This review is based on an eARC (Advance Reading Copy) provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Into the Broken Lands will be released on August 23, 2022.
Tanya Huff is an author I’ve heard a lot about from her work in subgenres I don’t often read. So when the eye-catching cover of the adventure fantasy Into the Broken Lands scrolled across my screen, it wasn’t a hard decision to submit an ARC request and give a beloved author a chance on more familiar grounds.
Into the Broken Lands is a quest story fundamentally concerned with how the characters respond to trying circumstances. It features a relatively large band of adventurers with a handful of perspective characters. Chief among them are Ryan, the Heir of Marsanport who must lead the band into the mage-ruined Broken Lands and return with the fuel to keep his city safe, his cousin Lyelee, a Scholar wishing only to study the Broken Lands, and Nonee, a mage-forged weapon who represents their only chance at surviving the quest. As the tale progresses, we also see flashbacks to the last time Marsanport underwent such a quest, with perspective from Ryan’s grandfather and Nonee’s mentor.
The first thing that struck me about Into the Broken Lands was its pace. It tells a self-contained story and is printed at just under 500 pages, but it reads longer, with a lot of time spent meeting the cast and setting up the quest before the main adventure even begins. But though it may have taken some persistence to keep reading without much excitement upfront, I didn’t mind the long spinup. It worked well to establish both the characters and the feeling that the quest may not be exactly what it seems. The Broken Lands are full of monsters leftover from the devastating Mage Wars, and their tendency to shift makes it impossible to really know what to expect. And yet there are hints that even some of the more solid information is being held back from the cast, for reasons unknown. So while there’s not an abundance of action early, it does a good job setting up the Broken Lands as both dangerous and mysterious, and gives the reader a good idea of the struggles each character would face.
But the beginning of the expedition proper opens a cycle of journeying into new and bizarre landscape, flashing back to the previous expedition’s dangers, facing weird and horrifying monsters, regrouping and preparing for the next stage, and repeating the process. And if you’re here for the weirdness, the action, and the character moments, it might not even be a bad cycle to get into! But, while I appreciate exploration of weird places, I’m not as heavily into the action scenes, and the series of monster encounters wore on me. Perhaps those who read for those encounters will think differently, but I saw little need for the double-dipping between the flashbacks and the contemporary scenes. They did serve to slowly unveil the missing pieces of the historical record, but following two expeditions in such detail began to feel redundant.
I had similar complaints about the character piece—an element that generally does interest me. Into the Broken Lands delivered myriad opportunities to really get into the heads of the lead characters and understand how they respond in brutally dangerous scenarios, but it again began to feel redundant. It was as if every bit of character development was well-established, and then they all got another two or three spotlight scenes for good measure. The arcs are good—they made sense in terms of what we knew at the beginning and in how the people changed as the story progressed. They just didn’t quite have the depth to justify all the extra page time.
Ultimately, Into the Broken Lands offers some solid character arcs alongside a whole lot of monster encounters and a mystery whose resolution is satisfying, if not terribly surprising. It does great work hitting themes of acceptance and respect for others, but it doesn’t quite have the depth to sustain its length, and for readers without the appetite for battling monster after monster after monster, the pacing will be a significant drawback.
Recommended if you like: slow-paced adventure stories with plenty of monsters.
Can I use it for Bingo? It’s hard mode for Family Matters, Mental Health, and Cool Weapon, and it’s also Published in 2022.
Overall rating: 12 of Tar Vol’s 20. Three stars on Goodreads.