enough to really explain things as it goes along. Despite being made a little more acceptable thanks to seeing the world from Deucalion’s perspective, there are no moments where the book really stops to spend a few paragraphs building an image in the reader’s head or explaining how the world works. It’s a really frustrating problem and is a critical point which truly holds the book back from greatness. Even overlooking this however, the book as a whole is very light on descriptions to the point where some conversions come down to line after line of dialogue with no described reactions or descriptions between them. There are certainly places where than can work, but they have to be used in moderation. Compare this with the likes of the Eisenhorn books and one completely trounces the other.
The final problem is an especially frustrating issue which I personally tend to be far too lenient with: Editing. While many Black Library novels suffer from poor typos or misspellings (often with “Chaos” as “chaos”) it’s enough to initially overlook most of the time. Here there are some especially bad cases to the point where multiple sentences appear to be missing words. It’s hardly that common a problem but every time you read a sentence with such a problem, it’s completely immersion breaking.
At the end of the day, In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent is not a bad book but it’s not an especially good one either. If you like the ideas behind it or want some light reading then you could certainly do far worse. However, it’s also by an author who is definitely talented but has flaws he desperately needs to focus upon improving. Give it a look if you’re interested, but don’t expect anything heavy going.