September 20, 2021

Walter Goodwater: "The Liar of Red Valley" (ARC Review)

Title: The Liar of Red Valley  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Walter Goodwater [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Fantasy, Contemporary with a Twist, Horror
Year: 2021
Age: 14+ (I shelved it as Adult because of the main character's age, but it can be read by teens)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Original blend of classic fantasy and magical realism, with a small dose of social commentary. Plenty of action, twists and turns (often shocking ones). Brave, resourceful lead.
Cons: While being nice/relatable, the characters (and their relationships) could have used more depth.
WARNING! Blood, gore and monsters. An instance of police brutality.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a supernatural story with a classic feel, yet off the beaten path.

Blurb: In Red Valley, California, you follow the rules if you want to stay alive. But they won’t be enough to protect Sadie now that she’s become the Liar, the keeper of the town’s many secrets. Friendships are hard-won here, and it isn’t safe to make enemies. And though the Liar has power - power to remake the world, with just a little blood - what Sadie really needs is answers: Why is the town’s sheriff after her? What does the King want from her? And what is the real purpose of the Liar of Red Valley? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Solaris/Rebellion Publishing for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

HER-STORY IN THE MAKING

The first thing I look for in my books is, go figure, an "offbeat" element - so I supposed that, with a story where the heroine can "remake the world, with just a little blood", I couldn't go wrong. But TLORV turned out to be even more peculiar - and decidedly more surprising - than I anticipated. I was ready for a healthy dose of reality warping, with outrageous but entertaining results...wow, I had no idea.
After her mother's sudden death, Sadie takes over her role as the Liar...too bad she doesn't have a clue how her power is supposed to work. Now, you might wonder why, if Sadie was destined to succeed her mother, she's been kept in the dark about the tricks of her trade - except there's an excellent reason, which also makes for the last and most stunning twist in a book that's got plenty of them. Tension escalates while Sadie uncovers to what extent her mother has been manipulating reality (there's actually a brilliant crescendo about her lies and the way they impact Sadie's present situation) and learns to use her power, plus tries to stay one step ahead of the monsters and humans who are after something her mother left her. That's where most of this book's strength lies for me - in the way the pace increases and the stakes get higher and higher, but even more in the way the twists/reveals gradually redesign our (and Sadie's) perception of what's real, until they pull the rug from under our feet[...]

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

I have to admit that, when starting TLORV, I was a little wary about its blending a contemporary (if rural) setting with classic fantasy elements (like the King). It turns out I needn't have been. The transition back and forth is seamless - or better, the two aspects of Red Valley are so intrinsically woven together that I had no problems with buying into the combo. If anything, for a while I wondered why people would want to keep living there, for a number of reasons, until I realised that it's hard to walk away from magic, especially the kind that can remake your life (if at a price), and in some cases it simply can't be done. Not to mention, the same thing happens to us with places that don't hold any magic, yet we can't seem to leave behind even if they're smothering us...Anyhow, this book pulls off the whole contemporary-meets-fantasy-meets-supernatural-meets-magical-realism shebang, and even manages to offer some social commentary by tackling racism/police brutality, while including queer relationships that aren't a means to an end.

CHARACTER FLAW

If there's an aspect where I found TLORV to be less successful, it's in fleshing out its characters. I did like the brave, resourceful main lead and enjoyed her story arc, but she lacked the extra edge that makes me fall in love with my book people. The rest of the characters and the relationships between them/them and Sadie, while nice and/or potentially intriguing, could have used more depth (same goes for the villains, though at least one of them will give me nightmares for the rest of my life, which is a badge of honour as far as I'm concerned 😂 - but that's more because of his appearance than anything else). One thing that I did appreciate, though, is the found-family vibe and the lack of mandatory romance. Bottom line, if you like magical realism steeped in fantasy, fast-paced stories and lots of twists and turns (of the unpredictable variety, too), and you can overlook a certain lack of complexity when it comes to characters and theirs relationships, this book is not to be missed.

For more Adult books click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.

12 comments:

  1. Nice tease there as to why she was unprepared to be the Liar. Sounds like this one kept you on your toes with all the twists.

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  2. "wow, I had no idea." Isn't that an amazing feeling with a book?

    This does sound wild. The reality manipulating thing seems quite interesting.

    The contemp- meets- fantasy thing can be SO tricky (I'm looking at you Queen of the Tearling series) but it works here sounds like!

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    Replies
    1. Mmm. I read the QOTT blurb, and it does sound a lot like your average fantasy, compared to this one. I suppose it's set in the modern age, but it sounds like it's full of fantasy tropes. This one is a bit different.

      Delete
  3. Weird, I like it. It does sound interesting

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    Replies
    1. I'm not much of a fantasy fan, but I love when it meets other genres! This is such a unique story.

      Delete
  4. This sounds so interesting to me! I have been known to overlook underdeveloped characters in the past if there is enough else in the story to keep me invested - for example, a fast pace and twists. I am always wary of the horror genre, but you've convinced me to add this to my TBR! Great review :D

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  5. Ok, that sounds remarkably unique. I don't think I've read a book with this kind of storyline before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is!
      (Ugh, your comment was in the moderation folder again - I only saw it now!).

      Delete
  6. It's fun when you're expecting a book to be wild, but it still manages to surprise you. I'm so curious to know what that one villain looked like that was so nightmare-inducing lol. Sounds like it had a bit of a thought-provoking element too.

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    Replies
    1. "I'm so curious to know what that one villain looked like that was so nightmare-inducing lol."
      Appendages were involved 😉.

      Delete

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