Erekos by AM Tuomala

Rating 5.1/10
If you are a world building enthusiast then I think you will probably enjoy this story.

In a land where gods walk beside men and witches defy death, war changes everything. Scholar and warrior, witch and king, priestess and corpse - all must come together to save their world from the ravages of the coming tempest.
For three hundred years, Erekos and Weigenland have fought to hold the borderland between the two nations. As the first storms of the flood season scour Erekos from the swamplands to the feet of the mountains, the Erekoi king discovers a dangerous new weapon that might be able to end the war: the witch Achane, who has raised her sister from the dead.

I have finally broken the YA spell (for now) and I'm finally moving on to something a bit darker and more adult. Erekos is the debut novel from A.M. Tuomala and is a standalone story about Gods, war, witchcraft, and zombi's, told in one of the most intricately defined worlds I have come across in a long time. It's a story that I think a few people will really like, but for me, I struggled to get into this story from the start, and those struggles continued most of the way through.

Erekos tells the story of a war torn country, and a King looking to end the war with one swift stroke. With the casualties of war continuing to pile up, he seizes upon an opportunity to turn the war his way when he imprisons a young witch for having raised her sister from the dead. On the other side of the fence, the Weigers have decided that they have spent enough time playing defenders and that it's time to become the aggressors. The push towards the capital will be swift and decisive, and will end this war once and for all.

So... if you have read my previous reviews you will know how important a good plot is to me. The plot here is barely present - it doesn't emerge until more than a third of the way through the book, and it often goes missing in favour of more world building. Erekos feels more like a collection of short stories, with tenuous manufactured connections between them, designed to give you a better overall feel for the world rather than driving an overall plot. The narrative rotates quite quickly through the view points of many different characters, making it even harder to identify what the actual plot of the story is. It's not all bad though, and I did come across some brilliantly written shorts throughout story (such as the hunt for the white stag), but all these disparate parts just couldn't quite pull together to form a compelling whole.

When it comes to the characters, it is hard for me to really describe my thoughts about them, mostly because the rapid rotation of multiple viewpoints never really allowed me to settle in and get to know these characters. Each individual has been crafted with layers of back story and complexity, each character has their own strengths and flaws, but, with the exception of Erlen, I barely felt like I got to actually know any of these characters. For many of the characters, it felt like I was getting to know them by reading their biography rather than by seeing the world through their eyes. I did like these characters though, and I expect that Tuomala will get much better at more accessible characters in the future.

Moving on, the world building here is superb. I was blown away by the level of intricacy Tuomala built into Erekos. We are given the run down on languages, dialect, pronunciation, history, religion, politics, tax reform, and many more tiny details throughout the story. Tuomala has obviously put in a huge effort in crafting this world, and it should definitely be applauded. But, and there always seems to be a but, it feels like development of the plot and characters are sacrificed in order to describe every small detail of this world, regardless of relevance. Erekos almost reads like background material for a Game Master who is trying to write a scenario for their next game. This is probably in the realm of personal preference, but I don't think the world building should take centre stage in a novel. So yeah, awesome world building, but I wish the author could have worked it in without sacrificing plot or character.

I've had a hard time trying to put my thoughts together for Erekos. It's a book that, based on the synopsis, I really should have enjoyed a whole lot more. Tuomala obviously has a talent for world building, and if you are a world building enthusiast then I think you will probably enjoy this story. If you are more into the character and plot driven type of stories, you could probably wait for Tuomala's second novel.

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