Book Review: James Maxey's Bitterwood
I recently had the opportunity to acquire my first uncorrected proof of a novel before its release. The novel is Bitterwood, by James Maxey. I thought I'd share my reaction to this book with you.
If you like dragons, this story will be a treat. On the surface, it's a fantasy involving dragon kingdoms, wizards, and subservient humans. Dig a little deeper and Maxey explains the dragons and all the magic with future history and scientific advancements. Even more to the point, the story is one of bitterness and anger, love and joy, tenacity and jealousy, and a bit of obsession.
The story begins as a prologue in the year 1070 of the Dragon Age, in the 39th year of the reign of Albekizan, a ruthless sun dragon. It begins the story of Bant Bitterwood, a human who ultimately becomes obsessed with killing all dragons, and as a result, becomes something of a living legend across humanity.
As the story gets going, King Albekizan is preparing his sons for succession. In trying to keep to a minimum of spoilers, I'll just say that Bant Bitterwood interferes, and that had the ramification of Albekizan becoming motivated to kill every last human, just as Bitterwood has sworn to kill every last dragon.
Maxey manages to build several sides to the conflict. He uses almost everyone's point of view at one time or another, a little more than I would prefer, but he does it to great effect. By doing this, he lets the reader see the whole story. We get inside for a taste of rage, jealousy, intrigue, backstabbing, love, hate, mixed emotions, and loss of hope.
Bitterwood, published by Solaris Books, is Maxey's second novel. His first novel is Nobody Gets the Girl (Phobos Books, 2003). It's been a long struggle for Maxey, who attended the Odyssey Writers Workshop a number of years ago, and almost quit writing after receiving a critique from Harlan Ellison. Maxey didn't quit. After publishing a short story in a major fiction market several years later, he received a congratulatory call from the same Harlan Ellison. Harlan told Maxey that he made it. Bitterwood is more evidence in his favor.
Maxey has a clean style that makes his prose very readable, and his language is approachable by the average Joe. He weaves a clever tale with a style that reminds me of Arizona's own Alan Dean Foster. It makes for a smooth ride and a book that holds the reader's interest to the end.
Bitterwood will be released in July of 2007.