Review: Black Arrow by J.P. Ashman

36276083Well. Here we are, Black Arrow.

I’ve been really excited about this one, so when offered an ARC, I couldn’t say no. So, thanks to the author for the review copy. 🙂

Tragedy rarely visits alone; when one hero falls, more usually follow, such is the nature of war.

Whilst Cheung travels Brisance and the Black Guild tears itself apart, Correia Burr rides for The Marches with her trusted Pathfinders, in search of an enemy they know nothing about.

But when her network of informers yield little, Correia makes a necessary decision to lead her closest companions beyond Altoln’s borders, into Sirreta and the unknown. What they find forces Correia back, and on again, in a race to Wesson, leaving far more than her friends behind.

Throughout it all: massing armies, shocking betrayals and devastating, heart-breaking losses, a familiar name continues to be whispered on the lips of many: Dignaaln, emissary. 

“You’re a dick, Biviano, you really are,” said the rider.

“And you suck ’em, Jay Strawn. You suck ’em.”

In this volume, we catch up with the second half of the characters who appeared in Black Cross, while the events of Black Guild run concurrently. So in this one we’re following the adventures of four groups:

  • The Pathfinders are traveling from Altoln to Siretta and get into plenty of shenanigans along the way. Then more shenanigans when they actually get there. Because there is some considerable stuff happening in the country of Siretta.
  • The legendary Captain Mannino and the crew of the Sessio are docked in the Tri-Isles in order to have the ship repaired, and while there they get into a rather big kerfuffle with a local gang, which only gets the attention of The Three, a sibling trio of elves who rule the Isles at least partially by being scary and mystical. And there were many shenanigans.
  • The chevalier Amis de Valmont is chaperoning Flavell de Steedon, daughter of a Sirretan nobleman from one city in Sirreta to another with plans on marrying her to another noble family there, so she’s traveled to them to woo the Senechal. Many, many shenanigans.
  • Sears and Biviano, who are former Wesson city guards are still recovering from the events of book one. It seems that Sears has gotten himself into some trouble though. And many, many shenanigans were had, knowing Biviano.

I really did end up liking this one, but it admittedly took a really long time for me to get into it. But, certainly at times, found it engaging and rather an easy read that I spent many a lunch break on. But, that said, it had some issues that I struggled with at times, and I found myself floundering most especially in the first half.

My first issue was that there were just so many characters to take in that I kept confusing them all. It follows several different subplots to begin with, but then there are multiple POVs within each of them, and many characters that I either didn’t know or didn’t remember.

Here is an example of what I mean: Much of the first chunk of this story follows the crew of the Sessio, in which I pretty much only recalled the captain and first mate, Mannino and Hitchmogh from previous installments of the series. Now, to start with, there are 7 named crew members of various importance running around (not including Mannino and Hitchmogh). While they’re docked at the Tri-Isles, they get into an altercation with the local gang (4 named characters), which incidentally includes a couple locals (2 named characters), which eventually attracts the attention of The Three (….which actually has 4 named characters, hehe :D).

This entire section of events happens within the first 40% or so of the book. So, as you can see, this was a lot to process right in the beginning. I did eventually get a good feel for everyone, obviously, but right out the gate it was a bit confusing.

On top of that, there are a couple of characters introduced in this part that I just flat out didn’t like, and it was actually a bit hard not to skip their chapters. One is Emms, a woman so maddeningly daft that it made my eyes roll, and the other is Quin, a man so thirsty for this witless woman for some reason that it only made my eyes roll harder. I still have no idea what the purpose of these characters served at all in this book, other than to be annoying, but there we have it.

Sears and Biviano are introduced in chapter one, and then are not mentioned again until well past the halfway point, and I will admit to this being really irritating at first on top of the trouble that I was having to begin with, but you do eventually catch back up with them and we stay with them for a while once they are reintroduced. It also helped that their bits of the book were filled with the snark that I had been missing, so in the end I was okay with it.

So, I did have a tough time staying interested, but I stuck with it, and I’m really glad I did because once I hit about the halfway mark I found it much harder to put down. I read nearly all of the second half in one sitting. Some very interesting things happen after these subplots begin to combine a little. Correia and the Pathfinders have an interesting adventure on their way into Sirreta, and once they meet Amis de Valmont and the rest of the Sirretans, I was admittedly hooked. On top of that, we’re learning a lot more about Mannino and Hitchmogh in their POV chapters, and I liked that, because they are interesting characters who have been, up to this point, rather mysterious. They still are, but we get to see them in action a bit more in this volume.

The plot twists a bunch here and there, and I never guessed any of it, so I was suitably shocked a few times as things I didn’t expect to happen did, in fact happen. That said, there were a couple events that were shocking but also felt… rather a waste. One event in particular comes to mind, where a character who had been present for most of this book suddenly and inexplicably did something entirely out of character, seemingly out of the blue entirely, with no buildup to it happening and no explanation whatsoever as to why it happened… and then that’s pretty much the last we hear of them. There were also other times where characters who seemed really special or important were introduced and then never really mentioned again, but I still vaguely feel like I’m going to have to remember them in the future (and knowing me, won’t >.>).

All told, it was a good read that had both ups and downs, and things I liked and things I didn’t. So it goes! With a bit of a rocky start, but an engaging finish, I’d say I had 3.5/5 stars amounts of fun with this one. This wasn’t the strongest book in the series, in my opinion, but all the same I am excited to see where this goes in the next volume!


Thanks again to the author for the review copy!

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