*I’m posting this as part of the XpressoBookTours Scar of the Downers Blog Tour. I recieved a free ebook copy of this in order to do so.
**This is also posted on Coffee & All Things Random.
Title: Scar of the Downers
Author: Scott Keen
Branded on the slaves in the Northern Reaches beyond Ungstah, the scar marks each one as a Downer. It is who they are. There is no escaping this world. Still, strange things are stirring.
Two foreigners ride through the Northern Reaches on a secret mission. An unknown cloaked figure wanders the streets of the dark city of Ungstah. What they want no one can be sure, but it all centers around a Downer named Crik.
Crik, too scared to seek freedom, spends his days working in his master’s store, avoiding the spirit-eating Ash Kings, and scavenging food for himself and his best friend, Jak. Until he steals from the wrong person. When Jak is sold to satisfy the debt, Crik burns down his master’s house and is sentenced to death.
To survive, Crik and his friends must leave behind their life of slavery to do what no other Downer has ever done before – escape from the city of Ungstah
Crik smiled. “I brought something for you.” He pulled out the torn piece of bread and handed it to her.
“Where did you get it?”
“A simple thank you is all I need,” said Crik. She gazed at him, and it felt as if he knew what she was thinking. “I’m careful. I’ve lived this long.”
“I didn’t say anything,” said Tinker. “But since you mentioned it. Thank you. You’re such a nice Downer . . . and that’s saying a lot. Some of them are crueler than their masters.”
Tinker took a bite of the bread and chewed slowly.
“Is it good?” Crik asked.
Tinker nodded. “It’s fresher than the ones Morta serves to her customers. I hope you didn’t go through a lot of trouble getting it.”
Crik thought about it and just said, “Not too much.” Then he picked a crumb out of her dirty, matted hair, which she brushed behind her ear.
“You had something in your hair,” said Crik, slightly embarrassed.
“Just one thing?” said Tinker.
“That I could see in the dark.”
They laughed. They always did when they met. All the grime on their skin, tears in their clothes, and lice in their hair disappeared when they were with each other. Crik didn’t feel like a Downer with Tinker. He felt like a young man; he felt brave, as if he could conquer the city. With her he wasn’t afraid of Kilvar, of the rats, the Ashes, or even the Gaunt King himself. The dangers of the city and the world melted away when they were together.
Getting up, Crik walked to the ledge of the roof and looked eastward into the darkness, past the torches and walls. He searched for the words to say, his gaze burrowing into the wall of night. Crik’s voice was quiet when he spoke.
“I heard something yesterday when I was in Briars and Thickets.”
“You went in there?” Tinker got up and crossed to him.
“That’s not the point.” Crik looked at her. “Some men were talking. I listened to their conversation. They spoke of something . . . something called the Avarah.”
Tinker’s brow furrowed, and her face turned serious. “The Avarah?”
“Yeah. You work in an inn. Have you heard people speak of them? Do you know anything about what they are?”
“I haven’t heard a lot,” said Tinker. “What I have heard isn’t very good. But they’re mainly just in stories. No one believes that they’re real. Why?”
“What were the stories about them like?”
Tinker grew quiet again as if she were deep in thought. “I’ve heard they were some kind of powerful being who used to live here long ago. But for some reason they don’t anymore. I guess the people in Ungstah killed them or something. Why? Why do you ask?”
“One man said they’ve returned.”
“Returned?” Tinker gave a little laugh. “I don’t think they’re even real. He was probably crazy. A lot of strange people come through the city.”
“That’s the thing,” said Crik. “This man is the Captain of the City’s Watch.”
Tinker crossed her arms. “Why do you ask me all these questions?”
“I was hoping that if the Avarah have returned . . . I was hoping they were good.”
“Be careful,” said Tinker, grabbing hold of his hand.
“Careful of what?”
“Hope can be dangerous thing for a Downer.”
“Hope is all I have.”
And now, on to my review!
Scar of the Downers is an interesting new fantasy book. It is full of survival, strength, growth, trust, and the fight for freedom. It involves the Downers being treated like slaves, barely ever being fed and always having to do as their master asks. They are treated so poorly and cruelly, but then they have help and suddenly everything is looking brighter. It’s about friendship and trust and it’s a tale written to make scared characters a little braver, a littler more trusting, and a lot more loving.
What I Like:
- The World-Building || The world building was well done, in my opinion. I mainly enjoyed the description of the evil lurking within the land and the cursed King, how Ungstah is described as darker than other cities so much so that travelers can feel the change once they’re close enough. It made for a much more scary type of vibe, and really helped the mystery grow where the King and his Guards are involved.
- The Action || I love action, period, but I especially loved it in this book because of the magical elements. Aniel has this sword, right? And so, it can turn into water and end the lives of the Ash Kings, and it can also turn into fire. How cool is that?!
- The Characters || Well, most of them. I enjoyed reading about Crik (he’s probably my favourite), Jak (or maybe he is), Tinker, Chaser, Aniel (she’s wicked cool), Talorc, Edem, and Gabril. I wasn’t so much a fan of Kilvar, Bhoor, and the other cruel Downer owners. I know they have to be cruel in order for the story to work as it does and I can understand that, I just don’t like them because if they were real I’d want to punch them in the face so bad. Overall though, the characters were great and I enjoyed the different voices us readers got to hear as we read. The visual we got was much richer because of that.
- The Writing || It flowed well, and despite the filler-like vibe I felt most of the time, it was still a very enjoyable read because the writing really lured me in.
What I don’t like:
There’s not much; It’s mainly the pace. Throughout most of the book, I felt like it was all a large filler. Not much seems to happen. I kept reading and all I got was that they were treated poorly (they were always hungry, thirsty, and dirty, always scouring the streets for whatever they could find), they needed to get money so Jak wouldn’t be sold (because their owner has a dept he needs payed but refuses to part with the silver he gained from killing a man, and so they stole from a house down a street), they aren’t that fond of some of the other Downers (Slink especially, since he always seems to sneak on them when they’re walking down the street), the Ash Kings almost killed them multiple times (since they were out on the streets during curfew trying to get food and money), and their owner is a cruel, cruel man. And yet, as you should realize, most of it happens in the same streets over and over again. It worked well with the story, but made the pace more slow and akin to that of a filler chapter.
I also didn’t like how quickly Slink changed. At first he’s this annoying, slightly creepy Downer that Crik and Jak weren’t fond of, as he was always sneaking up on them and even stole food from them once. Then suddenly when Aniel saves him he’s all nice and supportive and gets along with the others real well. I think there should have been more time taken to develop his change. Other than that though, I really enjoyed reading Scar of the Downers.
So, overall, Scar of the Downers was a very enjoyable read, despite the slow/filler-like pacing. I would recommend this to you lovers of action and fantasy.
Scott grew up in Black River, NY, the youngest of three children. While in law school, he realized he didn’t want to be a lawyer. So he did the practical thing – he became a writer. Now, many years later with an MFA in script and screenwriting, he is married with four daughters, two of whom he homeschools.
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