January 11, 2014 by mmileti
It is not hard to guess why this book has not yet garnered the attention that it deserves. In a thumbnail image (like you would find browsing amazon) the cover looks like it is trying to advertise a bad romance novel. It is only after enlarging the image that it becomes apparent that the woman swooning in a man’s arms as waves crash beneath them is reflected in the water below as a woman crying over a man’s lifeless body. And just like the cover, this story is not all that is seems at a first glance. The book starts out as a typical sword and sorcery novel with a romantic subplot. In the first chapter a man saves a damsel in distress from an evil sorcerer by killing him with his magic sword. It seems so cliché that I am sure it dissuaded a good number of readers from reading any further. But it does not take long for the book to shed its veneer of predictability to reveal a dark and unpredictable plot that turns many classic fantasy tropes on their head.
Eaton’s debut novel is definitely a capable of capturing the reader’s interest. The plot is consistently exciting throughout the book, and it is filled with plenty of action and intrigue. However, the book does have a few issues. The book’s plot is very strong, but the depth of the characters and the world building could both be a lot more developed. Eaton does manage to make the reader care about his characters, but the book could have benefited from a little more backstory and understanding of each of them. On the other hand, the world building is almost nonexistent, and even though there is a brief description of the magic system, along with examples of its use, the reader never gets any explanation of this magic within the context of the world, or of the mechanism by which this magic works. Besides the few places that the characters visit, the world is not explained at all. Also, since there is no map included in the book, it is very difficult to discern how these locations lay in relation to each other. There is also very little discussion of history or politics, and this type of world building would have really brought The Hero Always Wins to a whole new level.
There were also a few continuity problems with the book’s medieval setting. There is modern language used, and the intentional use of modern phrases in the chapter titles may put some readers off. These lapses in continuity did not bother me as much as some other readers, as I found the book to be a type of satire on the modern fairytale, and the use of common phrases seemed an efficient way to make this satire more obvious.
Despite these issues, Eaton’s debut is a well told and action packed story. The plot is far from predictable, and the story is refreshing in its originality. The few typos in the book are easily overlooked, and its other problems do not detract significantly from the story’s enjoyment. This book is perfect for anyone who is looking for a fresh perspective on the fantasy novel, or a dark adventure novel with plenty of twists.
Overall, I would rate this book at 7.5/10.