Wildflowers, Part I: Allaha of the Mountain

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I received a free copy through the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you

It was hard to get oi into this story.  There are many characters with a lot of backstory to learn and remember.  I felt lost in keeping track of everyone and their place in the plot.

I was tempted to skim a lot to get through sub plots.

The one thing I did enjoy was the world building.  The detail is great.
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2.5 stars

I really wanted to like this -- I was intrigued by the cover and plot summary, but like others have mentioned, I found it difficult to get through. The writing is very tediously detailed, which makes it for rather slow, dry reading. Sometimes I do love books with lots of description, but this just didn't work for me. And, also, this may just be a personal thing, but I truly don't like phonetic spelling to mimic accents in dialogue. So I found that aspect grating.

I have to commend the author for including diversity, however. There's a wide set of representation here, including possibly an aro/ace character (which can be very rare indeed!). Unfortunately, the story itself was kind of middle of the road Middle Ages fantasy, so I wasn't very intrigued by the plot. I can see people liking this, but it feels like something I might have enjoyed more if I was a bit younger and if the writing was tightened up a bit.
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Really liked the characters in this, a very interesting  start to the series . I reallylook forward to seeing where it goes.
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Like many others who tried to get through this book I just couldn't. This book had great potential with the plot and the description for this book, but everything drags on an on. The dialogue feels stilted to me with much of it being unnecessary in the first place. If you can slog through a really dull beginning to may enjoy this book at some point, but reading this book felt like pulling teeth. I need a hook or something interesting and there wasn't.
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I picked this up because the cover intrigued me- unfortunately this is not a very engaging book. The writing drags terribly, which isn't helped by Thornton's need to describe absolutely everything, from the different outfits the characters wear every time they change clothes to the surroundings in tedious detail. It is very much a middle of the road fantasy novel of the kind I used to come across when I was a teen. Unfortunately, I've since outgrown them.
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An interesting take on the familiar 'quest' Fantasy trope, Thornton's 'Wildflowers, Part 1: Allaha of the Mountain' has some strong characterisation and very capable world-building. There are lots of good ideas here, including fresh takes on the humanised animal races theme, and there is much scope for investing both in the characters and storyline.
There are times when the description of buildings, architecture, clothing, or different races can seem a little forced or even unnecessary; however, this criticism can be levelled at even Tolkien, so I find it hard or unfair to judge a writer harshly for having a good image in their head of any given scene or place in their story.
The premise of the protagonist being interrogated, which is set in the present tense (as opposed to the main story's past tense telling) and which opens the novel, was overly assumptive on the part of the interrogator, and extremely exposition-heavy; though this didn't intrude too much on the story, proper, it would in some respects have been easier to simply cut those parts, altogether.
Thornton's is a self-professed LGBTQIA novel. There are several moments of tolerance or intolerance for a reader to consider their own thoughts about, along with...
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DNF. I just couldn't with the writing style.  I'm really sad about that, because the story has everything I usually like. I'll therefore put it in my ''try again at another mindset''-shelf, in hopes of some day wanting to read it.
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My problem with this book (apart from it being a part of a series!) is that it never went anywhere (which begs the question quo vadis the series?!). I managed to read about 25% of it before giving up because it was uninteresting to me as well as annoying. It simply rambled on and on, spending far more time on world-building than ever it did in telling any actual story.

This is part of my problem with series. I typically do not read them because of precisely the problems this one had. The first book in a series is inevitably not a story, but a prologue - and I don't do prologues. Once in a while, a series comes along which does work well and which can justify itself. I've read series which are engaging and which make a reader want more, but often those kinds of stories feel bloated and padded, as well as lethargic and pedantic, and this is how this one felt to me.

The somewhat illiterate blurb tells us that "Allaha is a knight of the Order of Aisha, Fallen of the Mountain. She - like her fellows - is stoic and reserved, trained to fight against demons and their ilk. When she triggers a vision that kills a renown oracle, she is set on a quest to complete the prophecy." That 'renown' should have been 'renowned', but authors don't get to write their own blurbs unless they self-publish, so I typically don't hold them to account for that kind of thing.

For me, the problem here is that the quest never really gets underway despite the endless traveling that these people do. On top of this, the difference between Allaha and an actual knight is, well, day and night, because she never does anything! Not once does she fight! I'm not a fan of endless blood and gore, but you'd think at some point early in the story the author would want to unleash Allaha to show us just how good she is, but no. It's like Allaha is on Quaaludes.

In the part that I read, it was never explained what Allaha's title meant either. Aisha is her god - apparently fallen, but I have no idea what that meant, or why she was still worshipped or considered to have any power if she has fallen. Or was it Allaha who has fallen? I dunno. It was never explained in the part I read. I have no idea what it meant that she was 'of the mountain' either. She often announced herself as Allaha of the Mountain, and everyone seemed to understand what this meant no matter how far she traveled. Even when she was on another mountain entirely, nobody ever asked her which mountain she referred to, or what that title meant, which I felt was a bit much, frankly.

The travelers with Allaha are: Tamara, who is a young woman of the Menori people, who are apparently like the Romany, or maybe itinerant traders? I dunno. Again, it isn't explained. She was also a 'hamalakh', which is a sort of psychic lie detector or trouble detector. Other than that, she was an enigma who we never got to know.

The problem with all of this was that she was alternately referred to as Tamara, as the Menori girl, and as the hamalakh, which initially made it difficult to keep track of who the author was referring to. I had this same problem with the others in the group who remained equally unexplored enigmas even after 25% of this novel, yet annoyingly larded with nouns.

