Top positive review
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An unforgettable adventure
on 11 April 2014
I started reading this with a mix of trepidation and full on excitement. After thoroughly enjoying The Undead series I was ready for Day 15, so why would an author break away from such an amazing and successful set of books and characters? To create a new a new set of characters and a world for them to run around in of course! And holy crap, what a world it is too! Well, worlds actually, each one crafted in stunning detail, rich and vibrant to the point where I wanted to pull away from the character's view point and go explore on my own.
This book deserved a 5 star review for various reasons, the characters are well developed, though I didn't particularly like Charlotte, even from the start I found her annoying and the way she spoke didn't match the professional manner in which she was described. Yes, it's understandable, to a degree, that she would be flustered/aroused/lost for words etc in the presence of Michael, but that happens way too quickly to feel realistic.
However, that aside, her character serves a purpose, and her later scenes are both shocking and staggering in their brutality. Haywood certainly has a knack for making me turn those pages. This can't be compared to The Undead series in any way as it's a very different story, yet Haywood's signature style of blending humour with action and great sensitivity where needed, is what makes this rewarding and thought provoking read.
For a while I thought I knew which direction the plot would head, so I was surprised and happy to see it veer off and take me on a different path. I couldn't help but smile at the inclusion of the character Eddy, or Eduardo Garay, the amazing cover artist, as it added an extra dimension to the idea of different realities. Kind of creepy too in a way.
I suspect the subject matter, that of mental health, was tricky to write, especially when blended with a fantasy element and adult themes, which though highly graphic in places, don't come across as shocking for the sake of it. Indeed, one particular scene with Eddy drawing two women is incredibly well written and handled with care and sensitivity, with character development first and foremost and the sexual atmosphere a secondary element that serves to show depth to those characters rather than titillate.
The stigma associated with mental health is a bad one, something many people avoid because they simply don't know what to say or how to handle what feels like a taboo or difficult subject to talk about. With that in MIND, it's Time to Change our thinking and I'm glad Haywood has clearly given this a lot of thought and approached the subject with knowledge, compassion and a desire to explore how mental health impacts more lives than the average person realises.
I prefer to leave well-balanced reviews other than one what bestows the author with nothing but praise. This is a damn good book, don't misunderstand me, yet I couldn't help but wish it had received an editor's touch. There are issues with grammar and punctuation that made me frown many times, but also contradictions too which prompted me to turn the pages back and check I wasn't missing something. And as it's written in the present tense there were inconsistencies were a past tense was used in the same sentence or paragraph.
I didn't enjoy that after the first chapter or so I felt there was a bit of an information dump for the purposes of establishing the ground rules of the second reality. That could have been handled better by drip feeding information to the reader via character exploration and discovery, rather than having a single character explain everything in one go, which felt more for the benefit of the reader than the set of characters arriving at the Citadel.
One thing that struck me as odd was how certain characters were described as being highly intelligent, and without giving much evidence of that, the reader must accept it then as those characters develop the reader can then agree or disagree. It jarred somewhat to find when a new character was introduced and being established, it seemed necessary to tell the reader they were intelligent, when their actions/thoughts etc would show their nature in due course.
Having said that, Haywood is adept at showing over telling in many other areas, but often he falls into the trap of writing "...he hisses" or "...he growls" which is actually hard to do, have you tried hissing or growling words? However, the descriptive parts are amazing, and the first time the wraiths appear I felt somewhat sick and repulsed, not to mention a horrific descent into madness, nice work Haywood!
The Second Reality has more than enough matter to run to a series of books. I detected inspiration drawn from a variety of sources such as The Matrix, Inception and Lord of the Rings, blended with high fantasy and gritty realism. There's honour, dignity and courage to be found here, well balanced with rage, hatred, lust for power and plenty of questions I'd like answers to in a follow up book, please say there will be one!
Although I said earlier that The Second Reality cannot be compared to The Undead series, I believe it's worth pointing out that Haywood seems to have grown and matured as a writer and is constantly learning his craft, and to that end I applaud him whole heartedly.
Other than issues that could be solved by bringing an editor on board, they don't detract from what is a stunning story, compelling characters, ones that you care about, vivid description of locations and vistas and a subject matter that is handled very well indeed. There's an awful lot to like about this book, and I enjoyed every word.
Congrats, Rich, you've done very well indeed. Now get to work on the next book, fans are waiting!