“Always Gray in Winter” by Mark J. Engels


Often reviewers and editors have to tell an author that the book started too soon. As in, there was a whole lot of stuff at the beginning that should have been cut out before the real story started. This book is the opposite. Part way through I went back and checked to see if I was reading Book 2 of a series. I wasn’t. There is an incredible amount of backstory that we really need to know to understand this complicated plot, and it just wasn’t there. 

Likewise, there are an incredible number of characters, all introduced in large bunches, and I still don’t know who half of them are, or which side they are on. There are an incredible number of plot twists, none of which I could follow. 

Just an example. At the end of one battle, a character who is supposedly a good guy comes back to consciousness, shouts a couple of phrases in Spanish, and aims his gun. We aren’t told at whom, but there are only good guys standing around. I speak basic Spanish, and I couldn’t translate it. I got a translation, and it meant nothing to me in English. His partner draws his own gun and shoots. We aren’t told at whom. End of chapter. WTF?

I really wanted to like this book. I think it has great world-building, although I’m not too sure. It’s definitely very creative. The characters are likeable, and their troubles attract my sympathy. There are lots of great action sequences, although I’m not always sure who I’m supposed to be cheering for. 

This author needs to develop the ability to understand exactly what the reader knows and understands at every point in the story. Flashbacks need to be flagged, not slid into. Characters need to be introduced carefully and in small numbers. 

This is a decent story that could have been much better with very little editing. 

3 out of 5 stars

 (3 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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