The most annoying of the group were Hibu and Tibu though. Hibu was a sorcerer from Jeongwon, so he was referred to by name, by nationality, and by his profession - again, three initially confusing titles. Tibu wasn't a name but a nationality. His name was Karejakal, also referred to as Karej, and he was a young cat person. So...even more confusion there.

In addition to this we were introduced to multiple new characters every few screens, who came and went like the flickering pages of one of those print books that animates a scene as you let the pages flash by in rapid sequence. It was hard to keep track of anyone. I still have no idea how Allaha came to be playing den mother to any of these people because none of this was explained, or if it was, I missed it somehow. Perhaps that was my fault as I shall explain now.

The novel is a bunch of flashbacks related by Allaha who is evidently being held prisoner. The book starts with her, and then is told in flashbacks, which I personally detest, so every time we start getting into the story, it's brought to a screeching halt for an eyewitness update on Allaha's condition, after which we return to our story in progress. It was annoying as hell. I quickly took to ignoring the Allaha chapters and simply followed the story which made for far better reading, although as I hinted above, perhaps the story of den mother Allaha was related in those portions I skipped. I don't know, and I really don't care at this point.

I was on a cruise ship a few months ago, and they showed free movies every evening, but during the viewing, the idiot cruise director would literally stop the movie and spend two or three minutes rambling on about events taking place on the ship, as if those of us halfway into the movie actually cared. If we had cared, then we'd have been at those events instead of comfortably sitting there trying to enjoy this movie! It was so irritating, and that's what these constant stoppages to get an Allaha status update were like for me.

The author seemed curiously dedicated to keeping us updated on Allaha's unchanging body status, too:

"Her body was covered in scars and bruises"
"She was covered in scars and bruises"
"old scars and colorful bruises"
"Her body was covered in scars and bruises"
"She had new scratches and bruises "
"The scratches and bruises still hurt "
This was another irritation. Did the author really think that after the first two times we honestly needed these almost word-for-word repeated updates on her physical condition? Apparently she did.
There were other such oddities and annoyances. At one point I read, "She had light red hair, almost more of a dark pink." Seriously? To me, light red has always been pink and dark pink always been red! But I'm a guy and as such am not quite as attuned to nuances of color as women seem to be, so maybe I'm missing something. I don't think I was missing something when I read, "The beds were compressions cut into the ground." I think the author meant 'depressions'? Also, I read, "We know the Zhos; they would not let one of their go free" which should read, 'theirs go free' or maybe 'their number go free'?

Another issue I had was with the phonetic representations of speech. I prefer it to be simply described, with maybe an example given here and there, but for the most part just to have the text in plain unadulterated English. I really don't like this sort of thing: "Come in trou da inn ten" and "Tat it tis." I've made only one exception to this, but in general, my personal preference is to just say they have an accent rather than try to phonetically represent it. Maybe that's just me, but in a novel which was already filling with annoyances, one more didn't help.

The other thing which was really annoying was this other character named Goric, who was a demon, and who floated along as a disembodied head. He was evidently the resident stand-up comedian of the group, but he wasn't funny. He truly became an irritation in short order. None of this helped me to enjoy the story at all. Nor did it make sense for the blurb to tell us that Allaha is "trained to fight against demons and their ilk" and then have her tolerate this one who was apparently tied to the sorcerer, aka Hibu, aka the Jeongwonee.

This group, for some reason which escaped me, was supposed to be figuring out how to stop this darkness that was coming, but there seemed to be no urgency to their 'quest'. This god Aisha whom Allaha worshipped evidently was of no help (because she was fallen?). The sorcerer was useless. No one they met could advise them at all. They were supposedly heading for an oracle, but they travelled literally for weeks and weeks through scrub desert, meadow, jungle and mountain and never seemed to get any closer. Everything that happened to them seemed solely for the purpose of adding new characters, tribes and communities to the world rather than actually moving the story along. To me, that was a major problem with this story and with series in general, and I can't commend this one at all.
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recently read this book, as NetGalley had this book up for review and reading the synopsis, it sounded like a book totally my thing - and in moments this book truly was. The story of Allaha, told in reverse, Wildflowers Part I, certainly is an interesting start to a saga. 

I feel this first book focuses on the world building and that's no bad thing. An intricate display of scenes and places weaves through this book brilliantly and really allows you to see the world Allaha is in and it makes for a good book for that reason. I love the diversity of cultures shown in the book and made clear by the first characters we see, this is not the same old boring world. 

There are however a lot of characters, and though I love the array of representation in this book, including pansexuality and even hint towards an aro/ace character, I still feel like there's a lot to take in this book and plot wise there's very little explanation for why people do what they do leaving me a little frustrated as it's unclear what they are doing sometimes within the story - I do however feel like this is a series where I want to know what happens next. 

I feel like this book is a great foundation for something greater to come, I really hope I'm right.
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DNF at 3%.

The whole conceit and writing style of this one just didn't work for me. 

The narrative starts off with a sort of meta-textual prologue - already a hard thing to pull off - where the main character is being interrogated and ostensibly giving her last testament. This failed to hook me, as it was literally all tell and no show. Even when this short section ended and the real story began, the writing just didn't grab me. We were introduced to four or five characters in quick succession and we get a huge infodump about each of their appearances and what that tells the reader about their nation and culture of origin - because of course we can tell all that from their appearance. Especially in a secondary world fantasy setting, it was just a lot, and it just didn't work for me.
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