Review: The Long and Dark by Joshua Banker

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Though I myself don’t know much about sea travel, I’ve read a lot about how spooky the sea can become for unsuspecting sailors if they don’t keep their eyes open on the waters enough. I think, realistically, the mind can quickly play tricks on anyone, anywhere, but the atmosphere that the sea evokes can be so much more chilling. Dedicated to a wonderful father, The Long and Dark is a mix of fantasy and horror that is written by Joshua Banker, an author who has easily become a favorite because of an expert talent that allows him to quickly ensnare readers in fantasy worlds that are quite nerve-wracking to journey through.

Many seamen had refused Gareth Solomon’s request to take him to a place where some of the world’s greatest minds resided: Dineothan. Pointing towards the basis for my introduction, it is a tiny island that is surrounded by an impenetrable fog and the surrounding waters are rumored to be cursed by many fearful seamen. With the help of a woman called Naze, Gareth, who is a mercenary, has to get past a man who became some kind of dangerous creature after consuming someone called Sindex. His mission is to find a sigil key so that he can reach a place called the Grand College and find what he hoped for: either a doctor or a man of medicine or science. His homeland, which includes his wife Nattia and his daughter Shea, has fallen I’ll due to a plague. In Dineothan he learns how bad his timing to find a cure really is. Its inhabitants, due to something disastrous that happened scientifically, have been affected negatively, forcing Gareth to deal with more inhuman creatures while navigating this strange island.

Banker compares the island of Dineothan to a warehouse created for a strange collection because of how its buildings are stacked: tightly. The names of the places are kind of soothing to pronounce and each sounds like an attractive and sort of historical venue to visit. For example there is Boddenburn with its memorable parliamentary halls, the Golden City of Auewellian whom Gareth once worked for as a mercenary, and home to the eccentric, Upelstbohr. The island only becomes bigger and much more interesting chapter after chapter, stapling the author’s talent to build great and magnificent fantasy worlds.

My initial opinion of Gareth, primarily because of how a fishermen fears for the safe return of a sea vessel rented to him, is that he’s not an entirely rational man. In other ways, considering that he is a type of man that doesn’t let his mind wonder loosely when it comes to reality, he is. What I admire about Gareth as a person is that he is a man with restraint in the face of conflict who would not lay a hand on an old man even if he was boiling with anger. He is not the completely quite type, however, as most heroes with the sword tend to be. Rather, he is likeable, unique, and almost flawless regarding his mission in general.

After an adventurous time with a female character named Naze, Gareth is in Upelstbohr for a few days. This is where we meet a character whose description makes him out to be a freaky looking character. Naze herself, with her interesting way of talking, is a notable character unto herself who becomes a good friend and companion to Gareth on his quest that is bound for a moment of long contemplation later on. The man, however, is just a figure I’ve thought to focus more on as he emerges like a kind of spook when Gareth first lays eyes on him. He is described as being a good half-foot over Gareth and revealed to be ashy skinned, thin, and silver eyed. The author named him quite interestingly in that he is called Redbletter, of the Achoral Manse, who receives Gareth as a guest with a welcoming heart. From Redbletter, we learn about shades called the Umbral, beings that are less than human which can be referred to as either foulkin or Dalhakhu, as well as a good amount of history concerning the island’s citizens.

Concerning dialogue and how the characters go about delivering it, the author takes care to name every body part and announce every action. The main character discovers so many different kinds of monsters on the island of Dineothan to the point where he replies: “D’know. Don’t care, ta be frank about it.” From another species’s perspective, we learn that brilliant scientific accomplishments might not lead to one being rewarded with something simple and very valuable in a technologically advanced age which is just plain happiness. The author also focuses on the instinctive greed of mankind and how science and even its great breakthroughs can lead to the a breakdown of society.

Feminists may have a hard time with forgiving the author for his word choice in a paragraph describing how Nattia heals Gareth’s left arm in the beginning. It hints at something sexual, yet it can be seen as just a minor turn on as the two are in a relationship. He does prove to be a faithful man throughout whose eye is kept on his quest to find a cure for the plague only. Where Gareth disappoints is only in giving in to a sudden bad temper that I didn’t find it to be too serious a bad trait in this achiever of a main character.

Because Gareth Solomon is a character who does his fair share of travelling, I recommend this novel to readers who also love doing the same (mind their reasons, that is) and who have a thing for smart chaps – whether human or otherwise – inhabiting aptly named places alone who are blessed with knowledgeable tongues meant to sooth the minds of heroes on their journeys. Fantasy horror from Joshua Banker that stabs you where it counts, makes you gag when you dare to imagine clearly, and frightens you when you think it’s safe to take a deep breath.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Joshua Banker Books
Date Published: October 26, 2019
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Pages: 284

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