Preview – Dark Winter: Fateweaver

The problem with taking on so many projects is that I rarely have time for… frankly anything. I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I wouldn’t mind reading a book for review, well I do need to be reading more having fallen so badly out of the habit, and supporting a local author is a worthwhile cause. I’m prepared to admit I haven’t finished Fateweaver by Cameron Lisney, I’ve been trying to cram in some reading time inbetween events and jobs and projects so that I could get a review done… but the story doesn’t take long getting its hooks into you.

Once Everyone’s Super…

We’re used to seeing super-heroes in comics rather than presented in prose, and while the concept is hardly new it’s still nice to see it as a variation. Fateweaver begins with a “hero”, in the same sense that one might consider Frank Castle a hero, Harrow seems unnaturally skilled in the art of murder; at first it seems like she’s just “very good” at it, well trained or perhaps just protected by plot armour, but her power is actually wonderfully subtle.

Heather – the woman beneath Harrow’s helmet – has limited influence on time and chance in her immediate vicinity, split second predictions, tiny impacts on the outcomes of small events, an incredibly potent ability when combined with a healthy amount of tech, weapons, and armour bought on the profits of crime “reclaimed” for the public good. Her powers make her one of Britain’s most formidable heroes (and there are a lot of them) but it also leaves her with an incredible burden.

Fateweaver goes deeply into how such an ability can torment the mind, being so aware of potential outcomes and having them be as real to you as the reality you then create is made worse when life is generally unkind to you, and to then thrust yourself into a life of peril. Heather/Harrow’s perspective takes us through the nightmare of experiencing death repeatedly, we also – through another plotline – experience for a moment the pain of watching a loved one die over and over again, and the constant effort exerted to change the outcome. Worse yet, those horrors that you did not foresee, could not change, because of alcohol or exertion, or worse.

We occupy a world of heroes, super powers are everywhere it seems, and have been for long enough that this version of the future has already undergone its “Civil War” event that divides the empowered into government stooges and lawless renegades. Power is highly variable, and it seems not all “heroes” survive their acts of heroism, or perhaps live long enough to become the villain. I appreciate how the world created has drawn upon a vast variety of sources and worked to build something original from them, no easy feat.

Definitely Not For Kids

Much as stated on the Dark Winter Facebook page, Fateweaver will not be one for young readers, punches are pulled when it comes to the subjects of violence, sexual content, and other darker components of life in general, stopping short of visceral descriptions of some of Harrow’s more horrifying experiences that led her to such a dangerous life.

One particular scene in which we follow the narrative of an inmate abused by his fellow prisoners is unapologetic in its descriptions of sexual aggression in prisons and yet at no point makes light of the subject. I’m loathe to go into detail on the subject for fear of giving away one of the more poignant moments in the book so far.

Our villains are modern day interpretations of the classical Christian sins, creatures of beguiling power that goad humanity into embracing its darker elements, so I don’t doubt the trend will be continuing. I’ve stopped shy of the first encounter with such an entity, and I’m suitably enthralled to want to know what happens next.

The Perils of Self Publishing vs. The Perks of Digital Distribution

Mr. Lisney, I like your work, but you’re not getting off scott-free because you asked me nicely to review it. Without going through a publisher there are a few quality control issues such as grammar flaws that your average word-processor won’t detect, and in the absence of a few proof readers they end up in your finished product. There are – certainly in early chapters – some odd choices of adjective that I would query although none that I would outright challenge.

I must pick up on a moment of characterisation as well, at the Comicon (an excellent choice for a super-hero hideout by the way) where Harrow goes from appreciating the attentions of one fan appreciating what she assumes to be cosplay, to being slightly annoyed by another gentleman who knows her to be Harrow lavishing her with attention, and I cannot decide what part of the context changes her mood. Perhaps it’s the anonymity? Although neither knows who is under the helmet. Is it the intent, where one just wants a photo, one fan to another, where the other is looking for a side-kick job? Certainly that seems the more likely, but the mood-shift is a little jarring.

And yet both attitudes feel in-character, as if for a moment she feels as though she is Heather-in-costume, not the cold blooded vigilante.

Still, we live in a modern age, and the project (as I have seen it) has come together at impressive speed. The benefits of digital distribution as an independent author are that one can release a second draft and have current copies updated, as I know that Matt Colville has done the same thing. He wrankles at people buying hard-copies as they are now two or three edits “out of date”, because we now live in a time where even books need to be patched to work properly. A fact at which I cannot help but laugh.

Cameron Lisney’s Dark Winter: Fateweaver is available for purchase as of today on Amazon and let me say that in a thousand words I have barely touched on the first third of the book. Linsey creates an impressive world filled with vivid action and a compelling story that spans more than continents, but time itself. Already there is so much to unravel, two narratives seperated by – it seems thousands of years and yet could be as little as months given the earth-shattering nature of the parties in play.

It’s been a while since I was thoroughly hooked into a book that wasn’t a rule or guidebook. I look forward to the rest…