The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay (The Last Quarrel #1)

The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay is a new story in a new world, one that has been good so far. The Last Quarrel has been split into five novella length "episodes", with an episode coming out every fortnight. This review is focussed on the first episode, so if it seems a little short, that’s because I barely got into the story before, I had to stop.

The story follows Fallon, a man who lives in a coastal village acting in the role of local sheriff. When the Duke's ship washes ashore with nobody on board, Fallon takes it upon himself to lead the investigation, hoping to prove to the world he is more than just a local sheriff. The disappearance of the Duke and his crew at sea is just one of a number of disappearances and strange happenings, and as more strange things continue to happen, superstition starts to reign supreme, with accusations and witch burnings just the start of what promises to be mass unrest.

The premise of this story is excellent, and had me intrigued from the start. While the synopsis above retells almost the entire first episode, I think you can see glimpses of what this story may become in the next four instalments. Lay does a great job weaving a lot of Irish heritage and Catholic superstitions into his fantasy world, and I want to know what happens next.

One thing Lay does very well is character development. Episode 1 was quite short, but the way he built up Fallon, his wife, and his friends (along with the Prince and his protectors) made them feel like people I might actually know in my own life. Lay doesn't shy away from some tough themes like depression, and I thought the scenes involving Fallon's wife were very well structured and showed a great understanding of depression. I hope to see more of this deeper theme exploration as the story progresses.

The only problem I have with this story is the episodic delivery. The Last Quarrel was clearly written as a whole novel not intended to be split into short episodes, and where the first episode finishes it feels more like an arbitrary word limit was reached rather than a natural break in the story was reached. I am not opposed to episodic serials, and I've read some great ones, but when a story has been artificially split into episodes rather than written with distinct episodes in mind, I feel like it impacts on the readers’ experience.

I'm not sure if I will write a review for every individual episode, I might wait until all of the episodes are available and review the story in its entirety. Regardless, I think Duncan Lay is on to a winner here and I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.

9/10 The premise of this story is excellent, and had me intrigued from the start.

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