This is a August 2018 release sent to me by Macmillan.
Title: War Cry
Author: Brian McClellan
From studying English in university to reading any advice on writing I could get, I have seen one quote more often than any other: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.” While it’s accredited to Anton Chekov, it’s really a paraphrasing of a section of a letter to his brother; however, the real quote sums up rather nicely in the above phrase.
Preparing to write this review, I desperately looked for a particular phrasing, and to my unfortunate surprise, I discovered my mind had taken multiple authors and smashed them together, so I suppose I get to offer my mangled interpretation too. The best writing, in my opinion, doesn’t focus on the sprawl. For all that the above argues for show don’t tell, I think focus on the details is just as important. It’s also easier when showing. Don’t tell me the story is about war. Show me a child crying for their parent (popular emotive flash in movies). Show me the empty gazes of young men and the hunger gnarling at them from the inside which they no longer remember a time without.
McClellan does so beautifully. He does tell at times, but I’ve found sometimes you just need to get to the point, so as long as the details remain small and focused, I don’t mind. The war – wizards and all – is kept tight on a single group of individuals, and the main character, for all his interesting shape-shifting abilities, reminded me of All’s Quiet on the Western Front. Starving and listening to enemy propaganda because ‘they have better music,’ McClellan’s war would be jarringly realistic if it weren’t for the magic, but even with it, the wizards meld so well with the hellish landscape that you may come away feeling raw and exposed.
I hadn’t heard of Brian McClellan before this book, and it was only on the invite of a friend at Macmillan that I even considered the novella, but Tor has outdone itself with this beauty.