(Book received for free for review from Best Bitts Productions.)
Before I say anything else about this book, let me first say that I enjoyed it. I got it for free for review, but you can get the ebook for only $1.99 at Amazon (linked above); it's more than worth that. I have a lot to say, some of it negative, but overall it was quite an enjoyable read. Never before have I described a book as a "romp", but that fits this one -- I feel like I was a member of the party off on an adventure.
It took me nearly three weeks to finish this book, which is crazy. I have no idea why I had no drive to read it -- I'd read a page or maybe a chapter and then happily go off and do something else. That makes no sense, since I liked it. (Rereading my post, this paragraph and the previous one seem to contradict each other. Both are true, however.)
The only guess I can make as to why I had no need to find out what happened next was that the book felt exactly like a typical D&D campaign, or like every other sword and sorcery book I've ever read. Everything that happened felt perfectly familiar. "Oh, this is where they'll meet a dragon." "Oh, I bet a giant is chasing them!" I swear, I've played through the plot's exact storyline countless times in tabletop games, and I've read this book dozens of times. (There was only one thing that surprised me: The party was traveling through a tunnel at once point and failed to encounter a Grue!) But again, it was familiar in a good way, like replaying a game you enjoyed.
And when I say "party", I mean that. There was a warrior, ranger/beastmaster/shifter type, a token woman (of course a former prostitute), a magic user, and the reluctant hero. (The hero of the story reminded me so strongly of Frodo that I kept being surprised when he looked someone in the eye or was mentioned to be the same height as some other character.) [Edit: Though I've not read the Lord of the Rings books in 20+ years, so my memory of the character might be off.]
There were a dozen or so typos in the book (self-published, so not too surprising). I liked the story enough that I had marked them down to send to the author, in case he wanted to update it, but an OS update to my ipad erased all my markers. They were all of the sort that a normal spellchecker wouldn't catch but a human editor would/should. Almost all of them were ",." or ".," at the end of sentences. (Things like this make me love my spellchecker at work even more; it catches punctuation issues, space issues, all sorts of things!)
There was one big plot point I didn't understand: One of the party members was planning to betray the party, and he was the most unpleasant, argumentative, disagreeable person from the get-go. Why, if you were trying to get people to trust you enough to let you come with them to the final goal, would you belittle them, argue over everything, and outright mock them? (This isn't a spoiler, it was clear from the beginning that he was going to betray them.)
Other than the few typos, I have to say that I really enjoyed the technical aspects of Blake's writing. He knows how to use a semicolon, and had a free hand with them. I enjoyed the pace, his writing style, and he constructs darned nice sentences.
His descriptive work was enjoyable as well. The enemy forces (an undead army), came to life (so to speak...).
Characterization was more along the lines of characters filling a role: Reluctant hero, hooker with a heart of gold, helpful beastmaster/shifter/ranger, grumpy betrayer warrior. The (living) bad guy suffered the most from this -- he didn't interest me at all, and it's usually the bad guys I find the most fascinating.
The ending of the book was great... except it wasn't the ending. I was near the end of the book, and the story seemed to wrap up (as much as the end of the first book of a trilogy would). There was a final perfect sentence that left me smiling... then I noticed there was still 4% of the book left. What could it be? Maps? Preview of the next book? I scrolled to the next page and it was another chapter. The "additional" chapters after that weren't bad at all, but if it had ended where I thought it was, it would have been a perfect ending.
So, even though I've had a number of criticisms of this book, I would still recommend it. It was a fun adventure. If you ever played D&D or read a fantasy book, it will be familiar in a good way. I'm planning on getting the next two books, once my To Read pile shrinks a bit more.