Noryslka Groans Fantasy Book Review
From page one Norylska Groans expertly immerses the reader in its setting, from the brutal drudgery of working in that time period, to the cold, to the Russian theme of the book, and even the noir theme. The result is an immersive and somewhat depressing read.
The pacing for the book is good, with plot progressing steadily, with the motivations and objectives changing as the narrative demands and shifts. Regardless of the changes, the pressure of the narrative on the characters remains constant, whether from the threat of poverty and starvation, or more overt threats of violence, or more subtle tensions that the readers key into before the characters do. And all of these are tied into the world and the setting, colored by them so they feel actively part of this world and this story as opposed to standard action or peril.
The magic system is both simple to understand and complex with its uses and the ways the author finds for it to affect the story; the concept of transplanting memories, emotions, and personality is a rich concept and is well explored and utilized through the course of the book.
Out two main characters are excellently realized, with complex moralities and motivations, particularly Gennedy who is equal measures brutal, traumatized, badass, and trying desperately to support and be worthy of his family. There are actively moments where is it hard to root for him. Katyushka is a little more straightforward, but still well executed and complex: sort of a repressed, high-potential woman being forced into a a dangerous, male dominated work space while trying to balance that with her possessive (slightly emotionally abusive) boyfriend and a growing dependence on the transplanted personalities given to her.
The first half of the book is somewhat on the slow side because while there is tense plot occurring, you know it’s not the core story of our main characters, and more of just the set up. This left me with a small sensation of twiddling my thumbs while I waited for the proverbial shoe to drop and the main conflict to begin.
Finally Noryslka Groans is a dark book, and there are few bright points throughout to lighten the grim, oppressiveness of its tone. This is entirely intentional by the author, and well handled, but still a factor. Particularly for the ending.