Review: “When They Shine Brightest,” Yordan Zhelyazkov

Pros: Interesting world-building
Cons: Awkward, and it was hard to like anyone
Rating: 3 out of 5

Korsak is a Wayfarer soldier, but he was nursed back to health after an injury–by one of the peoples his nation makes war against. He ended up taking a young girl, Arty, back home with him, pretty much as his adopted daughter. Now he’s a temple guard, but he’s starting to realize that things are being hidden from him. He has a lot of anger to burn inside of him (having his wife and sons disliking him really doesn’t help). When one of his sons ends up in grave danger, and his adopted daughter might be killed, he hast to do things he’d normally never consider in order to help them–and he’ll end up learning a lot more about his own people (including his small family) in the process.


Yordan Zhelyazkov’s When They Shine Brightest has been translated into English, so I expect that most of the little weird word choices and such are an artifact of that process. The same with phrases like “…heard the door of his room silently open”–‘heard’ and ‘silently’ are mutually exclusive. Also some phrases that if taken literally can make you grimace or laugh out loud:

[H]e opened his eyes, set them on his soiled palm first, and then on the bloody one.

It gives me nightmares of someone holding their eyes in a bloody hand, presumably after ripping them out of his head. Those are the most egregious examples that I’ve found. It’s one of those things that people who get tripped up by bad grammar will get caught on, but I recommend cutting the author some slack since the book had to be translated. Anyway, not every reader is bothered by grammar issues, so decide for yourself whether they’d bother you.

Most characters are shallow in nature. The bully is a bully in standard ways. The overly domineering wife, the same. Arty is one of the few characters I could really feel something for. Korsak certainly didn’t appeal to me even though it’s largely his story. I understand making anti-heroes, but to my mind he was too unlikable.

The world building, however, is quite interesting. The secrets the temple keeps, the ‘Gods’ that live under the mountain, what eventually ends the story–those are fascinating things. I felt as though the true story here really gets underway at the end, and I expect there’ll be a sequel for just that reason. Also, the chapters jumped around in time enough to confuse me. I’d rather have had most of the information in order.

Ultimately, I’m of mixed mind with regard to When They Shine Brightest. I leave it to you to decide whether grammar problems, an unlikable protagonist, and a lot of harsh, unlikable people would bother you or not. Those are, after all, largely reader-dependent issues.

NOTE: This book was provided by the author for this review

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