The Depths: Solypse Book One, by Paul Neslusan – Review

Thousands of feet below the surface world and tucked behind a waterfall lies a ceaseless juggernaut of commerce, the six tiers of the city working together to provide anything desired. Some come to Solypse for trade; others simply come to disappear. Though the descent to the city is treacherous and long, it is lucrative for those willing to brave the trek. Those who stay are bolder still: for in a city full of those who wish to be forgotten, the real rules are often made in the shadows.
With promises of wealth come promises of power. As evil brews beneath the city, clandestine power struggles between politicians, magicians, merchants, and assassins bring the city of Solypse to the brink of annihilation. With a temple unable to help and a council unwilling to save its own people, it is up to an exiled dwarf, a reluctant assassin, and a failed priest to save the city.

Sounds pretty intriguing. This book was recommended to me by my former boss, whose friend had written it.
Short review of this book:
Mines of Moria meets a 1980s style fantasy film in book format, lots of evil wizardry, enchanting world, lots of plot twists, much potential.

The long version:
This book is very reminiscent of anything you can imagine J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mines of Moria to be. There’s an entire underground civilization connected by tunnels. Cities are everywhere within and people know about a world above but no one has much interest in going there. As the book’s description states, the storyline centers around a dwarf, an assassin, and a failed priest. But there were numerous other main characters as well, a powerful wizard, a somewhat magically inclined mage, and a demon. There’s some pretty evil stuff in this book that makes for an interesting plot twist, including crooked politicians, an inherently evil counter assassin, an evil wizard, and a clumsy apprentice. There’s lots of spells, magic, magical items, and mythical creatures that make for an interesting nemesis as well.

Bottom line, this book has a whole lot of potential. But there are a few things that stopped me from really enjoying the book as much as I wanted to and all the creativity it had to offer.

First, I had a hard time caring about the characters in the book. The author really jumps around between the characters and does really take the time to expound on any character development or any “feelings” or thoughts that guided any of their actions. It was a lot of character did this, character did that, character said this or that, there wasn’t any deep rooted sense of why they were doing what they were doing. It felt a little “first draft” ish. One particular example of this is when one character loses a family member in a very gruesome way, the author spends virtually no time expressing any grief from the character left behind, no regrets, no denial, no mentioned feelings of what could have been done differently to save her, not even much rage at the responsible culprit. I thought the author missed a great opportunity to really develop the character and give me something I could hold on to.

Second, there are a lot of magical things that happen with no detail and no real explanation for them. There’s some ancient relic called a Hand that conveniently gets found after being lost forever, and there’s a foe that is defeated rather quickly as well at the end that is very confusing and involved one of the characters for an unexplained reason.

Third, at the beginning of the book there was a prophecy mentioned about Pash, but no details given for it. As the book progresses it’s never mentioned again. Perhaps this will be ironed out in the second book, but I was hoping that there would be something alluding to it towards the end of the book, especially when Pash starts down a path of badassness. So I’ll hold out for that in the second book.

Fourth, there were a lot of grammatical errors and typos in the book, which added to its “first draft” feel.

So much happened in this book that I think it could have easily been expanded into a trilogy by itself if the author had focused a little more on character development. I wanted to know not only who these characters were, but I wanted to KNOW the characters. I felt like my imagination was playing a 1980s fantasy film in my head as I was reading it because everything was happening really fast but with very little depth.

There’s also an inherently evil assassin that had quite a bit of character development, starting with his childhood where he enjoyed harming things. I really disliked this guy but I appreciated how the author handled the depth of his character. I was annoyed at the end of the book though when he ends up having a nonchalant rendevous with one of the other “good” main characters. I wanted this guy to be gutted, not to get a happy ending.

The real heroes at the end of the book though were from an army full of characters who had no other roles in the book. He spends a great deal of time on the battle scene with these characters we just met, and they end up being the real heroes. It would have been really awesome if these characters were important throughout the book, instead of just appearing in the nick of time and stealing the spotlight from the main characters. But I thought the battle scene was pretty well written.

There was so much creativity in this book though. The world Neslusan created is very intricate and has potential to go off in so many directions. He also left several things well placed for a second book, one of them pertaining to the bad guy, who had a nice and intriguing little backstory that I found pretty exciting when I read it. The book was alluding to something the whole time and it could have been nothing, could have been something, and I appreciated how the author was able to sneak up on me with it’s truth when it finally came out. I also appreciated the scene where the wizard is teaching Pash about the subconsciousness of magic. I thought this scene was very well done and he did a great job of explaining his view of ingrained magical powers, which I think is one of the more challenging areas fantasy authors face.

I will continue reading his series and I’m excited to learn more about these characters as they progress and develop more. His book is available on Amazon through the link here: The Depths: Solypse Book One, by Paul Neslusan

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