Pros: Gorgeous worldbuilding; excellent characters; fantastic setup; spellbinding storytelling
Cons: Seems to start a bit slowly, but it’s definitely worth the buildup; may be a bit grim for some
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Colin and his parents fled across the seas to escape a coming war, only to find themselves unwelcome in their new home, beholden to the wrong Family in a town ruled with an iron fist. Eventually they’re faced with a choice—live in squalor, and probably die, in New Andover, or agree to head an expedition inward on the continent with the purpose of expanding the local Family’s power base. Unfortunately this continent is already occupied, and the occupants aren’t happy to have visitors.
Colin survives a devastating attack with the help of the denizens of a mysterious forest and the powers of a miraculous well. That well has changed Colin forever as a consequence, giving him strange and ever-growing powers. Now he might be the only person who stands a chance of saving all of the various nearby peoples from the dark Shadows and Wraiths that seek to devour everything.
At first I thought that the beginning of Benjamin Tate’s Well of Sorrows was a touch slow, but I quickly came to appreciate it. By the time Colin and his parents launched their expedition I could feel, taste, see, hear, and smell the world they lived in. Everything came beautifully alive, and every aspect of the societies involved came together to form a fascinating whole. The worldbuilding is absolutely stunning.
Similarly, I was surprised at the points where Tate decided to skip periods of time in the story, and yet again it didn’t take long for me to feel that he’d done exactly the right thing.
The story itself is epic in scope and scale, although always tied together through the use of Colin’s presence. The characters have a great deal of depth and interest, and many of them captured my imagination. The setting is grim and gritty; colonization and settlement expeditions do not tend to be safe nor easy, and Tate shows this in an unflinching manner. If you need your fantasy to be clean, if you need all of the characters to be saved at just the last minute, then this isn’t the book for you.
Well of Sorrows kept me spellbound for the entire length of the thick paperback. It’s well worth your time to delve into this heart-wrenching story!