Spoiler Free Summary: In The Warden of Everfeld: Memento by Steven D’Adamo Jaed is a young woman who’s sister carries a secret in her blood. When that secret threatens her family, Jaed takes her sister and runs. Aston has dreamed of being a warrior his whole life, but when he’s asked to track down the only woman he’s ever loved, he’s forced between his desire to be a fighter and his desire to be with the woman he loves. NOTE: Steven is a friend. I actually bought my copy directly from him while we were having dinner. He’s been a great source of support. You can factor that into your opinion of this review, but I assure you my opinion of this book is based on the book and not my deep respect for its author.
Character: Jaed was a wonderful character. I think her arc all by itself would have made for a wonderful story. She’s proactive and sympathetic. She’s smart without being too perfect. Sure she has a flaw or two, but what character doesn’t? The simple truth is I get her. She’s a sister watching out for her own, and that resonates with me. Aston, well, not so much. There’s a lot of exposition (see below) and Aston suffers for it. Also, he spends a great portion of the book not really doing much, and that dragged the story down a bit for me. Once Aston got moving, he got fun to read. I felt like his arc had some missed opportunities, but overall I enjoyed him once he was doing stuff.
Exposition: The book kicks off with a pretty big block of exposition, and that made the story drag, but I’ll note here that Steven and I are on opposite sides of the creative spectrum on this topic. He likes more epic stories that build more slowly, so one would expect the opening of this story to build a bit of the world. If you like deep histories and lore in your fantasy, then this won’t bother you at all. Yes, it’s exposition, but it does give context to some of the overall plot. This improved as the story progressed and the natural flow of the plot gives the world more detail.
World building: This was Steven’s strength. This world has an obvious depth that can only be achieved through meticulous worldbuidling and attention to detail. This is another creative difference I have with Steven. Books like Dune and Lord of the Rings are hugely successful and loved by many, just not me. I appreciate the skill involved in their crafting, but I’m just not that interested in the world. I need characters that catch my interest. Even in Sanderson’s Way of Kings, I got frustrated with the giant blocks of economical and geographical lessons when all I really wanted to know was how Kaladin was going to keep going. So this is probably the most important aspect of this review. If you love deep worldbuilding, you’ll like this book. I was impressed by it, but I wish it was sprinkled in more gently as the characters progressed through their arcs.
Dialogue: This was solid. I remember an odd insistence to avoid contractions that was, very clearly, intentional but didn’t feel very conversational. The missed opportunity I mentioned above ties to this. Aston makes a choice that was a great opportunity to push the characters, but they just sort of chat it out, and I wish Aston had more consequences to his actions. It moves the plot well and builds the characters, but it wasn’t the sharpest dialogue I’ve ever read (Dean Koontz).
Description: Fans of bigger fantasy books with heavy description will like this. I thought it was a bit much, but I’ll admit it didn’t drag the story down. It’s probably still more streamlined than some of the work I mentioned above, but it had more description that I tend to like, which is less than most readers want.
Overall: This is a solid debut novel. It establishes a fascinating world and gives us some entertaining characters. It’s unique in that it’s a simple adventure quest, and that’s rare these days. If you’re a fan of deep world histories and large casts of complex characters, you’ll probably enjoy this book.