My first read of 2023 ended up being surprising and spontaneous – a dwarf-focused story, which was also a new venture for me.
The story follows Naen, a loner prospector, who travels a mountain valley in search of a promising mine – one that would allow him to return to his people wealthy, or at least not poor. He does find one – in quite a charming setting, with a lake full of fish and forests where he can find food aplenty. And during exploring the mine, he manages to come across a quite large gem – one that would possibly let him return to civilization – if he makes the journey. Pursued by an old and seemingly mad bear, he comes across a group of refugees running from their bleak future – indentured to serve in mines.
When this group is about to be caught by the forces of their masters, Naen’s life changes completely. He realizes that his chances would be slim if he returned, that the greed of the wealthy would probably have the mine taken over and he’d face barely better prospects for the rest of his life. After a skirmish – with losses both from the army and the refugees – he leads the ragtag group back to the mountains.
Leader of the refugees, Jade, is distrustful of Naen and it’s not much better for most of her people. But Naen knows how to survive in these lands – something that Jade doesn’t. And the group may as well eat itself from the inside if they’re left unchecked. Thus, Naen put things in order and the mine begins to turn into an underground village. Jade herself then leads an attack to free slaves of other mines, and as the news spread, it turns the mine population into a small town.
It is, again, mostly Naen’s expertise of rocks and geology that sees them through the first attack – and it will take every bit of it if they’re to survive the wrath of the dwarven kings.
The pacing is a bit slower than one would expect for a book that’s more on the shorter side, but it works quite well. Although most of the plot takes place in and around a single mountain chain, it doesn’t feel like there would be a lack of world-building. It gives a good insight into the dwarven culture over time just right. Naen growing from a loner into a leader shows good character growth, more so as most of the denizens get to eventually like and respect him despite the rocky start.
Read date: 15.-26.1.2023
My rating: 90%
Length: 327 pages (Kindle edition)
As I said in the beginning, this was the first time I read a book where the main focus was on dwarves, and it was a pleasant surprise with many fine details about their culture. The book works well as a standalone, even though it’s labeled as a part of a (future) series.