DNF: Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle


I had such high hopes for this book. The cover is beautiful and I love slice of life. It seemed like it couldn’t have been more up my alley if it tried. Peaceful life in a small village? Small-scale plot? Yes please! Initially, it reminded me a bit of Stardew Valley in book form. Small setting, each villager has a complex and detailed backstory, but…well. The same thing that worked in a game doesn’t necessarily translate to a book. And it’s a massive shame.

The problem with slice of life is that when you remove plot, every other aspect – the writing, the characters, the worldbuilding, the atmosphere – has to be perfect or near-perfect for it to work, since they have to make up for the absence. And here, none of them was quite up to scratch.

The story itself was fine – a healer dying of a mysterious illness and the villagers (and a new healer) trying to find what is happening and why. I wanted to find out what happens. Given some time, the characters might have grown on me, too. The videogame-like magic was another thing that took me out of the story, but this alone might not have been so bad either.

The biggest issue by far and the one that that brought it down from “meh” to DNF is the writing. To be clear, by writing, I don’t mean the basics like the grammar and spelling – those are all polished. It reads quick, too. It simply lacks any sort of atmosphere. The prose is bland, at points clunky, and a lot of it gives the story a very modern impression (diners? Pixie cuts? Jeans?) that clashes with the seemingly standard fantasy setting. Including the names. It doesn’t feel fantasy, it’s awkward and jarring, and for me, an absolute dealbreaker. Enough to make me stall and want to either skim through it or go read something else. Something, anything that doesn’t have those issues. I finished a whole book while deciding whether I should continue or not.

If you can get past the atmosphere issues I mentioned, it might still be worth a try. Unfortunately, I’ll have to call this a DNF at 30%.

6 thoughts on “DNF: Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle”

  1. I might give this a shot, I think going in knowing they mention jeans and the like that it will bother me less. Thanks for the DNF/review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think the element of surprise made it much worse for me – there is nothing to indicate it takes place in modernish times. I probably wouldn’t have liked how it’s written regardless…but I hope you enjoy it more than I did 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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