Bryce’s people live on the backs of these giant tortoises…
What It’s About
My name is Bryce Song, and for my entire life, I have lived in the shadow of a deadly Bloom that not only kills, but raises the dead. Since the plague’s beginning, my people have journeyed toward our God’s Promised Lands atop the backs of the Guardians. I have always wondered if we would reach our destination and felt helpless against the seemingly insurmountable odds.
A great valley, filled with its Fallen peoples and their undead protector, separates us from our salvation. The only chance of killing our monstrous enemy is to find a weapon, once wielded by our God. During the long journey, our heroes have been slain, and few are willing to embark on a quest to retrieve the holy relic.
There’s no question what I must do. I must journey to the last resting place of our God, and reclaim the weapon that will save my people from certain destruction.
Before #SPFBO8 started I’d decided to go into the first round without reading the book blurbs. I really wanted to treat this round as the slush pile read that Mark Lawrence describes on his blog. So given that, I started A Deadly Bloom by Kody Boye guessing at it’s content based on the title and cover alone. I figured, “must be something about plague spores with very large monsters.” I wasn’t far off on that initial assessment though it took until about the 25% mark to determine where the story was going and flesh out what the blurb above indicates.
A Deadly Bloom is a zombie book. This isn’t a major reveal, I mean it tells you in the blurb (if you read it) and you figure it out very quickly within the opening pages. I mention this now because some people hate zombie tales while others love them. Personally I kind of like them, there’s something to that relentless drive zombies have, the mystery of their origin, and the struggle against overwhelming odds for the protagonists. So, within the first few pages I was thinking to myself, “this could be cool, let’s see where it goes.”
The mood of the book in its early stages is somber and dark. This is very fitting given events that happen from page one. That mood shifts ever so slightly after the first 10% or so but it’s still there in the background. What I liked about the way Boye set this up is that it really allowed you to get into the head of Bryce, the story’s protagonist and narrator. Bryce is a teenager who now has to grow up quick and on her own, and she’s feeling some things.
As I noted above, Bryce is the narrator and she’s telling her story in the first person present. This is a bold choice as most book length stories are not told in the present, and they tend to stand out to a reader. At first this really bugged me. Something about it was just not working for me, like it utilized mostly telling and felt wooden. After a while I found I didn’t notice it as much, but it still stood out. I’m not sure if I was just getting used to it, or if something changed subtly with the style that I didn’t pick up on.
It’s not until the 25% mark that we get a sense of where the book is really going. In story time this is only about two or three days into the plot. So on one hand, within the narrative timeline things are moving quickly, but within the pages things seemed to progress slowly. I was hoping to get a sense of the overall plot direction a little quicker. But this will hit other readers differently.
What really caused me to pause however were story elements that kept pulling me out of the read. Some of this was minor, like one description of the people’s burial ground as having fertile soil, but then following that up by stating nothing at all ever grows there. Very trivial I know, but I couldn’t stop saying to myself the soil doesn’t seem very fertile then. But some of this seemed more integral to the plot and world building. A little background…Bryce’s people live on the backs of these giant tortoises (I mean super big turtles with legs hundreds of feet long and shells three thousand feet wide) who are walking every so slowly across this narrow strip of land with water on both sides. They have been walking for twenty years since the plague started, trying to reach the promised land at the edge of the world. Nobody knows if or when they’ll reach this promised land but they are patient. There are also elves who live inside giant flying whales who every so often interact with the humans on the tortoises. One day the elves come to visit and they say they’ve seen the promised land and it isn’t far off. This is good news, but when asked how they’ve seen it they respond with what sounds like common sense…since they fly high up in the sky they can see way over the horizon, further than what the turtle dwellers can see. But immediately I asked myself if they can fly around faster than the turtles, and see for much greater distances, why did it take 20 years to finally see the promised land when they are traveling in a straight narrow path? Maybe the world is super huge, but it just really was a bit much for my suspension of disbelief.
It was around this point I decided to dnf and cut this book. It does have elements I like and that I think others will too (zombies, apocalyptic plague vibes, dark tone), but there were too many things pulling me out of the narrative, and I felt it was progressing a little slowly for my taste. I stopped at the 28% mark on my kindle.