- The Fifth Ward: First Watch.
- Dale Lucas.
- 416 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy.
- My Rating: Hell yeah Book Review.
Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line.
Enter Rem: new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons with no money for bail. When offered a position with the Watch to compensate for his crimes, Rem jumps at the chance.
His new partner is less eager. Torval, a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later, is highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem.
But when Torval’s former partner goes missing, the two must consort with the usual suspects — drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans — to uncover the truth and catch a murderer loose in their fair city.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
First Watch tells the story of Rem and Torval, a pair of watch wardens in the fifth ward of Yenara. Rem is new to the city and after being stood up by a girl he met (Indilen) he ends up in his cups and is thrown in jail for fighting. With a dwindling supply of coin he volunteers and agrees to become a watch warden for the fifth ward. Enter Torval who’s partner Freygaf hasn’t turned up for their watch together and who is subsequently given Rem as a rookie partner for the shift.
Was Rem actually stood up by Indilen or did something happen to make her miss their planned meeting? And, why has Torval’s partner Freygaf failed to show up for work? Could both be related? Is there something sinister going on in the streets of Yenara?!
I really liked the characterisation of the two main characters in First Watch. Torval, a surly and belligerent Dwarf often referred to as ‘Old Stump‘ – love that name, it’s so fucking funny and made me snigger each time, even if it is rather dwarfist! 🙂 And, Rem/Remeck, a high-born son who has run away from his home the north for a new life and to make his own way in the world. The relationship between the two and how it changes and grows from at first being a grudging partnership of circumstance and mistrust that later turns into real trust and friendship was for me the core of the book.
It took a few pages for me to warm to Rem but Torval himself is likeable from the very first time he appears with his gruff demeanour on display. You just know he’s going to be a great character. Torval and Rem are a duo akin to Riggs and Murtaugh of Lethal Weapon fame. The grizzled older veteran teamed up with the youngster, the pair complement each other extremely well and they are a duo that you can really root for.
Along the way, through the course of the book and as you follow Torval and Rem on their investigations you will also meet a variety of secondary characters, some you’ll like, some you’ll hate and one, in particular, you’ll find to be a grade A cunt, Hi Frennis! Out of the these characters, I particularly liked Ondego (the fifth ward Prefect, he’s a tough brusque sort but fair and honest) and Aarna, a comely taverness who Torval has a crush on (just between you and me I think the Old Stump wants to show her his little stump) she’s spunky and displays an amiable personality.
We hear mention of other cities and locations in First Watch, but it is a book set purely in Yenara. Luckily, Lucas brings the city to life and it feels like a vast and expensive metropolis. Yenara is made up of five separate wards each with a different ward watch and Prefect in charge. The watch wardens dish out the law to the general human populace but if the law breaker is a non-human (an Elf or an Orc) then they are subject to punishment by and brought before their own ethnarch in-line with the ancient treaties. The Prefects of each ward are very jurisdictional over their own areas, likewise, so are the ethnarchs over their own kind. This means that there is plenty of opportunities for corruption and unscrupulous dealings to be found and had in the streets and wards of the complex city of Yenara.
At approximately 400 pages First Watch is on the shorter side of the normal length of a fantasy book. Lucas packs a lot into the pages giving readers a story full of action and humour with plenty of twists and turns that take place over only a few days. I liked Lucas’s style of writing and felt that for the most part, it flowed really well, with the story he is telling moving along at a decent and often riveting pace.
While the conclusion of the book all fits together, nicely closing off this first instalment in the series. I can understand why some readers might have an issue with the part of the ending that focuses on the Rem and Indilen saga. To some, it could be deemed as slightly cloying and sweet, two words that would normally have me reaching for the barf bucket, however! I found it was a pleasant change to see an author forgo the dark route for once of heaping untold misery on a character, who’s to say what the future will hold in the further installments of the Fifth Ward series for Rem and Indilen but it made my dark and jaded heart happy to see that there’s perhaps some light, hope and a chance for the pair (that is weird as I’m usually a miserable fucker who likes pain and suffering for characters in books).
I enjoyed my time spent reading First Watch. As an introduction to the partnership of Torval and Rem, it’s a quality first outing for the pair and I’ll look forward to continuing their adventures in the subsequent books by Lucas.
All in all, First Watch is a thrilling adventure, it’s a buddy action movie masquerading as a fantasy book and I found it to be an awesome read.
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