Having entered the indie author scene a little over a month ago, I have begun reading more and more works by my fellow independent/self-published authors. I read several through the LibraryThing Member Giveaways, and though I’d found some very good work that I enjoyed immensely, I was beginning to despair that I would ever give an independent book five stars.
This is that book.
If anything, my biggest complaint with The Hero Always Wins is the title. It conveys a sort of irreverent tone; a snarky, ironic title that – given the intense, harrowing tale contained within – gives the impression that the reader is going to be picking up something like a Discworld novel.
This is not a Discworld novel.
No, this is a stunning, genuinely surprising and engaging work which is only revealed in its independent nature by the virtue of the occasional modern colloquialism in the otherwise medieval fantasy world – the kind of thing a professional editor likely would have scrubbed out.
The story itself – the tale of the knight Darcy, son of the Champion of Leorht, is riveting. I was pulled in by the sample, but the story continued to get better from there. When the first major plot twist happened, I had been lulled by the fantasy tropes, and then I got hit in the face with a real, honest-to-god surprise. The last time I was actually surprised by a book was Changes by Jim Butcher, and that is some high praise right there.
Robert Eaton is the kind of writer that, as an author, I would be genuinely honored to collaborate with in some way. He and I seem to think a lot alike, particularly in themes (the price of magic, the true measure of a hero) and even smaller details – like the fact that the magic wielded by his Knights of the Citadel seems to have a fair amount in common with the manna commanded by my Arbiters.
The story came to a satisfying conclusion, but left itself open for a sequel.
Honestly, I can say that I am really looking forward to it.
Pros: Riveting story, strong characters, delicious detail and satisfying ending
Cons: The occasional colloquialism; I wonder if the ironic title might be too snarky for the narrative
Final Score: FIVE OUT OF FIVE. If you like fantasy, you REALLY should read this book.